MONDAY 7-5-18

We were awoken at 05:50 by 'Er Next Door' coughing her lungs up and craving her first ciggie of the day. Next thing we knew they were off in the car at 06:20, only to return about twenty minutes later so I have no idea what that was all about, unless she had run out of ciggies and her hubby went out to buy her some more.

When we eventually surfaced and stepped out for our showers we could see why the noise from next door carried so much - they'd erected their circus tent only about four feet from the back of our vehicle. It was a big six berth frame tent. I couldn't believe anybody would conduct themselves in such a way, it was like having them as part of the family.

When we were scrubbed up and fed we moved the vehicle to the next pitch along, the one the Dutch were told to pitch in last night, but didn't, because it didn't offer a squinty-eyed view of the sea through the trees, but parking right up our backsides in the pitch on the other side of us where they shouldn't be, so they could get a bit of a view.

There was only one problem in moving the vehicle a very short distance. I failed to notice that the olive tree I had to pass had a serious lean to it, and a branch scraped the back right corner of the roof area, slightly damaging the edge of the roll-out awning mechanism. So I was scratching my head trying to figure out how I could get up high enough to unclog the olive tree bark from the mechanism. Bingo - the Dutch riff-raff may have the circus tent, but I had the star performer. Enter The Chef, raised up high on my shoulders she set about freeing the mechanism. I will of course get it checked and repaired as necessary when we get home, but right now it winds out OK, so I'm leaving it well alone.

Once we were repositioned we put our clothes line back up as there were still a few items that needed to be dried completely.

As light rain was due about mid-day we decided to pack everything away and then make our way in to town for a few bits of shopping before we get back on the road tomorrow.

This was to have been the day we went back up the Amalfi coastal road one stop to Possitano which The Chef fancied, but having seen it from the coach yesterday she was happy to tick the box.

The last time we were in Sorrento town we were fortunate enough to come across a shop which sold delicious crusty bread and large portions of fresh pizza. So having popped in, we were fixed up with tonight's meal, and bread so crusty, it will make your hair curl.

We'd been prepared for the rain from mid-day but it didn't arrive until about 16:00, and it wasn't very light once it got going. Never mind, we're off tomorrow.

I am making attempts to book us a ferry across to Greece a week from today, we'll see how that works out.

We are now moving away from the tourists honey-pots along the Mediterranean coast and driving over to the Adriatic Sea area, where we hope the pace of the holiday will change, and we'll shake off the worst of mass tourism. But first I have to get us out of here, round to Naples, and then on to the Autostrada. We're heading for Alberobello, where they have a distinct style of house which The Chef fancies taking a look at.

Descending in to Sorrento

Descending in to Sorrento

Approaching Pozitano

Approaching Pozitano

The promenade at Amalfi

The promenade at Amalfi

SUNDAY 5-6-18

We were up in good time this morning as we were aiming to be at the bus stop next to the railway station at Sorrento in good time, for today we were to take a ride along the coastal road to Amalfi and return.

Unfortunately lots of other people had the same idea, and when the bus left there were about sixty people sitting, and another twenty or more standing. This was quite unacceptable from a safety point of view as the road offered the likelihood of sharp braking by the bus as well as sharp twists and turns. There was a real danger of passengers coming to grief. But hey, who cares a s**t this is Italy and we were among those fortunate enough to get a seat, on the wrong side of the bus to take photographs, but you can't have everything.

The journey lasted one hour forty-five minutes, and I have to say I take my hat off to the skill of the bus and coach drivers who ply that route.

If Italian drivers only parked where they should do, instead of completely ignoring our version of double yellow lines, then traffic could moved freely both up and down the road. But this is Italy, and people just park their cars wherever they choose. This reduces many stretches of the road to single file causing all sorts of problems. And when two coaches or busses meet at a tunnel, I swear there was about nine inches to spare between both walls of the tunnel which was distributed unequally between the space between each coach and the sides of the tunnel.

