We had 5 days to explore a smidgen of Southern Italy before our ferry to Croatia. The diesel is as expensive as in Norway, and the drivers are diabolical so we decided not to do a 1000km detour to Mount Etna and instead drove to Maratea on the western coast.
We drove through a barren landscape with such dry soil that it could of been mistaken for a middle eastern country. There were lizards scurrying across the roads and so many crickets and grass hoppers that one actually jumped into our van while we were driving. It had to jump into the drivers side of course, and Craig kept looking down and freaking out as he saw it in his glove box on the door. I demanded he pull over before we had an insect related car crash. He quickly swung the door open and I got a glimpse of the BEAST! It was about 3 inches long, no wonder Craig was having a hissy fit. Using a nail file we managed to direct him to the exit and he sprung away into the scrubs.
We drove through Pollino National Park which didn’t seem to offer any hiking, let alone places to pull over and admire the impressive views. The mountains had forested slopes and rocky tops. The rivers were vast areas of rocks and cracked soil with a trickle of water meandering through. A very steep road wound down from the mountains and through a scenic valley to the coast.
Maratea had 44 churches and a Christ the redeemer style statue atop a pointy mountain. We wondered up through the thin alleys, past crumbling buildings and quaint cafés. It was a weekend and there were lots of weddings taking place in the many churches. Like in Romania, they drove around in a wedding procession honking their horns.
Afterwards we drove down to a beach, it wasn’t quite the Greek paradise we’d been lapping up for the past week, but it was nice enough. It had grey gravel and stones like a volcanic beach, but with clear blue waters. Huge mountains rose from its edges and the Christ statue looked down on us. The water was surprisingly warm, much warmer than Greece, it was like a giant blue bath. I don’t know what it is with Italian men, but young men in speedos is just wrong. It was like a bloody FedEx depot with the amount of packages walking past me.
We stayed the night at the beach and the Christ statue was lit up and looked awfully creepy floating in the sky above us. After two days of relaxing in the sun we took a different road through the southern section of Pollino National Park which was just as spectacular. It was a thin and winding road but lovely and quiet. We eventually found a pullout to stop for tea and check out the views. Then we heard an odd noise, it sounded like a recording being played, like people chanting. Some sort of religious chant for a cult, as if we were being watched from a hill and they were trying to convert us. Then we saw the culprit, a midget of a man walking up the hill with the croakiest voice we’ve ever heard. He quietened down when he saw us and continued our way. He was drenched in sweat and seemed to be asking us for water, then it appeared he was just letting us know a water source was up the road, and off he went to it. As he went round the corner the chanting started again.