Monday 5 October: Treviso to Udine
Treviso GPS Position: 45.648901, 12.240253
Nice blue skies this morning for our little jaunt in to Treviso. We decided to cycle and give the feet a rest, as they were still aching from all the walking in Venice. Many people compare Treviso to Venice but in our option, it is nothing like it at all. Don’t get us wrong, It is a pretty place but completely different. The shopping district is small and compact but very up market. The large villa type houses all have gardens located on wide avenues with not a canal in sight. The walled town has a crystal clear river running around the edge with beautiful weeping willows trailing in the water.
The main piazza del Signori is at the hub of activity with coffee bars and plenty benches for the town elders to put the world to right. Opposite the Trecento Palace has recently been restored after it was badly damaged in 1944 bombing. Around the corner, the Duomo with a rather large and spooky crypt. The most interesting church was the San Nicolo just lover the river Sile. Outside rather plain but inside lovely 13th and 16th century paintings. The church columns were beautifully painted by Tomaso de Modena, whilst the walls were draped in huge frescoes of varying sizes and styles. To the rear of the church, the music quarters, were we could hear but a group of men practicing their hymns.
Our Bumble verdict: Nice enough for an hour or two to wander through.
Back in Vin and dinner time. Craig was feeling a little rough as he’s got a cold with runny nose and chesty cough. A nice warm drink to make him feel a little better.
With Treviso done and dusted we wasn’t quite sure where to go next. We looked at the map, had a read on a few places and set off to Udine. The two hour drive seemed to take forever. The fact Craig had a cold and I felt one on the way probably didn’t help. We drove through Prosecco land passing endless vineyards and winemakers. The flat landscape, the large farm houses, the grapes all made it feel more like France than Italy. The only difference the Italian farmers have little knackered tractors compared to the big French muscle machines. As we approached Udine we could see the dolomite mountain range in the distance. Mountain ranges are like magnets for us. Not sure what it is but we are just attracted to them. But not today, we need to keep on track, as we will have plenty mountains and hills over the coming weeks.
In Udine, we parked up a few blocks from the cemetery. Nice, clean spot that will do just nicely. Out popped the bikes and off we peddled in to town. Down the street, through the park, a wiggle here and a wiggle there and next minute we were at Piazza Della Liberta. A square with a pink stone building from 1448, a few statues, a clock tower with two bronze moors who ding dong the bell every hour and a grand renaissance building. We watched a group commence their evening stroll but this was no ordinary evening. A stag party and the poor chap was dressed accordingly in big Y front grundies, a shirt and kiddies woolly hat. However, he did appear to be enjoying the beer and the attention. A night we will never remember!
We cycled under Arco Bollani and up the steep, bumpy road all the way to the top of the 16th century castle. It was hard going. On top, some good views over the city and surrounding area but the views were hindered by overgrown bushes and weeds. The best bit, the ride down the street, passed the arches and all the way to the bottom weeeeeeeee.
We cycled around the city just watching people as they finished work for the day. Dashing home, savouring an ice cream or chilling with friends over a glass of wine and a few nibbles. That reminds me, damn blinking mosquitos been nibbling us again and boy are they itchy. We found a couple in the foot well, so sprayed the motorhome before we came out and fingers crossed we got the little buggers.
Udine is home to the local cuisine of turnips fermented with the dregs of pressed grapes. For once, I fancy dining it and as usual, Craig cooked a fab evening meal despite having a rotten cold. I did help though, I chopped the pepper and onions and then managed to get under his feet. Not long after our meal and we were tucked up in bed feeling sorry for ourselves with our camper colds. A wet, dark night, so might as well snuggle up, share germs and catch some extra zzz.
Our Bumble verdict: OK but not fantastic
Tuesday 6 October: Udine to Aquileia
Up bright and early with a spring in our step but it was soon dampened, it was teaming down. Vin the motorhome felt all miserable, damp and cold. Oh heck, we are entering the gloomy part of the year. Don’t mind winter just don’t like the rain. It is bad enough at home but in a motorhome, it is so hard to dry things and stop everywhere from steaming up.
We asked each other the same question every day what day is it? We never know the day never mind the date and today, Craig even threw in the ultimate question errrr what year is it?
