From the toe of Italy we drove north west to a town called Matera.  The route around the coast was really nice and as we started going up into the hills, the views were great for a bit, until the mists closed in; Italy is truly a most beautiful country.

2 Route to Matera

When we pulled up into the promised campsite just south of the town but we were not at all convinced it was open, nor did it look possible to pitch a tent.  We went into the reception, they found us a scrappy bit of land so we thought we might as well stay one night there, rather than find an hotel.

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We went to explore the Matera old town called Sassi.  We had heard it was worth a visit, but WOW what a place.  There is a sandstone gorge that has been inhabited for about 7000 years and successive generations have hacked out houses and churches… I am not sure that my photos can do it justice

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We visited a museum that reminded us very much of Matmata

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The last people that lived in these very basic places were forcibly rehoused to the new town in about 1960.

We liked this painted door

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The upside of the dreadful campsite was that we met a lovely couple of Belgians called Denise and Art who took pity on us huddled up in Camel (well, actually, we were drinking beer and eating nibbles) and invited us over for some very nice Belgian beer.  They were very interesting, having spent many years travelling all over the world, and great fun.  We ended up having a surprisingly good meal in the campsite restaurant with them.

It was pretty cold and the campsite was poor, so we hightailed it out as early as we could the next morning and headed for our number one must see spot, Pompeii. 

17 mountain route

The route across the mountains was great, the roads spectacular and the driving was shockingly bad

11 mad van driver

Pompeii was high on both of our ‘bucket lists’, so we just had to go there.  I had been advised that the campsite Zeus was the best place to stay, so that’s where we ended up.  It was certainly in a good position, right next to the railway station and about 5 minutes walk from one of the entrances into the Pompeii ruins. 

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The site looked pretty, although I have never had to worry about being struck by or treading in oranges before in a campsite. 

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There was a nice bar/restaurant just outside the gates (I was interested to see that they were using Eric Morecombe to advertise it)

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and we managed to squeeze ourselves into one of the pitches. (Yep, we take up masses of room).  The facilities were pretty basic, as the only hot water was in the showers and the wind blows through all of them fairly briskly.  We soon worked out how to fetch hot water in a bucket for the washing up and that the water was good and hot actually in the showers; you just don’t want to hang around afterwards for long.  It was great to have breakfast in the sunshine for a change

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We headed off to explore the Pompeii ruins and they were much better than we had hoped.  Several of the more upmarket houses had really beautiful details surviving.

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As you walked along the streets, you could really imagine what it would have been like to live there

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You could even see the ruts from the carts

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You could see Vesuvius very clearly from the city

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and you could imagine the terror of the inhabitants as it erupted.  There were only a few of the famous plaster casts still in the site, but they really made me think.

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This dog had obviously been chained up and was struggling to free itself as it died.

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Despite the fact that the place was heaving with tour groups, it was so large that it never felt too crowded.  It was amusing to watch the faces of the various kids who were being dragged around the site by their parents and the school groups who were much more interested in each other than loads of old rocks.

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