Leaving late from Greece, and receiving a warm welcome at our hotel in Italy

After collecting our final Greek passenger, Niko, Animalcouriers headed to Igoumenitsa port to make the crossing to Italy. It’s always a nail-biting time, checking in with the port authorities, but it all went off politely and we were nodded through to the port.

Our ferry was due to leave at 23.30. It eventually turned up at 05.00, and we were finally moving by 05.45. It’s a long crossing to Italy, so the engineers put up with courier J’s demands to see the dogs and cats, so she could check they were cool and keep them fed and watered. There’s a new airflow system in our van that works off an ancillary battery which lasts 26 hours, which is the length of the crossing.

When we reached Ancona, we headed to one of our favourite hotels, A3PAssi, owned by Antonella and her father Antonio. It’s an agricultural hotel (agriturismo) with private parking, endless olive groves, and lovely lanes for dog-walking.

We arrived so late the restaurant and hotel were shut, but a tray of bread and cold cuts, yogurt, apricot tart, and a bottle of house wine had been left out for us. What’s more, the car park and lane lights were on, there was water in the standpipe, and a key in the door. An amazing welcome despite no-one being around!

From over 11,000 olive trees of different varieties, the family produces a range of award-winning oils. Antonio maintains that the quality of the oil is down to the processes they use from the growing, to the picking, pressing and processing, through to bottling.

Their restaurant, La Tavola, offers traditional local cuisine made from fresh, top quality, organic ingredients, cooked with a lot of passion and a pinch of creativity.

We sampled (and bought) bottles of Antonio’s World No 1 Ascolana oil, a rare and valuable oil that has a strong fruity flavour with a hint of tomato leaves. Antonio gave us instructions on how to gently heat and consume this wonderful elixir.

A crate of A3Passi's award-winning olives

A crate of A3Passi’s award-winning olives

A closer look at the fruit

Olives waiting in line for the extraction process

Olives waiting in line for the extraction process

Organic produce from the farm, just crying out to be sampled

Organic produce from the farm, just crying out to be sampled

 As we went back and forth with the dogs, our paths crossed with farm trailers coming and going at what is a very busy harvest time

As we went back and forth with the dogs, our paths crossed with farm trailers coming and going at what is a very busy harvest time

Some olives are left to ripen further, and will be bottled with garlic and herbs

Some olives are left to ripen further, and will be bottled with garlic and herbs

Banks of bright chrysanthemums are interspersed with the crops

Banks of bright chrysanthemums are interspersed with the crops

Antonio always comes over to say hello — here he is checking that we'd enjoyed last night's picnic supper

Antonio always comes over to say hello — here he is checking that we’d enjoyed last night’s picnic supper

The lanes around the farm and the lush grassy slopes around the olive trees are a perfect environment for excellent dog walks.

Diego

Diego

Souki

Souki

Niko

Niko

Berti

Berti

Maya

Maya

Lucy

Lucy

Sugar

Sugar

Jacq

Jacq

Dexter

Dexter

Phantom, so-called because of her masked face

Phantom, so-called because of her masked face

Arizona, who's always ready to play

Arizona, who’s always ready to play

Lily enjoying watching all the comings and goings

Lily enjoying watching all the comings and goings

Gismo looking very demure

Gismo looking very demure

Two pups

Two pups

Two more pups

Two more pups

The puppies are travelling in pairs, in side-by-side compartments. They need cleaning out at least twice a day, so we pop all four in together while we do one compartment, then repeat the process for the second compartment. Here they are all having a big drink together.

The puppies are travelling in pairs, in side-by-side compartments. They need cleaning out at least twice a day, so we pop all four in together while we do one compartment, then repeat the process for the second compartment. Here they are all having a big drink together.

Limpet joins us in Nice; Snoopy, Billy and Charlie get on board in Toulouse

As Animalcouriers headed through Italy from Ancona towards Genoa, we found ourselves passing lots of heavy snow deposits. Concerned at the amount of snow around, we decided to keep going until we’d got past it all to avoid any holdups. So it was into the wee small hours when we reached the southern French city of Nice, and found our hotel next to the airport. The hotel kindly ‘impounded’ our van in their secure staff car park while we and our passengers got some well deserved rest.

We woke to a cool but beautiful morning and, once walks and breakfasts were done, we went to meet Graham in Nice. His fantastically named cat Limpet has joined us for his journey to Elgin in Scotland, where Graham’s brother is looking forward to welcoming him.