After breaky, we dug out the Kartcher window wiper and hoovered up all the moisture from the windscreen. Its a fab gadget for clearing the screen. We set off in the drizzle. The town of Palmonova looked nice with stone walls and castle but the imminent Octoberfest Beer festival had half the town closed off. The divert traffic signs along with a new road got a little confusing and poor old Tom Tom got its knickers in a twist. We followed the signs best we could and end up on a brand new highway (no where to turn around) in the middle of bland, boring maize fields. Tom Tom didn’t approve and every so often it flickered like an annoying twitch. After what felt like an eternity we spotted a Lidl in the distance. Craig ignored all signs and the Tom Tom; and followed his heart, his one and only love, Lidl. An hour in Lidl and €28 lighter, we set off the Aquilleia.
As we approached the village we spotted a load of ruins at the side of the road. We carried on through the village checking out the potential parking spots. We noticed lots of ‘no camper’ signs but towards the post office we spotted a free municipal car park with no restrictions.
Aquileia GPS Position: 45.765737, 13.369828
With a shuffle here and a shuffle there we finally settled on a quiet parking spot tucked at the side of park. The heavens opened and poor Vin got battered with rain. After an hour the rains backed off, so we dug out the rain coats, wrapped up and we had a tootle in to village. Aquileia is only small but its roots go back 181 BC to an important Roman trading colony. Hard to imagine this tiny sleepy village was once the 4th most important city in Italy. It is only when you look around and see all the ruins, you appreciate the scale of the place. Everywhere you look you see ruins whether in a field or in someone’s garden. The main street took us to the UNESCO world heritage site of Theodore’s Basilica 314 AD. The church is free to enter but the museum and clock tower charge a small fee to enter. To say the Basilica is impressive is an understatement. It is a real wow and when you throw the history of the place on top, it really does become a jaw dropping WOW.
As we entered through the main archway, we stepped on to a raised glass platform that ran all the way around the church. We looked down, the whole floor was covered in beautiful, delicate mosaics in vivid colours depicting a variety of religious characters. This is thought to be the earliest surviving remnant of the Christian church and largest Palaeo-Christian mosaic floor in Europe. The alter surrounded in warm, pale terracotta frescos. Even the wooden ceiling beams had decorative tiles. We had the place to ourselves, so we took time to admire all the detail until after an hour or so when it was time to close shop for the day.Outside, we had a walk around the outside including the church tower and grave yards. In 452 AD Attila’s Huns marched in to Aquileia and everyone fled and founded nearby Grado or Venice. We walked in and around the village but with only a handful of houses, it didn’t take long. The area is well know for its variety of birds and one took a right shine to Craig. It shit and just missed his arm. Well nearly, just a few little splashes on the side of his coat. We both looked down, boy that was lucky. It was like a pot of yoghurt, that was one sick bird. With one lucky escape we carried on, passing yards with ruins stacked up like a breakers yard, seemed such a shame. Fallen temples and grand buildings amid weeds and autumn leaves. Hard ti imagine this place at the heart of the Roman Empire. The museum was a grim place with stacks of stone bits and bobs just left to the side attracting moss. In between the trees piles of pots stacked in the shape of pyramids. The pots turned out to be urns, which did confuse us slightly as we thought they only permitted burials. On the way back to Vin we spotted an aire. The usual services with a charge of €10 per day but we will stop where we are for now, it is quieter and cleaner under foot. We arrived back in Vin just in time before the heavens opened, again.
Our Bumble verdict: well worth the visit.
Wednesday 7 October: Aquileia to Grado
As we set off all the water on the roof shot forward like a waterfall. Well thats one way to clean the windscreen! Wiper on, Wiper off, drive, break, wiper on, wiper off repeat as necessary. We meandered over to the aire and utilised their free services before heading towards the sea. The roads were dead as a dodo and as we drove on to the long causeway towards Gardo it felt like we were heading to a ghost island.
