it was honestly one of the most truly terrifying experiences of my life – squeezing between gigantic trucks jammed together like giant sardines in a tin, trying to reach our campervan deep in the bowels of an overnight car ferry travelling from the Greek port of Igoumenitsa to Brindisi in southern Italy.
The massive juggernauts were parked so close together that we had to turn sideways and squeeze between them. Some were parked so closely we couldn’t get past and had to find another way through.
Truck engines were starting everywhere around and I was terrified they’d start rolling out before we could reach the safety of our van which was nowhere to be seen. It was like a terrible nightmare but I was wide awake – an anxious little ant dwarfed by larger than life monster trucks.
Before panic took hold we caught sight of our safe haven. The feeling of relief was immense – I wasn’t going to end up like a squished cartoon character flattened by these wheeled metal giants after all.
My feelings of fear were probably heightened by lack of sleep. We had finally departed Igoumenitsa at 1.30 am and we had only spasmodic sleep on a bench in the saloon of the boat. Happily for us the saloon ended up being almost empty once the hoards of excited teenagers had been shooed off to bed by their carers an hour or so into the trip.
We had hoped to get a cabin but the berths had all sold out. However, I think we probably had a quieter night than if we had been amongst the hundreds of noisy and hyperactive teenagers.
The drive from Vonitsa to Igoumenitsa had been easy and without incident and we arrived in loads of time for the late night ferry so we decided to pass the afternoon by exploring some archeological remains just a short way out of town.
The short drive was very pleasant which was just as well because when we arrived at the site we discovered that entry was by appointment only. A herd of sheep provided us with some entertainment outside the gates and on the way home we met geese on the road and picked up a massive bag of the sweetest ever oranges for three Euros.
The ferry arrived in Brindisi after a calm crossing at 9.30 am and we drove straight to the designated campervan parking spot in the city to shower, eat breakfast and have a rest. We arrived to discover that it was heaving with cars and every designated campervan spot was taken (by cars not vans) – including the space allocated for dumping grey water. This was our introduction to road rules in Italy – they are there to be ignored!
So we did some quick research and decided to head north for the Itria Valley.
We hadn’t been driving more than an hour before we were in a beautiful valley full of fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards.
Nestled in amongst these crops we began to see captivating small stone huts that looked for all the world like homes fit for hobbits.
What we were seeing were Trulli – typical ancient Apulian small round houses of stone with a conical roof that were originally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses by farmers but more recently used as permanent dwellings.
We were entranced by them and I took so many photos that I nearly filled up my phone photo library!
We wanted to look round the town of Martina Granca but it was market day and very busy. We couldn’t find anywhere to park so drove on to the next small town – Ceglie Messapica.
We found a spot to park the van and once we were out found we had parked right outside a rather nice looking restaurant. After further investigation we discovered that we had managed to park right in front of the Number One restaurant out of 78 recommended by Trip Advisor for Ceglie Messapica
Of course we just had to go in and try it and the food, service and ambiance was all fabulous.
After lunch we strolled around town through beautiful alleyways and narrow streets with white painted houses – almost Moorish in style – glowing in a the sun. We walked to the town’s ducal castle that sits high up, dominating the skyline.
As the sun began to dip in the sky we returned to the campervan and drove to Cisternino about 20 Kms north where there was free overnight parking in a car park near the town centre.
We were quite exhausted after the overnight ferry ride and were happy to have the opportunity for an early night so we could explore Cisternino when we were fresh the following day.