Where's Frankie?

Windy Walland calls it a day

Tuesday 8th November

You might look at my rugged handsome exterior and think there is a real man, a well tamed Bear Ghrylls that everyone can aspire to but underneath this hard shell is a fluttering mass of jelly, scared of his own shadow as well as Lucy’s.

To be honest, we’ve never felt really at home in Italy, the locals never say hello, everywhere looks and feels run down and I’ve mentioned the roads before. After our little brush with the fake police (I hope) and a night in a sosta which doubled as a knocking shop and where the last disco car left at 5am in the morning we have decided to head north. Our guide books both paint awful pictures of Naples, the news was of riots in Naples and our camping books listed only three sites in the south of Italy that are open in December, two of which are in the middle of nowhere so food shopping would have been an issue.

We’ve both got very high levels of scardey cat pheromones and have rarely taken any risks, even the Lotto is pushing it a bit for us and we have to wait for a really big rollover.

Sunday morning we hit the motorway and found ourselves in a sosta in Tivoli, just outside Rome. The motorway was a breeze, almost no bumps, certainly no rattles, squeaks and wobbles so Frankie really enjoyed himself. It worked out to about 10c per kilometre. Since the rain was so heavy Sunday afternoon we just chilled in Frankie and worked out our next move.

Monday morning off for a stroll and have a look at some of the delights of Tivoli, except that today is Monday and all the delights are closed! However, we did notice some of the locals saying bongiourno, a couple even tried to have conversations with us, there was no rubbish in the gutters, there were flower pots hanging on the walls by the shops, it really was as if we had entered a different country and we immediately felt much happier and relaxed. The traffic is just as frenetic but we have worked out the pedestrian crossings, just walk across and let the motorists worry about it.

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Here are part of the Gregoriana Gardens, as I said it is closed today and this is all you can see through the railings. It must be really good because you have to pay to get in.

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And these are some of the sites that you’re going to see inside.

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I bet you don’t get to see many of these!! Unexpected. As you can see it is raining, a bit later we saw a couple of road sweepers, one of them was holding a broom in one hand and an umbrella in the other!! When I say a bit of rain what I mean is the roads were running rivers and we got rather wet.


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Another view of the gardens with waterfalls to the left and a real Roman shrine in the middle.

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The castle was impressive right in the middle of town but has been closed to the public for a number of years. Lucy wanted to see the Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana so we kindled the rest of the day away and in the evening were treated to a spectacular lightning display.

Tuesday morning and after a heavy night of rain, not helped by having parked under a tree we woke tired and weary and rushed off to the Villa d’Este.


Impressive entrance hall. The villa was built by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, son of Duke Ercole I of Ferrara. Building started in about 1560 and most of the wall and ceiling paintings date from that time however it has been retouched since then, mainly just after the Second World War.



Most of the rooms are decorated like this, either religious images or along themes such as Hope, Faith, Charity, Hospitality, Forgiveness and Health. 




The gardens are built into the side of a steep hill which has been terraced and landscaped with water features. Fountains are around every corner.


Or along paths. There are fountains at each end of this path. Water is reused as it descends the hill.


The gardens weren’t huge and it was amazing how many different types of fountains were contained within it’s walls.


Three fish lakes as well.


And the view back up to the main house.


Large waterfalls at one end of the path you saw earlier.


And this is the main waterfall, famous to anyone who has studied the guide book.

We managed to get all the way around the gardens before the heavens opened again so we rushed back to Frankie and made our way down the steep hill (and frantic traffic in Tivoli) to our next destination, the Villa Adriana, built by Hadrian, the grandest palace complex ever built in Italy. The palace is larger than the ancient city centre of Rome itself. We had the whole afternoon to examine it which our guide book says was rushing it a bit but as we arrived the heavens opened again and continued for a good hour. We reluctantly decided to give it a miss and head off for our next stop.

We’re spending tonight and tomorrow night in Orvieta, home to the most stupendous cathedral in Italy but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.


Today’s wine of the day is one of Umbrias most famous products. Obviously I have gone for the Classico which is grown in the oldest growing zone but it does come at a price. Don’t tell Lucy but it was €12 a bottle. It’s pretty good, you can really taste the Tuscan Trebbiano and Verdello grapes which are dominant. (so says my guide book, to be honest I’m very happy with my €1.99 bottles of plonk but as they say, “when in Rome”, or 70 miles north of it).

We took flight near Naples, now we feel much more comfortable and might slow down a bit now.

13 thoughts on “Windy Walland calls it a day

  1. Darren Hartfree-Bright

    Well you’re much braver than us, we only lasted a week in Italy before we bailed out! We gave it a good go a whole 3 different places. Trying Spain now; still run down like Italy but has a much nicer feel, to us anyway.

    As for our lightning strom we drew the blinds and hid, no heroic looking out the window for us.

    1. Mark Post author

      Have you found any federweisser? Your top tip about recalibrating the electrics has been fantastic, we sit in the van every night with all the lights on and the heating going when need be and we still have more than enough electric in the morning.
      Hope you’re still enjoying yourselves, where are you now?

  2. Chris Clements

    Don’t blame you re Naples. My friend who lives in Italy warned us against it but we still had to see for ourselves. There are parts you shouldn’t go into but that’s what we normally like to do take all the interesting little alleyways – just wander and see where we end up. There were several areas we didn’t feel particularly safe and definitely wouldn’t go back. We are in Marbella at the moment – lovely and sunny. Although yesterday we hired a car and went up to Ronda. 7 degrees – No thank you (we will have enough of the cold when we get home) I think we will stick to the coast now and maybe leave Granada and Córdoba till our next trip when it’s warmer. Where are you heading now Spain?