Needless to say we did eventually arrive at Amalfi, only to find that it was full of gift shops and restaurants exactly like we'd left behind in Sorrento. There were lots of tourists about, including Yanks. We had a wander about and treated ourselves to a 'bag of chips' - Italian style. Never mind they filled a gap.

We had soon tired of Amalfi, and were looking to make our way back to Sorrento. Luckily when we arrived at the equivalent of a bus station, there was a bus about to leave. The Chef was keen to get on, but I told her I would not get on unless there was seating, I wasn't prepared to stand for the journey. Fortunately there was, and soon we were on our way back. The return journey seemed much easier, and we were lucky enough to bag a seat right at the back of the bus and on the correct side for taking pictures.

Unfortunately we did pick up a small group of young American tourists, you know, the self-confident, loud, gobby types, the sort that give Yanks a bad name. I referred to them as 'Trump's Turkeys'. Thankfully they got off at the top of the hill before we descended in to Sorrento.

We eventually arrived back in Sorrento and I almost wanted to do one of those ground-kissing jobs a former Pope used to do (I can't remember his name, but I like to think he wasn't the one who sanction charging fifty cents to use toilets at their Cathedrals).

Back in town we wasted no time in getting to the bus stop where we could catch a bus that would take us 'home'.

What a day. If I were ever to attempt the Amalfi Coast drive again (and believe me I won't) I would either hire a small car and set out at sunrise to catch the best views, and stop wherever I wished to take photographs (let's face it who's going to stop you at that time of day), or I would wait until the afternoon when the buses are nothing like as busy, climb onboard, hold on tight, say a prayer, kiss a St Christopher medallion, then enjoy the ride.

On our return we did a few chores including our ironing and a bit more washing and this evening enjoyed eating our meal outside with a limited view of the Bay of Naples, wishing we were somewhere else.

This evening we have new neighbours, four Dutch campers (what have they contributed to mankind other than legalising cannabis and growing tulips). There's an older couple and a younger couple, plus a dog which swans around like it owns the place. Me thinks I may well fall out with them within the 36 hours we have remaining here. They've been out there now for ages and I swear they're erecting a circus tent, and by tomorrow morning I expect to see performing elephants and lions.

We will be staying here tomorrow, basically to prepare ourselves for the next leg of the trip which thankfully will take us away from the ghastly tourist haunts and to the 'real' Italy, if such a place exists, and if that means suffering a bit in order to escape the crowds of awful foreign tourists then it will be worth it.

Once we leave here I expect the pace to change and we'll need to become more self sufficient. No doubt more buggerations lie ahead, but it should be worth it.

A shop selling Capodemonte porcelain

A shop selling Capodemonte porcelain


We are planning to leave here on Tuesday morning, and have three things we'd like to do on the remaining three days and we'd juggle them depending on the weather.

When we woke this morning it was really quite cloudy and the sun just not trying hard enough to come out. For this reason we decided to spend today looking around Sorrento, the local town just a short ride away down the hill.

We'd just missed the campsite shuttle bus in to town as we arrived at Reception, a long slog from our pitch at the best of times, so instead we bought two single tickets for the regular bus service which stops outside, €2.60 for the two.

When we walked out of the gate there was a smaller private bus sat at the stop, and when we approached the driver he was prepared to take us in to town in exchange for the competitors tickets. It was a much nicer ride than we have had in the past and when we arrived we suggested to the driver that we swap the tickets he took off us for €2.50 cash, which he agreed to, that way he made a bit of pocket money and we hadn't had to hang around at the bus stop for the regular service.

Sorrento town centre was very nice and really quite busy, I suppose this being the weekend it was a mixture of both locals and tourists. The first part of town we walked around was the very touristy part which was just full of gift shops, clothes shops and eateries. We even came across a place offering British food, so clearly the Brits come here in large numbers. I can't say as I know why though, because there's no beach around here, so they'd be hotel based, with not much else to do but wander around the shops and maybe take a boat ride across to Capri island, still each to their own I say, I'm sure if we told them how we spent our time, they'd think we were crazy and wouldn't consider it a pleasure in the least.

