Greece to Italy and back by land


map_balcans_wayThis year we decided to make our trip to Italy by land. Given the cost of the ferry and that we should have covered anyway the distance from Athens to Patras and from Ancona or Trieste, to our destination in Piedmont, we arrived at the conclusion that the expense would have been practically the same, so why not take the opportunity to see something new?

So we started our trip with the plan to make a few stops in Serbia and Macedonia and to cross Croatia without to staying overnight in order to avoid the absurd obligation to go to a camping site. As always, the idea was to avoid toll roads, both for the costs and for seeing a little more scenery and local color.

I will cover the segment Athens-Thessaloniki in the next post. Here follows the description of the journey from the Greek borders to Trieste and back.
Let’s start with some data:
Countries crossed: Greece / Macedonia / Serbia / Croatia / Slovenia / Italy
All have frontiers between them except for Slovenia and Italy. They all accept Italian and Greek ID and driving license.
Crossing the borders has always been fast and smoothly, taking no more than ten minutes.
Make sure that your green card covers all the nations in question.
Fuel: the cheaper, about € 1.09 in Macedonia, while in Greece, Serbia and Croatia between 1.22 and 1.34 €
In all nations I paid by credit card without any problems.
The roads are mostly in good condition, some parts are a bit shabby, but nothing tragic.

Mileage: about 1,345 km outward and 1,448 km return = 2,793 km
Average travel speed according to the GPS: 50.4 km / h
Approximate consumption: 11.7 km / lt
Total trip cost: diesel € 320 & € 12 tolls

Outward (Greece – Italy): 1.345 km, 2 days


Enlarge Map
Departure with the sun from the service station at the side of the highway to Evzoni, at the height of Polykastro, where we had stayed overnight.
We arrive early at the border and pass the checks in minutes. At the first gas station we stop to refuel, price about 1.09 if I calculated well (I still find it hard to believe).
We follow the instructions of the GPS that keeps us on the highway until the exit for Demir Kapija, we then continue on the road that remains practically parallel to the motorway up to Negotino, where we turn for Stip and later for Sveti Nikole. From there we continue to Kumanovo where we take the motorway junction leading to the border with Serbia. The ride is pleasant and apart from a few delays due to works in progress, everything runs smoothly. Macedonia, lavori in corsoWorks in progress in Macedonia.Macedonia, monumentoMacedonia, monument just after Demir Kapija We cross the Serbian border without trouble, we make stop to change a few euro in local currency (€ 1 = 109 Dinars) so that we could do a little grocery shopping ahead and then continue along the link road up to Leskovac, where we leave the motorway and proceed to Prokupije. The weather begins to change and soon the sky becomes cloudy, so we decide to change schedule and not to make any stops during the way up, hoping to find better weather on our way back. The new plan was to keep going toward Croatia as long as I could take it. Forces began to leave me shortly after Pozega and we decided to stop overnight in Kosjeric. We immediately find a good car park and we spot a “Pekara” (bakery) nearby for next day breakfast. The night was a bit noisy, because starting at 4.30 am they washed the road and the parking lot at least three times, but otherwise it was okay.
In the morning we made a fast visit to the Pekara, we took our breakfast and got on the road with the aim of arriving to Italy before night.
Serbia, KosjericSerbia, Kosjeric, Overnight stay next to the riverSerbia, Pekara (panetteria), bakeryKosjeric, some of the goodies of the first Pekara we visited
Serbia, on the roadTraditional Serbian church, on the way to ValijevoWe follow the GPS directions up to Sid, stopping only at a gas station to refill fuel (around 1.34 € / l) and water. We cross the border with Croatia quickly and take the road that follows, more or less in parallel, the Croatian highway. After a few kilometers, behind a curve we see a checkpoint and a policeman telling us to stop! Car documents, small chat in croatonenglishitalian, then the agent with a sad look on his face, pointed out to me the sign of the speed limit (50km / h) and the radar in the hands of his colleague marking 67… I look at him laughing and say “nahh, not possible …” I make him understand that with my motorhome exiting that curve at at a speed of 67 was impossible, I would have gone straight into the woods… he laughs too, making a gesture like “it does not matter, just drive carefully” and the ‘adventure’ ends there … luckily :)
The road up to Sisak is pleasant and with no major ups and downs. The signs of the war are still evident, much more than in Serbia, but the atmosphere is relaxed. After Sisak the road starts to rise and getting more and more in the mountains. So, given that it was getting dark and it was raining heavily, at the height of Kupjak we decided to take the highway for the last stretch of Croatia. Bassovizza, punto sostaOur overnight stop in BassovizzaWe pay € 6 (with Euro coins) to get to to Rijeka and two euro more for the stretch leading to the border with Slovenia.
Customs control are fast. We drive the 30 kilometers of Slovenia, that separate us from Italy and we stop in Bassovizza, in the small parking lot next to the Police station (Carabinieri), in the company of two other motorhomes. The time was 23.30

