Day 9 – 8th July 2020 – on the Tyrrhenian Sea to Civitavecchia Italy.
Am up early as planned and out packing the bike at 7am. A little bit behind schedule but then I receive a text message, my ferry is delayed to 1400 and now I don’t need to be there until 2 hours before, so plenty of time…. I could have done with another hour or two in bed as there are new guests in the room above who returned at midnight sounding like a herd of elephants on heat. However, this does mean I can now have breakfast, which is a bonus, (it’s that silver lining again).
It also affords me more time to get organised… out with my old pal, Booking.com, to find somewhere to stay tonight. I have two days to get from Civitavecchia to Ancona to catch the ferry to Split… I am going to ‘split’ to Split… I can hear you all groaning from here. The distance is much shorter than the planned ride to Bari, it is only a days ride really, so I have a look at my map and think about whether I want to ride some of it this evening and book a room an hour or so on route. Checking out booking.com the rooms are a bit scarce and also quite expensive. There is one about an hour or so inland, but thinking about it realistically the boat is late so it will not arrive until about 9pm, noooo Pogs, not riding at that time, way too late. There is a room right next to the harbour, which gets fantastic reviews, the price is a little over budget at £51, but seems very much the bottom end in this area. It is literally next to the ferry port so am not expecting it to be at all salubrious, but can’t ignore the 9+ rating… ok booked!
Every day I check out a website called Wanderlust, (wanderlust.co.uk), who have an excellent page on travel to different countries all around the world and their Covid entry status/criteria. This is updated on a daily basis and a fantastic single source of information. In terms of Croatia, I am allowed to enter but they recommend completing a form, an intention to travel/visit, to save time on arrival. Now to my mind this is aimed at avoiding long queues at airports and although I do need to complete a form I have one or two problems doing so. First of all I know my date of entry, but not exit as I do not know at this stage how long I will stay in country. Secondly, it asks for details of accommodation, again I can and will book something in Split, probably for a couple of nights, but after that I do not know where I will go next… mmm I wonder if this is going to be a problem. Essentially I am transiting each country so I do not have holidays booked with set dates and accommodation. The only thing to do is to arrive and see what they say. It does not say I must complete and submit the form before arrival so I am going to have to wing it. If they don’t let me in then I will have to return to Italy and rethink.
After breakfast I finish taking all my bags downstairs and bid farewell to Nicoletta, she is really very sweet. As I’m finishing strapping everything down I hear a shout from above, Nicoletta is hanging out of the window with one of my wrist braces, I obviously left them on the bed, she chucks it down to me… where is the other one? She ducks back in and a few minutes later pops back out… no nothing. Oh well I guess I’ll have to buy another one. At least I still have the right hand one, which is the one that hurts the most…. bugger… so you see I spaketh too soon, have now lost something, unless it has attached itself to an item of clothing and is hiding in my bag??
After a couple of days without all the luggage I am shocked at the weight of the bike and take off to a bit of a wobbly start… mmmm going to need to get used to this again.
I’m fine when I get going, riding is no problem, even in hairpins, but it’s the stopping and getting on and off that are the problem, whenever I stop to take a photo or do something while on the bike I am teetering on tiptoe like some demented ballerina and the slightest slope is absolute murder. Oh how I wish I had lowered the bike that couple of inches, am definitely going to do it when I get home.
Anyway, I choose a route along the north coast and through the mountains. I must admit it is a wonderful ride. I go off piste a couple of times down some quiet mountain roads and it is just bliss. I take my time, enjoying nature and the scenic views all around me.
There are some very strange rock formations in Sardinia and every time I see one I’d like to photograph it has been at a spot where it is too difficult to stop on this bike. However, I do manage to capture this one, it just seems to be there, like many of these formations, how they got there is a mystery to me, most times you would expect to see a mountain or cliff they have been calved from, but this is just sitting there like it has been placed. I think this particular rock would not look out of place in Tate Modern or the Guggenheim.
Many of the smaller, less used roads have these beautiful, delicate, blue flowers growing by the roadside, so pretty. The fast roads also have some, but very few.
I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and would absolutely love to come back… the one thing I won’t miss though is the murderous driving… they all just drive as fast as possible all the time, its not even just the ‘boy racers’ its everyone, I’ve never seen anything like it. I have to say every time a vehicle comes up behind me I immediately feel under pressure, I can almost see the car or van or whatever pawing the ground with steam coming out of its headlights if it cannot get past immediately. They are so impatient that they cannot even overtake, they just skim past… frightening! Even on the hairpins, they squeeze past regardless of whether they can see oncoming traffic or not… nutters.
I’m not looking forward to riding in the rest of Italy if its going to be like this. I remember my previous visit here in the north and I did remark on the driving in that blog, but it was nowhere near as bad as this has been.
At last I arrive at the ferry terminus, if one can call it that… its a scruffy building next to the dock, the car park area is dirt and gravel and full of potholes. I pull up outside the office of Grimaldi Lines and go in to get my ticket. No problem, just takes a few minutes. The chap tells me to go out to the ship.. oh are we boarding already?? No reply. Ok well I get back on the bike and head for a group of people standing around at the gate into the docks in yellow vests looking important. I am told to turn around and park in the dirt area. I now notice there are about 10 cars already parked up, so we are not boarding just yet.