From Nice we continued west to the Narbonne area where we spent the night with friends. This morning saw us in Toulouse where we collected handsome Dalmation Snoopy and his feline companions Billy and Charlie. These three firm friends are relocating to Bristol, where their owners’ work with Airbus has taken them.

Snowy scenes in Italy persuaded us to keep motoring

Snowy scenes in Italy persuaded us to keep motoring

View over Nice airport yesterday morning

View over Nice airport yesterday morning

Graham brings us Limpet

Graham brings us Limpet

Limpet having a good look around

Limpet having a good look around

Poppi and Philomena are taking travelling in their stride

Poppi and Philomena are taking travelling in their stride

Narla is such an affectionate, fubsy cat — a female ginger which is quite a rarity

Narla is such an affectionate, fubsy cat — a female ginger which is quite a rarity

We stopped at the Eco'park in Mougins where we spent a very pleasant time walking the dogs. Robbie seemed particularly taken with the congenial surroundings.

We stopped at the Eco’park in Mougins where we spent a very pleasant time walking the dogs. Robbie seemed particularly taken with the congenial surroundings.

Silva is a soft, bouncy and cuddly girl

Silva is a soft, bouncy and cuddly girl

Daisy loves to feel the grass between her toes

Daisy loves to feel the grass between her toes

Pretty Minou is a very dainty girl

Pretty Minou is a very dainty girl

Now that Louis has had a chance to get used to us, he's keen to show us how much he likes playing

Now that Louis has had a chance to get used to us, he’s keen to show us how much he likes playing

Peabody, know by his family as 'Boy', is another very playful character. In his case, it's mainly footie with his water bowl. We can hear banging and thumping as he scores heroic goals!

Peabody, know by his family as ‘Boy’, is another very playful character. In his case, it’s mainly footie with his water bowl. We can hear banging and thumping as he scores heroic goals!

Lady having the sort of bad hair day that Cockers sometimes do

Lady having the sort of bad hair day that Cockers sometimes do

Lady was a little nervous out walking on the first day, but now it's all 'come on, Fidel, I'll show you the way!'

Lady was a little nervous out walking on the first day, but now it’s all ‘come on, Fidel, I’ll show you the way!’

And Fidel is happy to oblige

And Fidel is happy to oblige

Billie checking us out on our arrival in Toulouse

Billie checking us out on our arrival in Toulouse

Snoopy with Nic, who handed him and the cats to us on behalf of Alison

Snoopy with Nic, who handed him and the cats to us on behalf of Alison

Snoopy shows us his best camera pose

Snoopy shows us his best camera pose

Charlie is a very chilled-out girl who settled in like a pro

Charlie is a very chilled-out girl who settled in like a pro

Animalcouriers docks at the port of Ancona in Italy

The fast boat we were originally booked on to cross from Greece to Italy got held up at Barcelona in Spain, owing to bad weather. So we were pleased to be able to switch to another boat, but it was much slower, taking 22 hours to reach Ancona!

Checking in with all the pets was a painless process, with all our paperwork approved, which was very reassuring. And on board, the weather was pleasant, warm and sunny. As we promenaded up and down the decks with our canine passengers, onlookers must have thought we were a very eccentric pair of dog owners!

Nana (soon Lotte) sitting on courier M's lap. She was a little seasick at first…

Nana (soon Lotte) sitting on courier M’s lap. She was a little seasick at first…

…but after some dry biscuits and a long drink, she soon had a spring back in her step and strolled very happily on deck

…but after some dry biscuits and a long drink, she soon had a spring back in her step and strolled very happily on deck

Cleo is a very cool cat who loves to scritch up the newspaper

Cleo is a very cool cat who loves to scritch up the newspaper

Fred beside himself and practically drooling as we get the cats' tea ready! Sorry Fred, cats go first…

Fred beside himself and practically drooling as we get the cats’ tea ready! Sorry Fred, cats go first…

Lara enjoying a drink of fresh water

Lara enjoying a drink of fresh water

Nela is a sweetie who very quickly took to walking on deck

Nela is a sweetie who very quickly took to walking on deck

Nela greets Haiko on her way back. Is it my turn now? asks Haiko

Nela greets Haiko on her way back. Is it my turn now? asks Haiko

Haiko waits patiently

Haiko waits patiently

Nela stops to chat with Alvin

Nela stops to chat with Alvin

Alvin found it a bit slippery on deck at first, but there were plenty of sniffing opportunities to get him going

Alvin found it a bit slippery on deck at first, but there were plenty of sniffing opportunities to get him going

Alvin laughing at one of courier M's better knock-knock jokes

Alvin laughing at one of courier M’s better knock-knock jokes

Haiko out on his walk and having his ear cream put in, which he's very good about

Haiko out on his walk and having his ear cream put in, which he’s very good about

Being a city dweller, Victor was very adept at climbing the metal stairway, so we made it all the way to the top deck with him and got the best views…

Being a city dweller, Victor was very adept at climbing the metal stairway, so we made it all the way to the top deck with him and got the best views…

…and a spot of sunshine, too

…and a spot of sunshine, too

Fred waiting patiently for his turn on deck

Fred waiting patiently for his turn on deck

Fred's turn at last!

