As it was our final day in Calabria, the toe of Italy, we thought we'd treat ourselves to a tour of the local area, taking in some hilly bits and a couple of historic sites on our way. We left the campsite at around about 10:30hrs after our usual leisurely morning, drinking tea and reading the news.Our first port of call was in the local town of Cirò Marina to negotiate the Italian postal services automated checkout! If ever technology failed, it's here. There are 8 counters, each counter only specialising in a single product. Money withdrawals, Bill Payment, Loans or Post. You go to a touch screen and select English, which confuses the next Italian to use it, a ticket is then produced which tells you that you are number 15 (or it did in our case). You then look at the screen, then at the Italians standing around you, all who seem to be equally bemused by the system. Finally you notice a queue which is going down faster than the others, so, in hope, you join the quickly diminishing group of people. Finally it's your turn. The man take your slip of paper and points at the board. So I have to wait until my number appears.
"OK I though that was the case, but rather than stand there all day, it was better to check" I thought. I turned, and as I did, the same man pressed a button behind the
‘what happened next nearly had me weeping with laughter
counter and my number came up! I turned, and without even a smile, he asked what I wanted, for the second time in 30 seconds.
I handed over 8 postcards and pointed at the place where the stamp was supposed to be. So far, the exercise had taken 10 minutes, what happened next nearly had me weeping with laughter. He placed a postcard on the scales (8g) entered this onto his computer screen, clicked the screen with his illuminated mouse, clicked it again, entered 3 key strokes clicked the screen again, looked bored, clicked the screen and a stamp was printed out. He then lifted the card up and placed it on the scale again and repeated the whole rigmarole again, another seven times. I refrained from asking for 4 spare ones so we could post our next postcards more quickly! The man never showed any emotion other than boredom! Anyway that was 30 minutes of a beautifully Italian day.
We wound our way through the back streets of Cirò Marina, aiming for our first stop of our tour, a Church and complex called Mercati Saraceni (Sarican Market) A restored, arched covered market (Probably for locally produced wines for which the area is still renowned.) with a Norman Fort as a backdrop welcomed us to this beautiful location. One local highlight was a herd of cows, dangerously close to the railway line. The train slowed, but the cow knew she was safe and didn't even flinch as the locomotive passed just a few centimetres from her.
Next we headed to the main town of Cirò, an ancient city with magnificent views over The Punta Alice. It's ancient, narrow streets, too narrow for vehicular access, took us through the, still largely inhabited old streets to the battlements and views, then onwards to the castle, which was barred off, because of fallen masonry, it actually looked like it was going to fall dow at any moment, on to the more modern housing which clung to and had been incorporated into, its crumbling walls.
We drove northwards out of Cirò down a road, in name only! The track had in places succumbed to the inevitable force of gravity, and, with the rest of the hillside, had decided to head for the river in the valley below. We made it through to the bottom of the hill where a metalled surface welcomed us. We headed for the hills and some spectacular scenery, most notably the hill top town of Umbriatico, perched on the edge of a cliff, with a high bridge to allow access.The next, and final place we visited for today was somewhere I chose, by searching on an app for "Archaeological sites" an it said that there was a ruin. As we climbed up into the hills, the temperature dropped from a pleasant 17°C to 7.5°C. A we rounded a corner we were presented with the spectacle that was Umbriatico. After stopping to photograph the town, perched like a fairy on a Christmas tree, I checked where we were heading on the map, but this time I zoomed in... Wow, there was a whole ruined mountain top town to explore, if we could get there that is! We let the SatNav lead and soon found ourselves faced with a huge pond in front of us. the road went in, but didn't reappear anytime soon. I chickened out and reversed for around 500 meters until we got to the last gateway I had seen. and managed to turn around and drive back down the narrow track where we had had to negotiate a landslip where a large chunk of the narrow track had fallen into a nearby field. Safely back on the road, we finally made it to Akeronthia or Akerentia, depending on which sign you took notice of. The carpark was empty, so we parked diagonally, just for fun and headed up the track towards the hilltop, with the ruins plainly visible on the cliff tops. Spectacular site, spectacular ruins, but if you want to see them, be fast about it, all are on the point of collapse.The drive back to the campsite took us down the Valley of the River Neto towards the sea then home along the coast and another spectacular sunset.