I am only there for about 5 minutes when a chap comes over and says ‘ticket’ he checks that and my passport and moves on to the cars. About another 5 minutes and then we are called forward.. oh so we are boarding.. not.. another chap in a yellow vest marked ‘Port Security’ stops me and says ‘ticket’, oh that man just… he nods and waves me on. I am the first vehicle and I can only see one ship at the end of the dock so head for that. As I get near I see it is from Malta.. Malta Lines I think.. oh that’s odd. I pull up and look over at a couple of chaps by a cargo container, one of them is taking a pee on the container.. niiice. The other one waves me back the way I have just come, I am happy to oblige. I then see another bloke in a yellow vest who waves at me frantically so I make my way over to him… ‘ticket’ he says, I give it to him, he then scans the barcode and attempts to print off the sticky labels for me and the bike.. his machine isn’t printing.. I think he is swearing… he then wanders off a bit and fiddles about with his machine, gets it going and comes back with my stickers. I then am directed towards.. you guessed it.. another man in a yellow vest with Port Security on it who tells me to pull up by him. I can’t see a ship at all so I ask him when will we be boarding.. oh.. half hour he says. Righto, so by now I am desperate for the loo, one of the joys of old age. I ask the man, toilettes por favore? He says I have to go back to the ticket building. Ok so I get my things and make my way over. It is extremely hot, especially in the squeaky adventure boots… did I not mention? The whole world knows when I am around, the Sidi Adventure boots are notorious for squeaking and mine are extremely loud. Anyway, I get to the main gate and the gaggle of yellow vested port security personnel, who seem to have multiplied to around 10 now standing around doing nothing, when one of them peels off from the group and stops me…. ‘ticket’, I give it to him with my bestest smile saying, ‘toilette’, he scrutinises it and then, rather reluctantly, gives it back to me nodding. I guess someone has to look like they are earning their money. After spending a penny or two I see there are a couple of souvenir shops, oh I think I would like a Sardinia sticker for my top box and maybe pick up a little something for my grandkids. I get a little sticker for a euro but the tiny bangles I spot for the girls are €5 each and really not worth it so I think I’ll get them something better elsewhere, maybe Italy.
I manage to get past the yellow vested crowd and back to the bike without having to show my ticket to anyone again. There are a couple of other bikes there now and quite a few more cars. I am faffing about with the bike when one of the bikers comes over. Now I know there is a language barrier and all that, but really there are some things that should be universal. For example, one does not go up to someone and say give me your name, I’m a bit stunned by this so just reply…
‘Where you from, you UK?’
‘No Ireland, but why do you want my name?’
‘You have facebook? I follow you’
‘Oh, no it’s ok I don’t friend people I don’t know’
‘Ok, just type it here’
‘No, I don’t want to give you my name’
‘What’s your first name? I find you on facebook’
I can see this is going nowhere, so I do type my first name and the start of my surname and it comes up automatically so I say that one. He appears happy with that and wanders off. He can send me a friend request but I will just ignore it. Some people are just weird in my book. He seemed harmless enough, but who knows.
I then notice that the ship is arriving.. there are several people watching it come in and one other thing I have noticed is the ‘face mask as arm adornment’ that is quite prevalent here with men, (I don’t think I have seen any women doing this). I mean, what’s the point of having the mask if you are not going to put it on your face, after all the clue is in the title. The face mask thing is a fiasco in my book, some people wear them, some don’t, some hang them off their ear and some, as I say, wear them as arm jewelry, all a bit of a joke really.
Here is the Cruise Barcelona… my ride to Civitavecchia
We are soon on board and I queue up to get my meal ticket; I have paid an extra £10 for lunch. I make my way straight to the restaurant and have Spaghetti Pomodoro, a plate of Chicken Curry and Chips and a piece of fruit. Later I also get a bottle of water and a small cake thing that looks like a piece of treacle lattice tart, but doesn’t really taste of anything except being very sweet; not bad for a tenner I think. The only negative was it was all cold and there was no microwave to heat it up.
After trudging about, in the still very squeaky boots, I finally find the airplane style seats. These are slightly different to the ones on the previous ship, these have arms that can be moved out of the way and so there are several people, who obviously do this trip regularly, stretched out across three seats with their blankets and pillows fast asleep. At last I am able to take the boots off and put on my flip flops.. pure joy. I then stretch out and soon drop off for a couple of hours.
About 9.30 we finally dock in Civitavecchia and I make my way the 3kms to my room for the night. It is literally the next road over from the port and I can see the cruise ships all parked up. I was expecting the area to be pretty run down, as I think most ports are, after all they are working areas rather than residential, but Civitavecchia is an eye opener. Not only is it clean and well maintained, it is also the shopping area and, like Gibraltar and Malta for example, there are remnants of former fortifications and other buildings, which makes this a great place to stay.
The room itself is excellent, as is Massimo who is already there waiting to greet me and shows me where to park the bike before taking me to the apartment. It is all very tasteful and modern. He explains about the keys, to help myself to breakfast and just leave the key on the table in the morning… fantastic.
I have a quick shower and change then make my way out to try and find something to eat. It is gone 11pm now so most places are shutting, I google and find there is a MacDonalds just a 5 minute walk away so that will have to do. I am glad of the walk as it gives me an opportunity to see something of the area, I even prefer to see it at night as I’m sure it will be very busy during the daytime
A bit of a late one tonight, but will still try and get going earlyish tomorrow… I check out Wanderlust to see what updates, if any, there are for the Balkans and I notice a country I have never heard of.. San Marino… so I google it. Wow, it is a tiny Republic in the middle of Italy just north of Ancona where I need to be on Friday afternoon. It looks to be a fascinating place and is open to foreigners… I definitely like the look of that so will see if I have time to detour… I think it’s very possible that I shall visit San Marino tomorrow, wait and see.