We came across a small supermarket and topped up with fresh provisions plus a lovely fresh crusty loaf of bread from further up the road. Then it was back to the campsite as by then we'd about seen all we wanted to.

As we sat outside and ate lunch we decided to take the bull by the horns, rig a line up and get some washing done. We've been under pressure to play catch-up for a while now as there hasn't been anywhere suitable to do it for the past couple of weeks. But here we were, looking at two olive trees on the edge of our pitch, which were soon joined together with a clothes line.

Needless to say the sunshine didn't last long so the drying process of the washing was slowed down as it hung there obscuring our view of a cloud-topped Mount Vesuvius, a safe distance across the Bay of Naples. I do hope I get to see it before we leave.

This evenings meal is to be pizza bought from the same shop as the bread. All The Chef has to do is warm it up, but is also planning to work her culinary magic in knocking up some seasoned potato wedges and salad to go with it.

Tomorrow we plan to catch a bus for a ride along the Amalfi Coast. That way I won't have a white knuckle ride and will be able to sit and enjoy the scenery which will be a real treat for me.

The dome

The dome

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Galleria Umberto

Galleria Umberto

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

Down by the Port area

Down by the Port area


We awoke to a rather wet morning. Still we can't complain, we've had a good run of luck so far, and if I'm lucky the rain will wash the roof of the motorhome.

We guessed that due to the rain, the shower block would be empty and we'd each be able to bag one of the very few shower cubicles available. Spot-on, and it was nice to enjoy a long, hot shower without having to worry about turning the boiler on first, how much water we were using, or where I'd be dumping it once we were finished.

Today we were to visit Naples on the train. We bought the train tickets at Reception when we finally reached it after a very long walk downhill from our pitch. The fare included the bus ride to the railway station and cost us €19.60, which is not bad for two adult returns.

Our train journey lasted some one hour and ten minutes as we pretty much travelled the whole coastline of the Bay of Naples.

As we travelled closer to Naples the suburbs began getting grimmer and grimmer. Just about everybody in these parts lives in blocks of flats, which is fine, except that so many of those blocks desperately needed a fresh coat of paint. They looked pretty rough.

At Naples station, armed with a tourists map we'd bought back in Sorrento because we'd established from the Guide Book that there was not a Tourist Information Office at, or near, the railway station in Naples, which seems a bit odd. We, like most tourists, can normally pop in to such places and bag one for free.

Our self imposed tour began down by the port area. I don't know why because it certainly wasn't the smartest part of town. I think I'd worked it out that going that way would be the most direct way to the first of very few places in Naples I wanted to see - the Royal Palace. It was located in a pleasant enough Plaza with a few other buildings The architecture in that area was quite nice, in fact, compared to the port area in was spectacular, but it sure as hell wasn't Buckingham Palace.

Then on to Galleria Umberto, a glass roofed shopping complex which I'd also seen on the TV series featuring the Brit art historian and the Italian chef. It goes without saying that when they filmed there, the place was empty, and there was no sign of the builders being in, unlike today.

Then I wanted us to find the Church San Gregorio Armeno which, according to the Guide Book had a beautiful interior. It was a real pig to find as we weaved through the skanky backstreets. I do now believe this place was indeed twinned with Calcutta, or Kolkata as I think they call it now. They probably changed its name because they were so ashamed to be associated with Naples.

In fact I believe Naples is the home of the Mother Theresa Home for Fallen Nuns. If I remember the story correctly the home was to close due to funding problems, but was rescued with generous donations by Gupta & Anna Glypta the Indian wallpaper tycoons, who said it reminded them of home, and Indiana ‘Indy’ Sett – the fridge magnet.

In fact the more I think about it, the recently deceased Physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, among other things, discovered 'Black Holes' within the Universe. Well I believe I have discovered a 'Brown Hole' - The Bay of Naples area.

On arrival we discovered that the Church San Gregorio Armeno only opened in the mornings, oh joy!

As a substitute we decided to take a look at the Duomo (remember, they can't spell Cathedral), and I'm glad we did. The dome and ceiling paintings were magnificent. It would be a tragedy to cover that lot with Brilliant White Emulsion.

