Italy is beautiful and its landscape has some distinctive features which stick pleasantly in our minds eye--umbrella pines, tall thin cypress trees, towns high up on the top of hills. This combination does not seem to be characteristic of other European countries. The hilltop towns are a result of wars and assaults by rulers of one area on the towns controlled by other rulers. Such raids were quite common during medieval times. The towns were built high in the hills to make them easier to defend. The north-south autostrada (highways, really lowways) run through valleys with views of these hilltop towns.
These autostrada are quite good. The motorways are toll roads but the tariffs seem to be less per mile than in France. There are frequent service stops, and in between there are many telephones to use if you have a breakdown. In Italy toll roads are worth taking because the secondary roads are not as good as those in France or England. And service stops and telephones can be non-existent on these. On one occasion we drove on such a secondary road for about a 40 kilometer stretch from Siena eastward to an autostrada going south to Rome. We saw hardly any houses, no service stations or telephones the whole way. Had we had a breakdown, we would have been in serious trouble. Even if there were telephones we might not have been able to communicate either our problem or our position to anyone answering the phone. Our experience is that the Italians are like the French in the number one encounters that speak and understand English. And we do not know Italian at all. But, we did not experience any trouble. Indeed, so far, we have not had a breakdown of any sort.
And rightly or wrongly we have adopted a rule that we do not want to travel in our motorhome south of Naples. The further south one travels in Italy, the poorer the population. It is not always true, of course, but, often, poverty breeds crime. Our motorhome is slow and therefore vulnerable to any enterprizing people who make a living preying on travelers. And even on the autostrada we make it a habit of not leaving the motorhome alone. One of us stays with it while the other goes into the service area. The service stops can be very crowded during the tourist season, and we have heard rumors of people breaking into unattended cars. We have met campers whose motorhomes were broken into while parked on a street. But we have traveled throughout Europe for about a cumulative year now in our slow vehicle and have never experienced any such problem.
For the most part we got around within cities by walking. But we always took a bus from campgrounds to city centers. In Rome we also took busses to other locations in the city. It is probably a good idea to be on the watch for pickpockets in Rome. In Venice, we took a ferry from the campground and water busses--Vaporettos--to get around within the city. And in Pompeii, our campground was
superbly located between Naples on the north and Sorrento and the Amalfi coast on the south. The campground was across the street from the ruins, and a short walk to the train station. We took three day trips. One was by train to Sorrento, and then by bus to Amalfi, stopping for a short visit in Positano on the return. Another was by train to Ercolono, and by minivan to the Mount Vesuvius crater and back to the rail station, and then by foot to the ruins of Herculaneum. And the third by train to Naples.
Getting Around in Italy
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