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Captain cook

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At this time of year a lot of the campsites have started closing for winter so, as we made our way back towards the Alps, our choices of where to stay became a bit limited and we ended up choosing campsites that we might not normally stay at. Which is how we ended up staying at a fairly surreal place in a little town called Torre Daniele. It’s not a massive town but we still had difficulty locating the campsite itself and, even after spotting it, couldn’t find a way in and somehow ended up driving over a sort of rickety old foot bridge. The place was full of old knackered caravans and looked abandoned, apart from a single dog who was barking loudly. Claire hopped out to see if she could find someone in charge and approximately 20 seconds later was back in the van with the barking dog hot on her heels. We drove a bit further into the camp and an elderly couple emerged from one of the caravans. They were Dutch, very friendly and told us that they came here for two months every year to h…

The coast with the most

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I’d always assumed that the famous leaning tower of Pisa was once straight and that it had gained its unusual tilt over centuries of subsidence. Turns out that it was just a dodgy building job and has been an almighty cock up all its life. One thing is for sure though: it’s one of those landmarks where it is better to be outside looking up at it, than up it looking out. That little gem of wisdom cost Claire and I 18 euros each in entrance fees. You see, aside from the arduous climb up the stairs seeming a bit steeper in places and ever-so-slightly easier in others, all you get at the top is a view of the rest of Pisa which, apart from the neighbouring cathedral, is pretty dull. There are a few bells up there (it is, after all, a bell tower) and some annoying tourists, whose sole job is to get in the way of every single photograph you want to take, but otherwise there’s not much going on. The best views are to be had down on the ground and they are actually best viewed with the tower b…

Rage against the (cash) machine

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Now back in Italy, our plan was to drive up what we thought would be a lovely coastal route, looking at dreamy scenery, all the way to Rimini. Unfortunately that whole section of coastline is nothing like we’d imagined and was, instead, a depressing 120km stretch of tawdry, dilapidated beach resorts and empty hotels all closed up for the winter. It was like repeatedly driving through out-of-season Morecambe, continuously, for two hours. And, just to make it even more unbearable, the roads felt like the tarmac had been applied by some sort of angry primate, using a fork, while having an epileptic fit.


 Surely this couldn’t be right. We needed something beautiful to look at, so we headed inland to Urbino, a hilltop town we’d never even heard of until a couple we met told us that it was a bit of a stunner. They weren’t wrong. It’s a fairly small town but within its walls is a treasure trove of impressive buildings, pretty piazzas and Renaissance art. It was a welcome respite from the horr…

Sleepless into battle

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After a drizzly few days in the mountains it was back to the coast and back to the sunshine. We stayed at a great little campsite in a town called Sveti Filip (immediately re-christened Sweaty Phillip) where we were one of just two vans staying on site. From there we cycled to a town called Biograd (which sounds like some sort of chemical waste by-product but is actually quite nice) and caught a ferry to the nearby island of Pasman. There we had a bit of a cycle round, stopped for a well-earned beer and stumbled upon a nudist camp where I had the pleasure of being confronted by a leathery German chap’s tallywhacker. All in all, a successful island visit.



For the next couple of days we drove down the stunning Dalmatian coast without seeing a single spotty dog. The shores are lined, alternately, with pretty peninsula towns and beautifully quiet little beaches of the whitest… er… gravel. Yes, for some reason Croatian beaches are completely devoid of sand and instead consist of a small whi…

Get your Croat, you've pulled...

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The whole goal of this trip had been to get to Croatia and that finally happened this week. Our first stop was Rovinj, a stunning little coastal town built on a peninsula by the Venetians – so, as you’d imagine, it has lots of narrow cobbled streets and crumbling buildings with lots of wooden shutters. Imagine Venice on a little hill with no canals. It is very beautiful – and thankfully pigeon-free.


We ran out of camping gas while we were there and it turned out the only place we could get this was down the coast in a town called Pula. Just before we set off though, we were approached, rather randomly in a car park, by a man who was the colour of a conker and the texture of a walnut. He told us that Pula was “crap man, just horrible” and that instead we should give him a lift to a nudist beach just along the coast. “Yeah, come with me to the nudist place, get naked, you’ll love it” he pleaded. This was a person that looked like he really shouldn’t be allowed any further exposure to the…

Sparks fly in Slovenia

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After Venice, we headed along the beautiful coast road to Trieste. We stopped a couple of times to admire the views and, while they are stunning, they are slightly marred by another altogether unwelcome sight – the entire coast seems to be littered with leathery old men sunbathing in tiny trunks.

We had a nose around Trieste itself before spending the night in what has become our new low bench mark for campsites. I didn’t think those old squatty toilets with the badly placed footplates still existed in Europe but it turns out they do. Feeling not-at-all rested or refreshed we headed to the nearby Grotta Gigante which, as you’d imagine, translates as Massive Cave. So massive, in fact, that the Guinness Book Of World Records has recognised it as the “largest visitable tourist cave in the world” which, to me, sounds like one of those categories that Guinness make up when they can’t pigeon-hole something into an existing category… like the record for how many boiled eggs someone can p…