With that done, we'd had enough, and made our way back to the railway station which wasn't easy, and even harder to find which part of the station we wanted. Thanks to the help of three young Paramedics sitting on standby on a glorified golf buggy we reached the correct platform. Naturally it was rush hour and every man for himself.

Just as the train arrived at the station a youngish bloke who had just arrived , decided to push in front of us all and try and squeeze on to the train from my right. What pleasure I had cutting off his planned assault, blocking his entrance on to the train and allowing the Chef and others on before I climbed aboard myself. Peeing him off was probably the highlight of my day, which is rather sad really isn't it?

We travelled back to Sorrento much quicker than we went. When we got off the train we had a problem finding where to catch the return bus as we'd originally got off on a one way street.

The male bathing area

The male bathing area

Romanus McDonaldus - the town had many such 'Take Away' outlets. The receptacles contained the food for sale.

Romanus McDonaldus - the town had many such 'Take Away' outlets. The receptacles contained the food for sale.

The vaulted rooms (port warehouses and boat storage), bottom left led on to the beach, where the green area can now be seen. On excavation 300 human skeletons were found in them. remains of those who tried to escape the eruption. They still remain  there.

The vaulted rooms (port warehouses and boat storage), bottom left led on to the beach, where the green area can now be seen. On excavation 300 human skeletons were found in them. remains of those who tried to escape the eruption. They still remain there.


We had a pretty good night's sleep up on our hilltop, windy Truckstop. This morning after a nice hot shower we dumped our grey water and slipped back on the Autostrade toll road, to make our way to Hurculaneum , a town buried by volcanic ash following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and about ten miles from Pompeii, the better known site.

Thankfully much of the journey was on the Autostrade, because the short periods we spent off it caused us a lot of frustration. The road surfaces are awful and traffic a nightmare, especially the final leg between the toll road and Sorrento. I'm growing tired of driving around Italy, the roads are Third World  the driving crazy, and courtesy to other road users almost non-existent. Thankfully we have the Autostrade to use, which are a boon, and I have to say are good value. We were expecting to pay far more to use them.

As we approached Herculaneum we were beginning to have our doubts that I'd entered the GPS co-ordinates in to the satnav correctly. We were in the suburbs, of, I assume, Naples, but eventually we ended up at our destination - a coach park (GPS: N40.803329 E14.348562) in what looked like a garden centre. In fact it looked as if whoever owned the garden centre thought they could make more money out of car parking fees and set aside some of their land to build one.

Fortunately next door was the ancient site, and we spent an interesting couple of hours and more wandering around it. It was a nice compact community, which until that fateful day was right next to the sea and had a small beach. Knowing that, it is possible to appreciate just how much volcanic ash fell on the city and a small wonder they ever discovered the ruins. I understand only about a fifth of it has been excavated, but I think it unlikely they'll be able to do more unless they start demolishing the surrounding houses etc.

The site was surprisingly well preserved all things considered, and we managed to see numerous mosaic floors and wall paintings, but thankfully none depicting 'Scrotum Scratchers'. I'm glad we visited here rather than Pompeii. I had planned we visit both, but one's enough in all honesty.

The entrance fee was eleven Euro's each which was ok, and the parking fee for motorhomes wasn't five Euros, but five Euros an hour, so we were charged ten Euros which we were happy with.

The journey to our planned campsite was a nightmare, traffic jams, looney scooter riders and those who either barge in from the side of you or pull out in front of you, and that's without the coaches coming towards you who ride the white line on narrow roads.

I think the only way I will return to Italy is if I win the lottery, if I do, I'm going to get 'The 'A' Team' to weld me up a beast of a vehicle. Then I'm going to ship it over here and have some REAL fun with it. Then we'll see what happens when I don't have to drive so defensively. And best of all, I'll be so stinking rich I won't have to worry about losing my No Claims bonus, 'cos there's gonna be plenny a' claims.