We had no intentions of stopping on the island of Gardo but once we arrived it seemed quite nice. Quiet but pleasant, so we pulled over and had a look on the map. Gardo is like an exclamation mark in the sea, long and thin land with water on both sides and blob on top. We started up Vin and turned him round, drove over the bridge and parked him on the dot bit of the exclamation mark. Our spot for the day, right on the edge of the water near the little fishing boats. What a great little spot.
Grado GPS Position: 45.681172, 13.388409
There is also an aire at Grado GPS Position: 45.681722, 13.412031
We strolled in to the ancient beach resort of Grado. It didn’t feel like a typical resort but more of a cornish village. It was very quaint and relaxing. The seaward side of the land had a promenade running the full length of the town will periodic benches and water fountains. On the lagoon side, boat moorings. Grado used to be the port and as we turned in to the main piazza the connection with Aquileia became clear. Two small churches both with mosaics and intricate detail. The trade with Middle East and the influence on style was also evident. The Duomo had a number of little corridors and rooms, which we couldn’t help but have a toot. The first room contained the original ancient bishops chair, very plain and simple stone. The next corridor took us to a small court yard. It was like a roman toffee shop, full of ruins of every shape and size. Some just in the grass but a significant amount arranged neatly on the courtyard walls. How amazing and what made it more amazing is the fact, it is in the middle of a resort! The smaller church contained a octagonal baptistry, which dates back to the 5th century. Outside we turned the corner and more ruins and more mosaics.
Grado does have a few low profile hotels but it is not tacky or distasteful. In summer, it is probably very busy just like any other resort but out of season, it is quiet and quite a nice place to spend a seaside break.
Craig cooked a fab evening meal and then just before sunset we strolled back in to the village. Craig had a fag and me, I opted for an Italian ice cream. Tonight, pistachio and wild berry, so tasty. No better way to enjoy a super dooper sunset than with an ice-cream.
Our Bumble verdict: excellent village resort with character.
Thursday 8 October: Grado to Trieste
Craig is still full of a cold and last night he tossed and turned all night. Despite a rough night, he carried on regardless with no whinging just the odd bark and sniffle, bless.
As we drove the length of Grado we passed numerous campsite and camping villages but most looked shut for the winter. The wetlands and marshes were teaming with a variety of birds. Soon we were back on the main land and heading on the coastal road to Trieste. Today, a little overcast, so the flat, calm sea looked more like a sea of mercury. Thick and cold. However, clearly teaming with life. All the way down the coast little dots of colourful buoys and farm pontoons. Then on the horizon we spotted an elegant, white castle. We hugged the coast until we arrived at Miramare castle.
Miramare GPS Position: 45.700987, 13.722193
We parked up along the road and walked to the castle. At the entrance to the castle grounds, Craig nearly chocked to death. The parking prices of €15 per hour took Craig by complete surprise and winded him. Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian built the castle but never lived in it. He was executed and his wife went mad, so legend has it that anyone who spends a night in it will come to a bad end. The British forces used the palace as their HQ after WWII, I wonder if my dad came here? We didn’t fancy a tour around the spooky castle, it just didn’t feel right inside but we did have a nice walk around the well maintained gardens and the seafront balcony. The sea was crystal clear and teaming with fish. Not far from shore a swarm of well sized jellyfish with a vibrant purple rim cruised the warm, rich currents.
Four kilometres out of Trieste and we found a great car park. Only small for the local marina but idea as it even had fresh water tap and toilets. As usual, we parked up and then got out for a wander. Craig went in one direction looking for services and I went in the other direction to capture GPS and photo’s for our wild camping database.
Trieste GPS Position: 45.682174, 13.751221
On the way, I bumped in to Tim, a young lad from Oxford. We got chatting and it turns out he’s been here for over 2 months living in his converted van. To cut a long story short, he met an Italian girl, sold up, converted a van, moved to Trieste, got a job and then they split up. He is living in the van on his own and teaching English. Tim told us the highs and lows of Trieste and where to go. When he opened the back of the van I nearly dropped to the floor. It was absolutely gorgeous and nothing like any other van conversion. He’d kitted the whole thing in reclaimed wood and along one side a country style kitchen with wooden worktops, baskets, and traditional taps etc. On the other wall, home made sofa bed, dining table and shower area. It was well cool and so cosy and homely. Its probably the best van I have ever seen. We chatted to Tim for ages and in all that time, I forgot to get a photo. I could kick myself because it was so fab.
