May 2

    Uploading the blog is increasingly a problem for us. When we were in Pompei we had wireless access at our site but apparently wiped out our website trying to load it. We walked all over town asking at big hotels and tourist offices where we might find strong “wifi” and finally ended up trying Burger King with free wifi access. It took almost an hour to upload the blog, but we were delighted it worked at all. A couple of days later before we left Pompei we were able to upload several days more. So if you are following our journey, please be aware that we may be uploading several entries at a time.

    The night before we left Pompei we spent a pleasant hour visiting with a British couple who spend most of their time on the road. Later we met an American couple from New Jersey who also own a Born Free and were shocked to see one just like theirs in Italy. They are touring for 10 weeks in a rented German “camping car” and wished they had their own. We were able to warn both couples to avoid driving the Amalfi Coast.

    We finally left Pompei after seven nights, with a newly strung window shade that works! (OK, only the two broken strings were replaced.) We drove 50 miles south to Paestum, where there are Greek temples in the middle of acres of Roman ruins.


We camped at a large place on the sea that has many permanently placed grimy trailers taking up all the good spots and lots of loud people and music. We were in a short row of unhappy overnight campers parked on a sand lot. We rode our bikes to the ruins and around the town and watched the sun set over the Mediterranean.

    We were glad to move on on Saturday, which was May Day, a national holiday. As we were driving away from the coast, the rest of Italy was driving, impatiently,  bumper to bumper, toward it. We drove east, crossing 3/4 of Italy. It is such a varied country. Sometimes it looked like the scraggly brush of Utah or Wyoming. And we went up to 2700 feet crossing mountains. It was a pleasant ride on good roads with little traffic, until we got to Matera. The GPS wound us into a housing project, claiming we were a few feet from a campsite. So we parked Rover and walked the route. Three people stopped their cars and offered help. One showed us down the hill where we were supposed to be--on another road. So we turned around and were walking back to Rover when a car pulled up next to us with one of the men who had tried to help us. He gestured for us to climb inside, drove us back up to Rover and then led us out to the road we needed to be on, where we found one of the nicest campsites we have ever been on.

    David may curse the drivers and the loud music and talking--and then feel silly for characterizing an entire country on the basis of those experiences--and then some people go out of their way for us, like this man did. There was also the girl in Pompei who walked us a block down the street so she could point us to the Tourist office, a gas station attendant who gave a pen and window wiping cloth to David to give to “your wife” when he saw Susan washing the windows, and the waiter at the campground restaurant in Matera who went out his way to make sure we understood what we were getting.

    In Matera we walked to the Sassi, a tumble of old cave homes, lived in for years (from the 8th century to the l950s!) by the very poor. There are over 3000 caves and churches carved into the hillside. 


It was the set for Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ.”  Really a pretty horrible place . . . and it just went on and on. We walked back to the motorhome--about a mile and a half uphill and downhill--on a very hot afternoon. We decided to have dinner in the restaurant at the campsite and went in just before 7 p,m., only to be told to come back at 8. So, quite hungry, we showed up then. There was no menu, no prices. We were fed what they had--first a bowl of olives and a basket of bread (no butter), then a delicious meat and vegetable stew, then a pasta dish with mushrooms and tomato sauce. We declined a second pasta dish with vegetables and had gelato with fresh fruit instead. All this with a carafe of wine and a large bottle of water came to €38--about $50.  We were very pleasantly surprised. (And several families with four small children showed up after 9 p.m. to eat.) Each course was preceded by a conversation with the waiter we mentioned above, who wanted to practice his English and tell the American tourists about the time he’d spent in Toronto. He seemed disappointed when we told him we’d be leaving in the morning, because he’d been thinking about what he would feed us the next evening. He also hoped we’d let people know about the restaurant and camping site, so here it is (and if you’re in the area in a motorhome, it’s well worth staying there):

    Masseria del Pantaleone

    C. da Chiancalata, 27

    75100 Matera

    The next day we drove to the big port city of Taranto, right on the Mediteranean Sea where the boot of Italy meets the foot. We couldn’t find one campground mentioned in a guide, and a second one was closed--this after some frightfully tight city streets and traffic.  So we left Taranto and its traffic behind and drove north to Alberobello where little trulli houses dot the landscape.  Well, shoot. . . .