I had high hopes for the campsite Camping Santa Fortunata (GPS: N40.828178º E17.476962º) here in Sorrento, but like most things in Italy it's rather disappointing. We're paying €19 a night including electricity, because we have the ACSI discount card which gives us discounts on many sites during off-peak seasons. So we can't grumble at the price. I think though, as we're paying the lower fee we've been shoved up in the rubbish pitches, which aren't supposed to have a sea view (that's extra), but I think they've slipped up because we can just see the Bay of Naples through the trees, and over the tin roofs of the sheds masquerading as chalets.

This evening is to be spent listening to the rain hitting the roof of the vehicle. It started a short while ago, but we can't complain the good old BBC Weather website had forecast it raining all day, and again tomorrow.

Our original plan had been to enjoy up to a week here relaxing and exploring the area, but I think we may well move on after a few days and find a better campsite on which to relax.

Tomorrow we're going to attempt to catch a train to Naples. I have very low expectations of the place, I believe it was once twinned with Calcutta, but we're tourists so we have to go and do it.

The following two days are forecast better weather and we'll use them to travel along the Amalfi Coast on public transport.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's cemetery at Cassino

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's cemetery at Cassino

The dome within the chapel

The dome within the chapel

The Abbey's chapel

The Abbey's chapel

In a  courtyard three monks give praise to Jesus

In a courtyard three monks give praise to Jesus

The exterior of Monte Cassino Abbey from the car park

The exterior of Monte Cassino Abbey from the car park


We awoke in good time, for today we were leaving our Camperstop, not too far from Cassino railway station, and heading up that there hill to visit Monte Cassino Abbey, and what I thought to be the Commonwealth War Cemetery, but no. The Chef tells me the Commonwealth War Cemetery is down at the bottom, it's the Polish War cemetery that's up near the Abbey. I was a bit miffed to find out the Polish had managed to bag the plot with the best views, however after today's experiences I can assure you it's easier for us to visit our boys graves than it is for the Polish to visit theirs.

I deliberately ditched almost all of the water onboard, I certainly didn't want to have grey water sat in the back waste tank lifting the front drive wheels off the ground, any more than I wanted the weight of the fresh water to affect our best efforts to reach the top.

Off we went then, intent on getting to the top before it got busy. That way I could set my own pace on the way up and not get stuck behind some old granny forcing me to come down the gearbox and struggle at low speed.

True to form, the Satnav took us down some very narrow potholed backstreets before we joined the main road to the top. I have to say the road was wider and much better than I expected. Yes, there were some very tight hairpin bends, but the fact that I could let the vehicle go wide because there was nothing coming the other way was an immense help. Even The Chef, who I expected to be gripping the edge of her seat tightly, didn't find it too scary, but I tell you, we were a long way up by the time we reached the top.

It was €8 to park in a coach parking space (GPS: N41.488874 E13.813095) which I didn't think was too bad. The walk around the Abbey was very impressive, mainly because the Abbey was the location of a German fortification, and in 1944, to shift them, Allies had to bomb the crap out of the place. But here we were, just seventy-four years later admiring the wonderful interior of the rebuilt chapel.

Towards the end of our visit it was starting to get much busier. We made our way back to the motorhome intending to be cute and follow a coach back down, the thinking being it would plough a path for us given its size, and we'd just follow. Well that worked for a very short space of time before I noticed its 'PL' number plate as it made a careful left turn towards the Polish cemetery. Then we were on our own. I just kept yielding to the coaches coming up, the least thing they wanted was for some nerd in a motorhome to cause them to slow or stop, and then have to get going again on the very steep gradient.

Once at the bottom we made our way to the 'Panoramic' supermarket where I'd invested in a new hovercraft propeller just a couple of days ago. We were looking for a few more large bottles of water and a fresh crusty baguette.

A word of explanation at this stage. We have a charcoal filter fitted to the tap in the kitchen area, and I am always very careful to ensure that tank and pipes are kept clean. However for safety reasons we always drink bottled water on the very long sections of our travels, so for this trip it was to be from Calais to Parma. However we discovered this time that the bottled water makes remarkably good tasting tea and coffee, and so we're sticking to it as a little treat, providing we can buy it at the right price from large supermarkets.