Fred’s turn at last!

Ollie sits and watches all the comings and goings

Ollie sits and watches all the comings and goings

He's very alert to everything around him

He’s very alert to everything around him

Pearl and Ruby are a very bonded pair

Pearl and Ruby are a very bonded pair

They don't miss a trick, either!

They don’t miss a trick, either!

Carly loves a stroke — she's on her way to Philip in Surrey

Carly loves a stroke — she’s on her way to Philip in Surrey

Lovely fluffy Paris, one of four cats who belongs to Mandy

Lovely fluffy Paris, one of four cats who belongs to Mandy

Here's number two, Elvie…

Here’s number two, Elvie…

…and Pricilla and Alexander make up the quartet

…and Pricilla and Alexander make up the quartet

Morning walks and local treats in Ancona

Animalcouriers spent last night in the Italian town of Ancona at our favourite Agroturismo hotel, A3Passi, with its restaurant La Tavola del Carmine.

As usual we had a heavenly space for dog walking, through olive groves and up a little hill. While out with the dogs we watched produce being harvested both for sale in their little shop and also for their ever-changing menu.

After a breakfast of local yoghurt, their own eggs and home-made bread, we made a trip to the shop to buy honey to take home, and then we were on our way.

Walking Lina and Romy together brings a few challenges — these young, playful dogs can't resist a friendly tussle and a roll on the path

Walking Lina and Romy together brings a few challenges — these young, playful dogs can’t resist a friendly tussle and a roll on the path

Lina persuades Romy into having some more fun

Lina persuades Romy into having some more fun

Come on girls, if you don't concentrate, you'll only want a wee once we're on the road!

Come on girls, if you don’t concentrate, you’ll only want a wee once we’re on the road!

Lisa watches from the back of the Animalcouriers van — a safe vantage point to observe what the 'youngsters' are up to. Just too exhausting, she said, sitting down.

Lisa watches from the back of the Animalcouriers van — a safe vantage point to observe what the ‘youngsters’ are up to. Just too exhausting, she said, sitting down.

Delicious produce that goes into La Tavola's home-made potato spaghetti, and served in home-made artichoke puree, gnocchi and soups

Delicious produce that goes into La Tavola’s home-made potato spaghetti, and served in home-made artichoke puree, gnocchi and soups

With Easter just around the corner the shop at the hotel and restaurant is offering Easter eggs made with their own olive oil chocolate, filled with individually wrapped chocolatini! A little beyond our pockets, but wonderful to look at!

With Easter just around the corner the shop at the hotel and restaurant is offering Easter eggs made with their own olive oil chocolate, filled with individually wrapped chocolatini! A little beyond our pockets, but wonderful to look at!

More beautifully presented home-made Easter treats

More beautifully presented home-made Easter treats

Breakfast in Brindisi, dinner in Ancona

After a somewhat choppy crossing, Animalcouriers docked at the Italian port of Brindisi rather later than expected, having not boarded our ferry from Igoumenitsa until after 2.00am. It was time to walk the dogs, so we headed for breakfast and a doggy leg stretch at a nice hotel we remembered courier S had stayed at.

From there we drove towards Ancona where we’re spending the night. Our delayed arrival this morning means we haven’t got as far as we would have wished. But the late nights and early starts are taking their toll on couriers J and M, so we’re not sorry to have stopped a bit early this evening.

To meet the TRACES requirements, we notified Defra that we are transporting pets on an intra-trade certificate (ITHAC) and let them know when we expect to be in the UK. We explained that we’re transporting owned dogs, who are following their owners.

Very quickly we received an email reply saying:

“It sounds as if these dogs are PETS [pet passport scheme] compliant, therefore the ITHAC (health certificate) is not required.”

This was followed up by another email saying: “…an Intra Trade Certificate is not needed as this is not a commercial import. Therefore there is no need to notify your local AHVLA [Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency] office.”

