Italy National Parks, Pompei, and south to Sicily


The forecast was for sun in the middle of Italy, but it rained in the night and continued on and off all day. It was a chilly 12.5 as well. The goal is to get to Norchia area where the national parks area starts.

We rode thru several small towns and into the old walled cities despite the weather. The nicest is probably Bevanga.






Finally we got a bit of a break in the afternoon with the rain stopping for a  while at east in order to get to the campaign spot near Preci. It then proceeded to pour rain all night long.




It was down to a drizzle  by 9 am and we packed up to leave. The route today is thru the national park of Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga.


First we headed to Norcia for gas and then up into the hills.

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It was 3-4 degrees for the most part and when we got to the ski area it was raining and foggy as well.

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We pressed on mostly on the roads where the surface is so bad and  you see almost no cars and so you start to think the road is closed, but on the passes at least there is an OPEN/Overt sign. We rode along the huge reservoir and over the bridge.

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The last pass on the was to Santo Steffani is unreal. The road is in terrible shape and with the rain and dense fog it was very hard to avoid even the biggest of the holes.

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We were now frozen and starved as we were waiting to eat at the famous Bbq places at the top of the pass. Needless to say insult added to injury when we got there it was pouring and 2.5 degrees and they were of course not open. We were icy by the time we got to Poggio Picenze.

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Wandering in the town is a bit eerie. There was an earthquake here 8 years ago and most of the old buildings are condemned. People are living in “temporary” houses and many of the building are braced with wood and metal supports.

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The forecast was unbelievably for sun and we woke to a bright blue sky. We decided to go back up the mountain to see the views under better conditions. We back tracked to the top of the pass in the cathedral of mountains and from here down the back side thru Castel del Monte. From here we set a direct path to Pompei on the secondary roads.

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This whole booking it south thing worked out well for the most part until we made a mistake just north of Naples and this put us on a direct route thru the city.

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This place is nasty. There is garbage everywhere. It looks post apocalyptic. There are “professional” ladies sitting in plastic chairs or standing all along the side of the road wearing what look like bad Halloween outfits. Added to their the traffic is crazy and there is basically no one following any rules of the road. Red lights it seems are “just a suggestion”, people will turn left in front of you from beside you in the right lane, they will turn left on coming to you when ever they want and then look at you as if you are nuts. These people make Peruvian taxi drivers look like angels. This is added to the national pastime here of driving incredible fast and about 1 meter from your back tire even at highway speed. The round abouts and the 4 way “stop” intersections are a complete free for all. Basically you have to ride very aggressively and give not even an inch to any other vehicle. If you hesitate even for a second they will pull in on you, cut you off, or drive in your path from any possible direction. Add to this a huge number of scooters weaving in and out of traffic. It was like being covered in honey and driving thru killer bees. Once past the city it calmed and we were on the “coast” road and so there were no lights or cross streets to deal with.

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We are here to visit the ancient city of Pompei that was burred under 6 meters of ash when the nearby Vesuvius volcano erupted suddenly in AD 79. We started at one end and wandered thru the major roads to see the Amphitheater, the Theatres, and many villas with painted frescos. Large sections of the site are closed either for repairs or lack of funding to maintain them.



























We planned the exit from the city on the route of least resistance and this went well. We had big plans for the day to get down the Amalfi coast and then thru the Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park to just before Maratea. Big because just the 52 km section from Pompei to Amalfi can take over 2 hours. We went on a Monday and there was not too much traffic. The predicted 15 km/hr did not happen! That said the 236 km did take all day.

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Leaving Pompei you get on the SS 145, which is a 2 lane very narrow road hugging the coast. There is heavy traffic in both directions until you pass the exit to Sorrento. At one point an oncoming SUV tried to squeeze past the transport truck in front us and at high speed in a space to small he hit his mirror on the cliff wall. That stopped the traffic behind us for sure! The village of Positano hangs on the cliff side. The city visitor’s cars were parked on the side of the road started about 2 km before and continued 2 km after the town. They have numerous traffic wardens directing the mayhem. Mostly the bikes are let thru when they are holding the cars to let traffic pass in one direction at a time. The streets are too narrow in lots of spots for 2 cars to pass and there is no way the busses can make it. Most corners have mirrors so you can see if someone in coming on the sharp narrow corners. Past Amalfi the road is still coastal, but normal in width.









There is so little parking they built one inside the cliff.







From Salerno we headed inland and on the main road to make up some time and to get to Paestum for a brief visit to see the Greek ruins here.



“Paestum was a major ancient Greek city on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea in Magna Graecia (southern Italy). The ruins of Paestum are famous for their three ancient Greek temples in the Doric order, dating from about 600 to 450 BC, which are in a very good state of preservation. The city walls and amphitheatre are largely intact, and the bottom of the walls of many other structures remain, as well as paved roads. “





We then went back to the small roads thru the park where there is almost no traffic on the small curvy roads. Finally we hit the sea side road again just before Sapri.



The hotel we had booked was down the cliff from the main road and there were about 6 tight hairpins to get done there.


Today we are headed to or at least towards Sicily depending on how the day goes. We stuck to the coast road, on which we made very quick time and we were at Cabo Vaticano by about 230. So we decided to make a run for the ferry at Villa San Giovanni.

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Getting in and out of the cape was a bit hairy as following the GPS some times can be. We were on some very steep ups and downs with tight hairpins. At times on a very steep hill that you had to yield to traffic crossing! Also we were off road a bit on a track grown in with bamboo, which we had to pull bits out of the crash bars after some bush whacking. Getting out was a bit easier once we found the right tiny steep narrow path and back to the main road.

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It is a bit windy today!

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We arrived to the ferry dock at about 4 and they ferry was just unloading. They are so busy here they are unloading one boat at the same time as loading another so the traffic is crossing. It is a 35 min ride to Messina Sicily. We rolled up and there is a massive sign over the road in English that says BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE!

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6 Responses to Italy National Parks, Pompei, and south to Sicily

  1. David says:

    Naples was bad in 1973. Even worse in 2002 will never go back. It is a scary place.

  2. michael fritz says:

    u must feel like a fish with soooo much rain, poor guys. we have the same shi….. weather here in austria
    i smile how u write about the neapel traffic…i love it
    a couple of steps more dangerous and u see what is going on in india traffic
    i will leave to the boat at saturday and then being for three weeks on the coast to dubrovnik…
    hope i see u along that trip.
    do u thake a ferry from italy to kroatia??
    take care in sicaly, and dont forget to drive up the äthna. spectacular, the view and the road…

    • Daniel says:

      Yes we did drive up Etna! We took the ferry from Bari to Durres. I am very behind in the posts. We are in Sofia. Yes we will not go to India on the bikes for that reason. I will message you again as soon as we are to leave Montenegro to see where you are. Sara

  3. Danielle says:

    I so enjoyed your pictures of the ruins at Pompei and Paestum. These are definitely on my bucket list. Sounds like Naples should just be avoided if possible , I have never been there.
    Ah the traffic in India! The only rule seems to be –don’t hit anything if at all possible. Just too many modes of transportation being used by too many. I hope you enjoy Sicily and that the weather warms up and stays that way for you.
    Cheers, Danielle

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