Monday 19th September 2022
Passignano sun Trasimeno
Ancona must be the worst possible way to enter Italy! Even in the first rays of the rising sun it looks shabby and that opinion worsens with the improving light. Its roads are awful too, full of potholes and raised ironwork and poorly designed and illegibly marked junctions, seemingly designed to keep the visitor perpetually trapped on the inner ring road like a modern vision of Hell.
Ancona has more immediate and pressing problems than my superficial opinions though. It is the capital city of the Marche region that has been just hit by one of the worst storms ever. 420mm of rain, a third of the annual total, fell in four hours; causing what the villagers described as ‘tsunamis of floods’ rushing down the steep hillsides. The rain was accompanied by violent winds. Just up the coast there were heavy UPVC sun loungers being bowled along the beach by the gale. So far ten people have been confirmed dead and three are missing. Local politicians are blaming the tragedy on years of underinvestment in infrastructure and warning systems. That puts my brief, bumpy ride into perspective.
I left you, dear reader, in Dubrovnik, at the end of yet another memorable day in Croatia. The next day, Friday, we drove under darkening skies, north up the coast road towards Trogir. Soon we hit the tail end of the storm that had hit Ancona and it was coming down like ‘stair rods’ (Back in the olden days, before the invention of carpet grippers, stair carpets were held in place by metal rods attached to the back of the tread). There were plenty of tunnels on the route which was a ‘good thing’ as visibility was better in the tunnel and it gave the wipers chance to cope with the backlog of water. As we pulled in for a coffee and a croissant it looked as if the charm had worn off my new waterproof – but no! As I pulled the hand brake on the rain stopped, so the luck waterproof stayed on the hook. At this rate I will be able to take it back to Go Outdoors and get a refund!
Disappointingly, we learned as we booked in at the campsite, the water taxi to Trogir was not running because of the predicted bad weather, so instead Ivana, on reception, obligingly ordered us an ordinary taxi, which was cheaper and quicker.
Trogir was very busy; even the posh yachts were tied up four abreast. It was just as quaint as we remembered it, and armed with a ten-point tour leaflet from the Tourist Information, we were able to introduce its delights to Lesley, who was making her first visit.
As evening approached it looked as if the rain was about to perform an encore so we jumped into the first ‘Konoba’ (or tavern in Croatian – after almost two weeks I am slowly widening my vocabulary from ‘hvala’) that had a decent roof. Boy we struck lucky! Great food (3 mixed fish platters and a risotto) and a great waiter (who also had a golden retriever) who appreciate our patience and understanding on such a busy night that he treated us to four shots on the house. It had been a long night, so, sportingly, Andy finished them for us.
Our base in Trogir wass Camp Belvedere and it is possibly the smartest campsite I have stayed in; ever! Saturday was spent enjoying the delights of the campsite, and catching up on the tidying-up, washing and blogging. Apart from some half hearted thunder and a few spots of rain, the weather was better than forecast but it was still chilly enough to need a jumper on the afternoon dog walk through the pine woods to find a bar for a pre-prandial drink.
We came to a sea front where we met the first signs that the season was coming to an end. Some bars were shut-up and empty and in between there were stacks of furniture packed away and made secure for the winter. Don’t worry, we found a bar that was still open. In fact it was busy. It was full of Croatian policemen and their families, or so it seemed from their Police Union T shirts, unless this is another fashion statement that has passed my by? I reckon the local holiday apartment complex was affecting a cheap deal to members of the force.
In the evening we dined inside for the first time in 26 days as guests of our neighbours – another sign the seasons are changing?
Yesterday was spent in Split. With a feeling of déjà vu, we pulled up first in the ferry queue, locked up and headed to the Old Town (the avid follower of this blog will know this is what we did in 2018 too). Half of the Old Town is Diocletian’s Palace, so called because it was Diocletian’s Palace. The Emperor Diocletian had it built 2000 years ago as his retirement home for when he finished emperoring. It took ten years to build and covers an area approximately 200m by 180m and it is still here. When the Romans were kicked out of this part of the world, generations of Croatians made the place their own, building homes, shops, businesses and churches in amongst the roman stuff. As a result it has a real ‘lived in’ feel that adds to its charms.
After a couple of hours of wandering around the palace and the medieval part of Split next door, we found a table at, what Wendy insists is, the restaurant we ate at in 2018. A great place to while away a couple of hours over a leisurely lunch and people watch. There was no rush. We didn’t need to be back at the ferry queue until 1630, and in the end we could have easily frittered away another hour, rather than sweating in the afternoon sunshine on the dockside. We did make some chums as we waited though, with members of the Harley Davidson Owners Group (Western Chapter). A couple of them came over to ask us about motorhoming in Croatia as they had a motorhome back home. They were part of a group of ten bikes from Bristol (mostly couples our age, riding two-up), on a tour of Croatia and Italy, riding between hotels.
Loading the ferry seemed to take forever and by the time we got on board it was almost dark, so we found a quiet corner of the bar (the most expensive beers so far – €6 for 0.3L) and broke out the picnic. A beer and a couple of glasses of wine should have meant a good nights sleep but our cabins must have been close the boat’s driveshaft, as the noise and the vibrations meant that I was already awake when our wake up call came over the tannoy at 0545, followed by incessant reminders that breakfast was available in the Sports Bar. That probably didn’t help my mood for our arrival in Ancona.