We are delivering these dogs to their owners’ homes so, for us and their owners, the matter is closed.

We are hoping that, as time goes by, it will be easier for people who live in Greece and wish to relocate and take their pets with them to do so without so many hoops to jump through and layers of bureaucracy to overcome.

No ordinary croissant this — stuffed with Nutella and served warm. Food heaven!

No ordinary croissant this — stuffed with Nutella and served warm. Food heaven!

Lisa gets going — we can all sympathise with trying to get slightly stiff joints moving in the morning!

Lisa gets going — we can all sympathise with trying to get slightly stiff joints moving in the morning!

Smiling Romy

Smiling Romy

Pensive Lisa

Pensive Lisa

Lina notices the big anchor, and wonders where the ship is

Lina notices the big anchor, and wonders where the ship is

Romy fancies her 'longest tongue' chances

Romy fancies her ‘longest tongue’ chances

A lovely sunny evening in Ancona — Lisa is gradually losing the loose tufts of her winter coat and starting to look less like a teddy bear and more like the German Shepherd Dog she really is!

A lovely sunny evening in Ancona — Lisa is gradually losing the loose tufts of her winter coat and starting to look less like a teddy bear and more like the German Shepherd Dog she really is!

 Lina drinks in the new scents around her — olive trees and wild flowers

Lina drinks in the new scents around her — olive trees and wild flowers

While Romy was still out walking, cheeky Lina hopped into her compartment when she got back to the van and snaffled her bedtime snacks!

While Romy was still out walking, cheeky Lina hopped into her compartment when she got back to the van and snaffled her bedtime snacks!

Don't worry Romy, we'll give you some more!

Don’t worry Romy, we’ll give you some more!

Getting to know Cali, Scali and Miski as we wait for our ferry to Greece

Animalcouriers reached the Italian port of Ancona after a day of traffic jams around the ski slopes, followed by snow, rain, hail, thunder and lightning as we drove across northern Italy!

There was the usual warm welcome for us at the A 3 Passi Hotel in Ancona, an olive oil farm that doubles as a hotel and restaurant — La Tavola del Carmine. A table was waiting for us with a large carafe of their excellent house red, at 6 euros. Everything served in the restaurant, even the grapes used to make the wine, is grown on site or sourced locally. All the ice creams, desserts and sauces are based on the farm’s own olive oil.

With some time on our hands this morning as we waited for our ferry, we were able to have a bit of a chinwag with our three feline passengers who are heading to Crete. Scali wasn’t too keen to talk, but Cali and Miski were up for a chat. They agreed it was good to see the sun as they admired the olive trees with us.

We’d been feeding them their usual mix of wet and dry food but Sheila — who knows them so well — had warned us that they might not eat very much. So we gave Miski and Scali some sardines and tuna, and Cali (who told us she’s not that keen on seafood) got some pâté.

Cali

Cali

Scali

Scali

Miski

Miski

All three cats were very attentive while we carried out room service. Here's courier M doing the hoovering and changing the litter tray under the watchful eye of Cali.

All three cats were very attentive while we carried out room service. Here’s courier M doing the hoovering and changing the litter tray under the watchful eye of Cali.

Courier M chatting to our patron at breakfast

Courier M chatting to our patron at breakfast

The kitchen is open plan with the restaurant — this morning there was some cleaning going on before the lunchtime crowd appeared

The kitchen is open plan with the restaurant — this morning there was some cleaning going on before the lunchtime crowd appeared

Like all good local businesses, there's an outlet for the home-produced olive oil and pasta products

Like all good local businesses, there’s an outlet for the home-produced olive oil and pasta products

We couldn't resist buying some spaghetti…

We couldn’t resist buying some spaghetti…

…and a pot of olive oil–based chocolate spread

…and a pot of olive oil–based chocolate spread

A fine sea view for the three cats

A fine sea view for the three cats

Meet Maow, Moonbeam and Harlequin from Italy

Animalcouriers collected beautiful grey Maow high in the hills above Ancona. A party of well-wishers was there to wave her off on her journey to rejoin her owner Ben in Sussex.

We also met up with gorgeous, wide-eyed tabby cats Harlequin and Moonbeam in Brindisi. Rescued by Ruth while she was on holiday in Sicily, they’ve been staying with Sabrina who owns a small kennels in the Brindisi area, and are now off to start a new life with Ruth in Inverness, Scotland.

Gary, a new best friend for courier S

Gary, a new best friend for courier S

Meow

Maow

Maow's passport photo makes her look like Europe's most wanted feline! Doesn't really do her justice, does it?