After our look around the store we returned to the motorhome for lunch and to kill a bit of time before setting off for the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery (they close for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00) (GPS: N41.477699 E13.827429).

On our arrival at the cemetery we made our way inside. What a treat, we had it all to ourselves, well apart from the gardeners who were installing an irrigation system to the grass and graveside flowers and plants, which I'm sure would be very helpful given the really hot summers here.

Firstly I shall copy and paste information regarding this cemetery, which I lifted from the wonderful Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website:

 Visiting Information

Opening times: Winter: 8.00am -12.00pm & 1.00pm -3.30pm Summer: 7.30am -12.00pm & 1.00pm - 4.00pm Due to regular theft and damage to the Memorial Register and Visitors Book, they are accessible only during the hours when the gardeners are present (as stated above). Wheelchair access to the cemetery is possible, via a ramp at an alternative entrance, which can be located approx. 200 metres from the main entrance. There has been incidents of car thefts around the area therefore visitors are advised to lock their vehicles and to not leave any belongings unattended. For further information and enquiries please contact

History Information

On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October, the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. Initial attempts to breach the western end of the line were unsuccessful. Operations in January 1944 landed troops behind the German lines at Anzio, but defences were well organised, and a breakthrough was not actually achieved until 18 May, when Cassino was finally taken. The site for CASSINO WAR CEMETERY was originally selected in January 1944, but the development of the battle during the first five months of that year made it impossible to use it until after the Germans had withdrawn from Cassino. During these early months of 1944, Cassino saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign, the town itself and the dominating Monastery Hill proving the most stubborn obstacles encountered in the advance towards Rome. The majority of those buried in the war cemetery died in the battles during these months. There are now 4,271 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at Cassino War Cemetery. 289 of the burials are unidentified. Within the cemetery stands the CASSINO MEMORIAL which commemorates over 4,000 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the Italian campaign whose graves are not known. The CEMETERY and MEMORIAL were designed by Louis de Soissons.

It was a lovely peaceful place, this wonderful organisation really does our lads (and lassies in some cemeteries ie. nurses) proud. I begrudge not one penny of my taxes which go towards running the CWGC. I wish I could say the same for the House of Lords etc etc.

I assumed that our boys don't get too many visitors out here, and so I wanted to lay a bouquet of flowers, but we couldn't find a florists, and even if we had, they would probably have been having a lie down for the afternoon. So we had to settle for a single artificial red rose which I placed on the Cross of Sacrifice.

It was from all of us, to all of them. As simple as that.

We then headed out of town on the toll road heading down towards Naples. The plan is to spend the night on a Truckstop and then in the morning have a lovely hot shower before dumping our grey water and heading for Herculaneum tomorrow morning. We've chosen Herculaneum over Pompeii because having watched an interesting TV programme about it, there was no doubt, far more was preserved there than in Pompeii. Beside, call me old fashioned if you like, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius all those years ago whose volcanic ash completely immersed the town and froze its inhabitants doing whatever it was they were doing at the time should be left a private matter.

Imagine it, you hear this loud thunderous roar and think to yourself 'Hello, sounds like a nasty storm brewing'. Just then you feel the need for a bit of a comfort scratch around the old scrotum area, when WHOOOSH - buried in ash. Thousands of years later some do-gooder discovers you with your hand down your front, and the rest of the town buried and frozen in time. They then squirt hot wax up your bottom to preserve your remains before putting you on public display. So a man having what he thought was a quick private scratch of the 'ol privates is captured forever, for the entertainment of tourists. I tell you, the end of privacy started long before Facebook.

This evening we are parked up on a Truckstop within striking distance of the Naples area, where it is still very warm but the strong wind is bouncing us about a lot. The weather here is on the change, and we're expecting light rain for a couple of days starting tomorrow. I think it will be nice to feel the cooler temperatures, plus the motorhome gets a well needed wash courtesy of Mother Nature.