The way back (Italy – Greece): 1.448 km, 4 days


Enlarge Map
For the return trip we have 4 days to spend. We decide to challenge the bad weather and make anyway a few stops along the way. We start in the morning from Mogliano Veneto, where we stayed for the night and we go through Bassovizza at around 10.30.
At the borders of Croatia, we choose not to take the highway to get to Rijeka and we just follow the yellow signs, getting there without problems. Then, we take the road to the south to avoid, we believed, the mountains before turning again toward the route we had followed in the first leg. At first all is well, we stopped to get gas (1.22 / l) and then repentance: the stretch between Hrelijin and Fuzine seems to be the ascent of Everest… ok, beautiful landscape, but never again!
So, having lost a lot of time traveling for quite a while in first gear (!) We take the highway to save us from the last stretch of mountains and regain a bit of the time we lost. From Fuzine to Vrbovsko we pay 4 euro. Once in Karlovac Croazia, on the roadCroatia, signs of the war are still evident.we decide to try a different route and instead of going towards Sisak, to take the road to Vojnich and then south driving along the border with Bosnia, before getting again in parallel with the highway. This time we do not regret, the ride is really nice, though sad for the obvious signs of the war. We arrive late in the evening at the borders with Serbia and we stop to sleep immediately after the customs booth, in company of a couple of trucks.
Serbia, Novi SadThe famous Clock tower in Novi SadSerbia, Novi SadNovi Sad, the Cathedral
In the morning, pekara in Sid for breakfast and we get on the road to Novi Sad. We take a walk into town and the fortress, then off to Belgrade, where we would like to stop for a city tour. The traffic makes us change our minds and since we had already stayed there for a week a few years ago, we prefer to continue to Smederovo, where according to our guide book we should find an interesting fortress. We arrive in the early evening, but the fortress from th eoutside looks a bit disappointing, perhaps it’s just us, we are tired. We stop for the night parked along the road on teh side of the Danube close to the town center, a bit noisy, but bearable.
In the morning the rain discourages us from going to visit the fortress and we start moving towards another castle on the river, which should be located a few kilometers after Golubac. The castle and the road are beautiful, but also here the weather does not help much.
Serbia, Golubac castleGolubac CastleSebia, Golubac castleThe road goes through the fortress
We go on planning to arrive in Nis, where we planned an overnight stop, but afret a few kilometers, a road sign indicating a museum intrigues us and we stop to visit it. Lepenski Vir, a super modern building in the midst of nature, nothing you could expect in a place like this and the same applies to the exhibits, it was definitely well worth a stop. Entry costs 400 dinars for adults and 200 for children up to 15 years.
Serbia, Lepenski VirSerbia, Lepenski VirSerbia, Lepenski VirLepenski Vir museum (The Iron Gate)
We arrive in the late afternoon in Nis, we find a very central and free parking lot and we take a evening stroll in the city, a short visit to a supermarket and we retire for dinner. In the early morning I got awakened by the sun. Finally! I take another city tour to get some pictures and to buy breakfast. At about 8.30 we get on the road again directed to Greece.
Serbia, NisSerbia, NisNis, modern and traditional
Macedonia, Doiran lakeDoiran lake from the Macedonian sideWe only stopped in a supermarket in Vranije, to spend the last dinars we had left and for lunch in Macedonia, shortly after Sveti Nikole. In the afternoon we arrived at the eastern border crossing with Greece, at lake Doirani, but it turns out to be a bit disappointing as landscape, so disappointing that we decide to go to spend the night at the not so far away lake of Kerkini… exceptional, but that’s another story…

Conclusions

I’m glad I chose to avoid the ferry for this trip. Even considering the discounted price of 600 Euros that I had found our RV and 3 persons, in the end we spent the same money (counting the route Athens – Trieste – Athens) seeing much more. Of course, if I had paid the motorways the amount would have increased by 270/280 € more…serbia_danuv_campingDunav camping in Zemun (Belgrade)
The trip is more than doable. For those in a hurry and/or who can afford it, taking the highways, it can be done easily in two days, with a stop in Belgrade, maybe even when using the excellent camping Dunav.
Having from three days up for it, it can be done, without problems, avoiding highways and with the spare time to play tourists 😉

Thermopylae (video)
Lake Kerkini, between dream and reality
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