Maow’s passport photo makes her look like Europe’s most wanted feline! Doesn’t really do her justice, does it?

Harlequin

Harlequin

Moonbeam

Moonbeam

Walking among 11,000 olive trees near Ancona

Courier M and his three canine charges spent Friday night at a rural hotel near Ancona in Italy. Sammy, Robbie and Aqapi enjoyed walking among the 11,000 olive trees in the grounds, with Robbie in particular enjoying all the enticing smells.

The olives will be harvested in a month or so, pressed and converted into award-winning olive oil and other delicacies, sold at the shop on the premises.

Yesterday morning it was just a short drive to Ancona port, where Animalcouriers boarded the ferry to Greece.

Robbie, behind, with Aqapi

Robbie, behind, with Aqapi

Sammy

Sammy

A wonderful view over just a handful of the olive trees

A wonderful view over just a handful of the olive trees

At Ancona port, a grim reminder of world events — the Animalcouriers van parks among former UK ambulances that are bound for Syria

At Ancona port, a grim reminder of world events — the Animalcouriers van parks among former UK ambulances that are bound for Syria

Waiting at Ancona for the ferry to Igoumenitsa

We spent last night at a delightful small rural hotel just outside the Italian port of Ancona. The parking was good and we had a lovely space to walk the dogs.

The overcast and rainy conditions that have accompanied us throughout this trip so far are still with us, but perhaps it will be a different story once we reach Greece.

Winston has been as calm as you would expect a Labrodor to be. He loves his walks, sniffs his way around and insists on marking out the territory very thoroughly.

Winston has been as calm as you would expect a Labrador to be. He loves his walks, sniffs his way around and insists on marking out the territory very thoroughly.

British Bulldog Winston is a dog after courier M's own heart and just loves his bed. It's a bit of an effort to get him to come out for a walk and he doesn't want to hang about and once he's finished his business — just wants to get back to his bed. We are very mean though and keep him walking for a while!

British Bulldog Winston is a dog after courier M’s own heart and just loves his bed. It’s a bit of an effort to get him to come out for a walk and he doesn’t want to hang about and once he’s finished his business — just wants to get back to his bed. We are very mean though and keep him walking for a while!

Lola is very sweet but seems to have a serious aversion to leads. We have come to a compromise with her: as she is so tiny we let her use a corner of her compartment as a loo, and carry her on her walks. This seems to working well for her.

Lola is very sweet but seems to have a serious aversion to leads. We have come to a compromise with her: as she is so tiny we let her use a corner of her compartment as a loo, and carry her on her walks. This seems to working well for her.

Roxy the Rotty is a calm girl who takes everything in her stride. She likes mooching about and takes a great interest in her surroundings.

Roxy the Rotty is a calm girl who takes everything in her stride. She likes mooching about and takes a great interest in her surroundings.

Sam is a fine dog who on first meeting we thought might prove overbouncy, but he has behaved impeccably. He is very good at taking his medication and very calm and gentle to walk.

Sam is a fine dog who on first meeting we thought might prove overbouncy, but he has behaved impeccably. He is very good at taking his medication and very calm and gentle to walk.

Bruno is a big softy and a bit of a worrier. On the advice of his owners we paired him with Issy to keep him calm. We have never seen a dog hoover food so quickly! Luckily we were warned to feed him away from other dogs as we're sure he would whip everyone else's grub otherwise! When walking his he is quite manic for a few moments but as the journey has progressed he has got used to the routine and is now quite calm.

Bruno is a big softy and a bit of a worrier. On the advice of his owners we paired him with Issy to keep him calm. We have never seen a dog hoover food so quickly! Luckily we were warned to feed him away from other dogs as we’re sure he would whip everyone else’s grub otherwise! When walking he is quite manic for a few moments but as the journey has progressed he has got used to the routine and is now quite calm.

Issy clearly wears the trousers in her family. She is very bright and quick to learn. She has been very easy to handle and good fun to be with.

Issy clearly wears the trousers in her family. She is very bright and quick to learn. She has been very easy to handle and good fun to be with.

Issy having a good shake

Issy having a good shake

Spangle and Toffee aren't too impressed by this travelling business and keep their heads down. But their appetites are good and they're keeping stiff upper lips about their situation.

Spangle and Toffee aren’t too impressed by this travelling business and keep their heads down. But their appetites are good and they’re keeping stiff upper lips about their situation.

Our impressively long ferry

Our impressively long ferry

The way on board

The way on board