Zees are our neighbours tonight. On der vun side vee haff der English und der French. Unt der udder side vee haff der Germans unt derr Austrians.

Zees are our neighbours tonight. On der vun side vee haff der English und der French. Unt der udder side vee haff der Germans unt derr Austrians.
The wheels which are mounted in bell towers to allow the bells to be swung through 360 degrees.

The wheels which are mounted in bell towers to allow the bells to be swung through 360 degrees.

The upstairs floor of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Note the angle of the sawing machines in order to maximise the lengths of wood they could cut in the confined space (corner to corner of the room).

The upstairs floor of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Note the angle of the sawing machines in order to maximise the lengths of wood they could cut in the confined space (corner to corner of the room).

The range of hand bells made by the bell foundry

The range of hand bells made by the bell foundry

Touring the shop floor of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry amidst bells which have come in for repair.

Touring the shop floor of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry amidst bells which have come in for repair.

TUESDAY 1-5-18

What a lovely peaceful night that was. We had shared the Camperstop with English and French couples as well as a young Slovenian family.

The first sound I heard was at 05:30 - the clang-clang-clanging of a church bell somewhere in the town.

So why do church bells in most parts of the world go clang-clang-clang?

About eighteen  months ago I stumbled across the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which was Britain's oldest business established in 1570, and had traded continuously since then. The foundry was located, oddly enough in Whitechapel Road, London. I found out they conducted tours of the foundry at weekends when there was no operational work taking place. I booked a tour for something like May 2017, but then received an email telling me the foundry was closing at the beginning of May and would I like to come to an earlier one. The Chef didn't fancy it and so I went up to London on my own mid December 2016.

What an interesting tour in was. Incidentally I did create a video of the tour and sent the owner a copy. He was concerned that I would put it on social media, thus denying him the opportunity of income from the tours. I assured him that the video was for my personal use only, and I would not share it. Even though the foundry is now closed I intend to keep my word.

We were shown where 'Big Ben' was cast in 1858. The 13½ ton bell was so large, they had to dig a pit in to the floor of the foundry in order to cast it. We were shown how bells were cast followed by the very skilful art of tuning them. Alan Hughes, the owner of the business and tour guide, told us that even with modern electronic aids to assist with the tuning, there were only about six people in the world who had the gift to tune them correctly, and he had one of them.

After touring downstairs we were taken upstairs to view the carpenters workshop, and it was here the secret lay. In England we had introduced the idea of mounting the bells on a spindle and wheel, which in skilful hands allowed the bell ringer to balance the bell at the top of a 360 degree turn, and hold it there until it could be released at the right time to come back down and strike. This allowed bell ringers to create the wonderful sound of peels of bells as we know them today. This construction and skill was rolled out across the world where the British had settled, so it was taken to places like America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and I suppose, India.

Therefore, as I awoke in Italy this morning, all I heard was clang-clang-clang, as the bell swung back and forth.

 It was much cooler and cloudier today, in fact, the ideal weather for trudging around Rome, but never mind. I wandered out of the Camperstop entrance to take a look around and watch the tour busses climbing up the narrow road towards Monte Cassino Abbey. Then I realised why we kept hearing so many trains going by us quite slowly. About 400 yards away on the other side of the track around the corner was Cassino railway station.

This was to be a rest day, but as usual we cracked on with some chores and minor repairs. I checked the air pressures in the new tyres and air-assisted suspension, and fortunately all were spot on.

Another job was to open the box with the newly purchased electric fan in and take a look. Oh dear, I had assumed that it was complete, and judging by the size of the box it would be just the right size. Unfortunately this fine example of Chinese cheap plastic engineering was ready for assembly, and by the time I had finished putting it together I had something which could be strapped on the back of a hovercraft and win races.

This evening we had our first barbecue, thanks to getting our minor gas problem sorted out. It has been nice to have a day to just relax in peace and quiet, and do things at our own pace.