We cycled in to Trieste passing the Barcolona stalls and straight to the main square. Trieste is an old port with plenty history, first with the Romans then Austrians back to Italians without even mentioning the border fights with Slovenia. Thankful all is quiet at the moment and with continued investment in the area, the port and city is booming. As you stand on the main square and look around you can see the attraction of Trieste. A sea front city tucked in crevice and surrounded by lush green vegetations and limestone cliffs.
There are two main elements to the city – the historic quarters & San Giusto (roman) and the new district, Borgo Teresiano (Austrian). The new section is very Austrian in feel with wide grid like streets and neoclassical buildings. We started in Piazza Unità d’Italia, a large grand square with superb buildings. In the middle, the almost permanent fixture of a scaffolding stage, which sort of spoils the look of the square. Night after night, the city hosts a variety of music events from opera to heavy rock. A quick zip around a few corners and in to the buzz of Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuov, clearly the heart of the city. A wide canal with grand buildings on either side with open cafes and local street buskers on every corner. At the top of the canal the grand church of Sant’Antonio Thaumaturgo. The huge church dominated the square but we preferred the small church to the side, San Spiridione. It was most peculiar inside with elaborate gold decoration and large candle sticks, we later discovered it was Serbian Orthodox church.
We arrived back in Vin just in time for sunset and boy what a sunset, it was beautiful. We walked to the end of the pier. the sea was like a mill pond. The odd ripple from the passing canoeist broke an almost perfect reflection.
San Giusto Hill offers great views across the city. Plenty roman remains to be seem including cathedral, amphitheatre and tombs on every corner. The old town has seen an injection of cash and most of the buildings have been restored, so it has sort of lost its authentic feel. Still good to scoot around the alleys and wonder in to ruins like the Basilica Paleocristiana.
We arrived back in Vin just in time for sunset and boy what a sunset, it was beautiful. We walked to the end of the pier. the sea was like a mill pond. The odd ripple from the passing canoeist broke an almost perfect reflection. As the light faded we retreated to the comfort of Vin but tonight, we left the blinds open, so we could watch the boats gently bob in the water.
Friday 9 October: Trieste
Woke to the tinkling of boat masts gently bobbing around in the harbour and….the chinking of scaffolding posts? The council workers were out early to take the rest of their scaffolding equipment for the Barcolona stands. We were parked right at the side of the storage bay. As we peered out the window, the gentleman looked over scooozi scooozi. We smiled and in return he smiled followed by another scooozi.
Tomorrow we set off to LubiLubi Land. Now you might think we are daft and you are probably right but when we see foreign words we often struggle to pronounce them correctly never mind remember them. So we always say what we see, what we think we see or something that is funny but easy to remember. Now we know its wrong but its how we get by. Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at Slovenia and can never remember the capital, Ljubljana hence the nickname LubiLubi. The problem happens when we say it too often and forget its a nickname then walk in to a place asking for directions to Lubilubiland! We get some amazing looks and for a moment, we wonder why!
We debated catching the bus in to the city but opted for the bikes. We hugged the coast and wandered in to the derelict dock area. Old warehouses with smashed windows, empty bottles, sodden mattresses and evidence of homeless activity. We weaved in and out the buildings trying to find a way back to the main road. Eventually, we found our way and popped out at the ferry point.
Today, more Barcolona stalls set up, so we had a browse through. The Barcolona is Italy’s largest sailing regatta. Ten of thousand of people attend each year and although the purpose for many is to skim the waters, the main attraction for most is all the activity that surrounds the race from stalls, music events, parties and the general buzz from the festival. Stalls range from everything from sailing gear to package holidays and focaccia by kilo. Range Rover had set their stall up on one of the jetties along with a cocktail lounge, a classic obstacle course and plenty top of the range models to test drive. In and around the marina the DHL boats were strutting their stuff, whilst the weather man was out throwing up his weather ball the check out the conditions.