    1. Mark Post author

      We are looking at Avignon at the moment, cheap site near to town, we’re thinking of having a month break from moving to see if it might be something we do in future – ie just go to the south of Spain and vegetate.

      1. Christine clements

        We stayed there if it was the one across the river from the town. Lovely place. Although they do have a siren which they put on to evacuate the site if heavy rain as it can tend to flood.

  3. Darren Hartfree-Bright

    Sadly no federweisser. Glad the electics worked out. We’re in Palamos now, been slow moving along as Mandy hasn’t been well (had to go a doc for antibiotics) but she’s much better now.

    1. Mark Post author

      St Feliu de Guixols is just down the coast from you. We spent five days there on a free aire and picked up WiFi from one of the locals. Give Mandy a hug from us, it’s a bit worrying being ill abroad, glad to hear that you have got it under control.

  4. Clunegapyears

    Such a shame. The people are much more friendly in the south, especially in sicily, where we spent 3 months. We’re just into Spain and finding this a little alien and less friendly than Italy! Perhaps it comfort zones. And we didn’t have a nasty non police moment.
    We loved Naples, not at first, but it is an untamed animal unlike no other. Camping Spartacus was great for the railway and opppsite Pompeii. Acsi too.
    Our southern highlights were monteassino, the museum Della piano, trani, trillions around ostuni, incredible caves nearby. And Sicily for the best Greek and roman remains. Tempted? Have a look at our blog from September – February.

    1. Mark Post author

      It is a huge shame but trying to weigh everything thing up isn’t as easy as it could be. I looked at ferry prices to Sicily but it seemed rather pricey to me (€300) and we have to be back in the UK by mid January. Would have loved to visit Pompei and Vesuvius but maybe next time with a few glasses of rum inside me…

      1. ClunegapyearS

        Sicily ferry from San Giavanni to Messina was under €100 for a 3 month motorhome ticket … but the driving is macaroni … made the driving in Naples look tame.
        But there are sooo many beautiful places all around Europe, and instincts are always best. We rushed through Provence last Spring as we had to get home and said it is definitely a place to come back to, but it may be a tad chilly!
        Just about to trawl through your Spanish postings … currently in Sevogia, and moving southward … the Algarve for visitors through December.

  5. Giorgio

    Well, I’m glad that you read in between my lines and took heed to move away and quickly from certain areas. I was a little concerned that Frankie may have been a little too conspicuous if left on its own and it may have been targeted by local scoundrels with nothing better to do just for the fun of it. Yes you will have missed on some stupendous places by the coast further south alas there are places which are better visited when one is accompanied by local “conoscenti”.

    Tivoli and Villa D’Este are fantastic in my view.

    Here is a link in English for more in-depth information including Hadrian’s Villa for which you will need one full day at least. http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/tivoli.html

    As we are on the subject of Hadrian if you, Lucy or any of your followers here are into reading, I would recommend Marguerite Yourcenar ” Memoirs of Hadrian”. MC was a French-Belgian acclaimed writer and this novel concerns the life and death of Hadrian. In my view, very well written.

    As you are in the Lazio region, then I would suggest you tour the Castelli Romani [sans Ariccia which is no longer after the first of a few earthquakes] and make a point of visiting the area around Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, although Papa Francesco has decided that he will open it to the public.
    Here is a link: http://www.italyheaven.co.uk/lazio/castelliromani.html

    If you make it there, here are some wines you may wish to try:
    1. Frascati 2. Marino [both are DOC and not to be missed] and then any whites which are made from Malvasia or Trebbiano grapes. You may also try some reds from Merlot.

    p.s. DOC in wines stands for Denominazione d’Origine Controllata, a form of quality assurance for Italian wines. You can read more here:

    1. Mark Post author

      Thought you might be a bit upset with me! Thanks for the information you send us, we are in Orvieto now so a bit north of Rome now. I’m thinking Montalcino, Sienna, San Gimignano and then Florence. Need to avoid Florence on a Saturday (possible political trouble) or Monday (closed). Possibly Castiglione dL as well.

  6. Giorgio

    Thought you might be a bit upset with me! –
    Not at all Mark. Who am I to judge anyway?
    In my view it is important to allow freedom of expression and I know you would not have said something unless you had reasons to do so.

    Tuscany is very pretty indeed and lovely to drive through.
    The Florentine are very proud of their heritage and given that Renzi was their former mayor, there may be some hot headed people around including young activists protesting at the lack of opportunities [read the lost generation].

    Notwithstanding political rallies, Florence is full of history and art. Here is a list of things to see there:

    Montalcino AND Montepulciano a medieval town in southern Tuscany, full of elegant Renaissance palaces, ancient churches, charming squares and hidden corners, Val d’Orcia is a picturesque region that includes several amazing villages, castles, hamlets, and farmhouses. The entire area is protected as a natural park, Elba island best known as a place of exile for Napoleon, San Gimignano boasting 14 medieval towers, Lucca for its imposing Renaissance walls and the medieval center and many beautiful churches and gardens, The Chianti region, Siena [perhaps a fleeting visit to Pisa to see the leaning tower] Arezzo which sits atop a hill at the crossroads of four valleys,

    If time allows for it, there is Livorno and its port as well as Massa Carrara, well known for its marbles and where mountains meet the sea.

    Enjoy it.

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