We are now almost ready to hit the road again. The plan tomorrow is to up sticks fairly early, warm the engine through and then head for Monte Cassino, where I'm hoping we'll climb to the top and enjoy a visit to the Abbey and British War Cemetery.

Tonight we share der Camperstop wiff der vun German unt der two Austrian campers. I shall sleep wiff der vun eye open.

Monte Cassino Abbey

Monte Cassino Abbey

MONDAY 30-4-18

What a difference a day makes.

This morning we were up in reasonable time to have a nice hot shower in the motorhome because they charged extra at the Camperstop for one, and you had to queue for it. Then we made ready for the road, including taking on a tank of fresh water, dumping the black and grey water and paying the Camperstop fees. Lots of people were on the move this morning. In fact lots of people left the site last night during, and immediately after, the Bollywood-meets-Mama-Mia event, staged on the park or field behind us, which finished noisily at 23:30.

Having to lie in bed listening to the awful din made me realise that contestants on 'The X Factor' who, up until now, I believed were the least talented people on God's earth, except that nobody had the heart to tell them, were in fact, running in a very poor second place to that lot over the hedge last night.

Would I return to Rome? Probably not. I'd have to be loaded, so that I could queue jump everything with a tour guide, if not then I'd visit in the depths of winter to avoid the crowds, plus with the shorter days I'd get to see the attractions floodlit. The added bonus would be that if I had to join a long queue in the freezing cold, then as those in front of me collapsed and died from hypothermia, I could just step over them and work my way towards the front of the queue even quicker.

In the past when I've seen images of the Pope on his balcony preaching to the huge crowd below, I've assumed it was to his flock of Christian faithful, but now I'm pretty sure he's blessing a crowd of foreign tourists queueing for the security scanners

Back on the road then, with the GPS co-ordinates of a supermarket in the town of Monte Cassino programmed in to the Satnav. OK, so the roads to the Autostrade were fit only for an ox and cart, but we were soon on a fast and smooth toll road.

I have to say standards have fallen the further south we have travelled. As we entered Italy I have to say I had been very impressed with the helpful and friendly attitude of the natives towards us tourists, and the smell of perfume and cologne in the air as we moved around amongst them in crowded situations.

Rome got us back to basics. It was like being back in Spain, home of 'The Armpits', as rancid aromas attacked our nostrils.

Walking around Rome I was surprised how many people were sneezing. I have no idea why, maybe it was pollution, or something in the air. The most noticeable thing was that nobody used a hankie (just like Spain) instead preferring to sneeze without even attempting to put a hand or hankie over their noses. The worst examples being those on public transport who sneezed in to their hands, and then put that hand back on the hand rail as they stood there. I have never before felt the need to wash my hands as soon as we got 'home' before touching anything else (and yes I did also wipe the door handles).

We arrived at the supermarket here in Monte Cassino, where we stocked up, and I bought an electric fan as I'm sure as this trip progresses we're going to need to cool ourselves down a whole lot, provided we have an electrical hook-up connection.

We had a real problem finding this 'luxurious' Camperstop (GPS: N41.483003 E13.837228). The reason being that despite the vehicles dimensions being stored in the Satnav, it attempted to take us under a railway bridge which was only 2 metres high. After reversing up, off we went again, following our noses until the Satnav picked up an alternative route and delivered us to the Camperstop entrance, just fifty yards the other side of the railway bridge.

We were the second vehicle to arrive on site. The first, a French couple, had as much trouble finding the entrance as we had. Later we were joined by a couple with a small panel van conversion motorhome and a big, huge, dog, who said they remembered us from the Camperstop in Siena.

For us, tomorrow is a rest day, being an Italian National Holiday (Mayday) we are keeping off the roads. First thing on Wednesday morning we are heading uphill again. This time to the top of the hill to visit Monte Cassino Abbey, and more importantly the British Military Cemetery nearby.

This evening we have enjoyed both the relaxing atmosphere of this Camperstop and the ability to use the electric oven to produce something other than some form of salad. We had Chicken in a sweet & sour sauce with rice followed by fresh strawberries and something that tasted similar to yoghurt. Luvverly jubberly.