The marino building with decorative ship bow detail edged marked the end of the stalls. We carried on along the coast cycling in and out of anything that looked interesting. Over to Faro della Vittoria, the third-tallest lighthouse in the world, which we only found out after our visit. Then over to Revoltella, a Viennese style museum and opposite the palace designed by Carlo Scarpa. By this time I was getting hungry but Craig wasn’t too fussed. We cycled a bit further and then he surprised me with a treat…picnic in the park. Aww you might say, how sweet. Well not quite. A do it yourself butty in the middle of an industrial park…a pack of stale buns, 4 slices of ham, bag of crisp, chocolate bar and bottle of orange pop all from an on-route Lidl. After a 6km cycle from Trieste Port over the hill and down narrow streets, we arrived at Risiera di San Sabba.
We walked down the long corridor of the rice husking factory in to the dark and dismal entrance. The lady at the reception kindly let us fold our Brompton’s and store then in reception. With a deep breath we turned the corner then stepped inside the compound of what became the haunting concentration camp. As we walked around the different rooms and read the history, it was difficult to not feel overwhelmed with sorrow. The suffering, the pain, the sheer cruelty and the torture. We tried to keep our emotions to one side in order to learn from the exhibition and museum but at times it was difficult. See back section for details of why we found it so disturbing.We left the museum in a somber mood and slowly cycled back to Trieste city.
As we arrived back in the city, we passed the welcoming Caffe San Marco filled with a mix of young and old characters all enjoying the freshly ground coffee in an old and atmospheric coffee house. It was nice to return to normality but this afternoon’s trip had left a bitter taste and somehow the welcoming city of Trieste didn’t quite feel the same. We wandered around the neoclassical buildings, open cafes and grand canal but our legs had also had enough. Over 20km of cycling up and down hills was taking its toll on the old derrière.
We made our way back to Vin and as a final treat and lasting Italian memory, we treated ourselves to a wonderful Italian ice-cream. And yes, Italian ice-cream is the best in the world! So bye bye Ciao, Ciao for now Italy, but we will see you again soon, It is after all a superb country.
Our Bumble verdict: Trieste cosmopolitan city with colourful and troubled past.
If you wish to avoid more detail and the graphic images then please Click here to skip the next bit and jump to the next post.
The next pages of this weeks Bumble are text and images relating to Risiera di San Sabba, we have put them separate so you can choose to read or not read about the place in a little more detail. Be warned though that the images are very graphic and you may find upsetting.
Risiera di San Sabba, Concentration Camp
The Trieste death cells.
In 1898 a factory was built in the city of Trieste to process grains to be sold in the regions markets and support the communities in the surrounding areas.
In WWII however its produce changed from grain to humans, it was converted to a holding, processing and killing factory by the Nazi war machine. Hundreds of thousands of Italian, Slovene, Croatian and Jewish people went in the front door based on their race, politics or religion but not all came out, many were sent on to Germany to be further “processed”. During the conversion of the factory, a massive crematorium was installed inside the factory, the architectural drawings also show the facility had a large gas system with a powerful ventilation system.
In 1945 when the war finally ended, the Nazis directive was to destroy all its concentration camps and Risiera Di San Sabba was no different. They attempted to blew up the facility in an attempt to cover up the genocide that had taken place. They failed, only the crematorium area was completely destroyed and the processing and cells remained. Hundred of tons of rubble and distorted iron beams were removed to show the true horror that remained buried beneath. On the first day alone of clearing the facility over 20,000 human identification tags were found amongst the remains of the bodies were the crematorium area was located.
A simple symbolic steel floor in now located where the crematorium was once located.
The cells that the prisoners were kept in were incredibly basic, A tiny brick box, barely three feet wide and five feet long with a timber door, each had a slat bunk bed inside that held at least two humans in each cell. No light, no water, no sanitation.
There was also another set of cells located next to an empty room, The name of this room is simply marked up as “The death cell”. Presumably this room would have been where the prisoners were gassed to death. The dead would simply be moved next door to the crematorium for disposal.
In another building a display was setup with newspaper articles, cartoons, photos and drawings showing the regions history throughout the war and also events relating to the facility.
One information board explains the date when the facility became a national monument 1966. The only thing I know about 1966 was that England won the World Cup. That events space in my head has just been replaced by this place.