Dolce Vita in Italy

The air-condition of the ferryboat cooled the whole seating room down so that we rolled us into our sleeping bags. Waking up lying over 4 seats I don’t know if it is still night or already day. The windows are covered by thick curtains. Putting it aside, I can see land. The ship is maneuvering into the harbor of Bari. Italy, the last country of Europe.
It is a rainy day and the first stop we are taking is at one of the small cafes. Since the coffee price is regulated by law in Italy, the price is always at around one euro. Drinking coffee in the morning in Italy is somehow a kind of a national tradition. The bars are full with people holding their espresso in one hand an eating a delicious brioches, which is a kind of a filled croissant with either chocolate, marmalade or custard. Not a healthy breakfast at all, but since we are just a few days in Italy I enjoy it fully.

The final route is now Bari to Salerno, crossing the country from the east to the west coast in 2 hours through rain, fog and the coldness of late autumn. Arriving at the hotel, we just fall asleep again, since the ferry ride was not giving us a lot of rest. It is also the first time, since we have left Vienna, that we can relax and enjoy a few days without riding. The first thing we do in the evening is, of course, eating pizza. The hotel we have chosen gave us a good offer and the breakfast buffet is so rich, that we have breakfast and lunch at the same time. It is pure luxury. The following day we decide to take the one hour ride to the north, to Napoli to visit the site of Pompeij.

Pompeij is an ancient town that got covered by the ash and lava of the eruption of the Vesuv Volcano 80 AD. The eruption was so massive, that the Mount Vesuv is nowadays just half as high as it was before. Pompeij got due to that wiped out, but still, the whole city structure remained conserved over the centuries. In the early 1800s people started to excavate and slowly the city reaches sunlight again. People like Goethe already listed as tourists to that city and there is none such place were I had ever experienced before how sophisticated the architecture and urban planning was back then.

Dozens of ceramics are still in good shape and with a special technique of gypsum injection into the hollow space that was left from the solidified lava stone that buried the people of Pompeij, there are now lots of statues of the people showing them in their last second before they have faced death.

Walking through the town we experience a glimpse of the ancient roman life. The great amphitheater, the place where Pink Floyd decided to record a session, because of the special atmosphere and outstanding acoustics. In the amphitheaters it is possible to stand in the middle , speak with normal volume and people sitting in the rows are able to hear every word spoken or sung.

The site is so huge that we could have spent a couple of days there. We stayed until sunset and enjoyed every second. After sunset is before pizza. At least for us, here in Italy. My former office colleague Arianne recommended us a small pizzeria in the center of Napoli. Riding there we are parking the bike in a small alley and enter the busy streets full of bars, restaurant and people. The pizzeria is really simple, but highly efficient. Just a sheet of paper and the pizza arrives within 10min. I think a lot of people would say that the pizza in Italy is not great. Well I guess, those who say that have never ever been to Napoli before. I think Napoli will be manifested from today on as the city of food in my memories. If I will ever come back to this city, then not for work, or for anything else. Just for the food, and especially for the pizza. A perfect dough, good thickness at the edge and getting thinner and thinner to the center. Delicious fresh made tomato sauce and just the best cheese and salamis you can imagine. It is simple but super delicious.

The restaurant is full with people and on the cover of the menu they proudly put the picture of one of their famous guests. It is a picture of former US president Bill Clinton, shot while he is enjoying a slice of this pizza. The place we are talking about here is simply called Mattheo. I would never make any promotion but this place was just amazing. Walking back to the motorcycle we enjoyed a cup of ice cream. La dolce vita! Back in the hotel we fall asleep like babies. See, a motorcycle adventure is such a versatile time. Riding into remote areas, living without a shower for days and then having some time enjoying food and nice locations. That is the most southern part of Italy I have ever been and I am happy that it is already late October. It is so less touristy. Waiting for the ferry we just enjoy our last few days in Europe with a lot of food. I eat pizza every day.

In the north of Salerno starts the world famous Amalfi coast. A scenic road is winding a long the cliff and beautiful colored houses are located in the small towns. We take the bikes out for a ride and get impressed by the landscape. The road provides some perfect corners and it is so much fun riding the VStroms through them until we head back to our hotel. The shipping industry is never working on exact dates. When we have arrived in Salerno, our boat was supposed to leave the harbor in just three days. We receive the message, that the boat will not be in Salerno within the next two days. Well, there are worse places where we would have to wait for the journey to continue.

The following days are easy as usual. Eating breakfast for two hours and sitting on the terrace editing videos or chatting with friends and family back home. Unfortunately we have to leave our nice hotel, since the weekend is coming and they are fully booked for a convention. So we move to a place close by. It turns out that the outside wall of our new room is directly at the street side and every truck that passes gives us a shock, since it sounds like it would ram through the wall. We are getting ready to leave. Two more days, two more pizzas and the morning comes. We pack the night before and start early again in the morning. It is Sunday and Salerno is still asleep. When we reach the harbor every gate is closed and I get a bit nervous. Sometimes information are not in the way communicated as I wish it would be. Nora takes over the lead and we find the gate. Behind the gate we can see a gigantic vessel. The Grande Europa from Grimaldi.

With a friendly smile the two guards are greeting us. Speaking not even a word in English we manage to communicate to them that we have tickets for the boat and we would like to embark. With hands and gestures they tell us, that we should wait for another 30min. Alright. Luckily, there is a small booth next to the gate. One last real Italian coffee and a brioche. Quite unhealthy but just so good.

Finally we stand up, and go back to the harbor. The guards let us pass and they direct us to the next gate of the dock where the vessel is parked. After another 20min this gate is also opening and a guide in a car picks us up telling us to follow him. The vessel is huge, about 350m long and 20 stories high. At the back of the boat is a huge loading ramp, where we ride up with the motorcycles. We get welcomed by the crew and got escorted to a place deep in the belly of the ship where we park the bikes for the upcoming days. It is gigantic. The crew is small. The Italians are running the bridge and the Philippines are the blue collard workers on board. We take an elevator up to the 10th floor.

A big sign in the cabin gives the strict order that the captain and the first officer as well as the 1st and 2nd engineer are not allowed to use the elevator at the same time. Next to it is a sign that says security level 1. If we would be next to the coast of Somalia it would be Security level 3 the highest.

The cabin doors are opening, a huge car deck, with a height, that a standard car can exactly fit. We have to walk with our heads down to the exit.

We are reaching the crew area and get introduced to our cabin. A cozy cabin with a bunkbed and a bathroom. Just enough. It is almost lunch time. At exactly 12pm we get called into the officers mess to take our lunch. Surprisingly a British couple is already sitting at the table for the guest of the boat. We introduce each other and they tell us, that they do the whole round through the Mediterranean sea and go back to England then. That’s an unusual vacation!

The lunch is a three course meal cooked by the Italian chef of the boat. Not too bad at all.

At about 2pm it is time to depart. We get invited on the bridge and witness the highly skilled maneuver leaving the harbor of Salerno, entering the windy and wavy sea. We area heading east. A new chapter is in front of us! The storm gets stronger!

Leave a comment, what is your favorite Italian dish?