Week 2 with the free loader
Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
4Trip End Jul 19, 2010
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Where I stayed
Went to lake Lugano…it had a MTB shop so I stocked up on tyres and tubes. Had a great day wandering, went up Mt Bre on the funicular, should have taken the bike , awesome paths coming down , made for mountain bikes. Incredibly clean and ordered town, typically swiss, Italian spoken but no Euro, swiss francs…… The Lake is beautiful from every angle, again needed more time so the next night I rode through the forest to Serpiano and again, sat and looked over the most amazing vista. Rode back and wandering the paddocks were monster cows, with bells , with a similar shoulder height as mine. Must be the alpine grass. A few of the TDF teams are training all day in this area, riding single file, full colours and going up hills as fast as I go down them.
Picked up Andrew from Malpensa airport , had a big family get together till late then up early and off to Tuscany.
Driving down we took the A1 instead of the A46, it was 30 k shorter , but a mistake..Narrow and trucks!!!!! , lines and lines of trucks in the slow lane, very hard to concentrate with narrow lane widths disappearing into tunnel after tunnel. Live and learn.
Our house in Tuscany , Il Tigli, is perfect, in a group of 10 houses in a locality called Lano where the locals sit outside in the evening chatting to each other. It is a stone house, two stories and a loft , nonna of the owners lives downstairs and we have the rest. It has everything, even REAL coffee and an Italian coffee maker – no instant coffee!! And is quiet. Exposed beams for ceilings and terracotta ceiling lining.
360 deg views (italians do everything on top of hills – houses, castles ) arrived settled in and found a supermarket to stock up.
Wonderwoman had arranged to go to Livorno to see rellos (again!!!!) , a mob of 13 and most importantly another of Sebastians brothers, Carlo , who is 95. Great bloke, very similar, cheeky and the identical mannerisms. Cannot sit still!!! Had dinner with all 13 of the rellos in a room 2m x 3m , kids out on the balcony, lot of laughs, lots of food etc. They cannot work out why we don't drink…….???
On the way to Livorno the road construction authority had decided early that morning to fuck up my day. The one main off ramp to Livorno was closed with witches hats for the day AND to top it off , when we came home they blocked the only off ramp off the autostrada to Poggibonsi. Arseholes. Why, why not. No alternative route , no half closure ????
Summary…… we were late to Livorno, we went via the port and on the way home , instead of taking 1.5 hours it took 2 and a half. I desperately wanted to exit Livorno before dark so I had my bearings. That didn’t happen so I fucked up in large lumps. 3 big loops around Florence (the wonders of driving in Italy) until we took the autostrada heading the wrong way(sophia told me that all along – but it seemed wrong).SHE WAS RIGHT AGAIN
Franco took us on a guided tour of his town after we got back from Pisa, showing us the waterfront area and the centre of town - a man very proud of his seaside town. Though most of the town is quite industrial, the foreshore is quite beautiful, palm trees, a lovely boardwalk, and lots of swimming areas, including a pool and beach boxes.
The highlight apart from meeting Carlo et al, was the tower of Pisa. Like any place, you really have to be there to see the beauty. It is an amazing sight, as are all the surrounding buildings. It REALLY IS leaning!!! A lot of towers in Italy lean, but this one really leans, and defies gravity! The tower is actually concave because then tried to straighten it up as they went. WTF???. The township of Pisa is generally a dirty industrialized area but once inside the Church walls, pristine and perfect. (I noticed Gypsy camps alongside the railway between Livorno and Pisa, not the place you’d go at night.) Very hot day, wonderwoman struggling with the heat. Home at 11 exhausted.
We can see this amazing little walled town from our road, so we wandered over for the day. Amazing that Attila the Hun roared through here raping and pillaging then 1000 years later the plague all but wiped out the population. Sitting in the courtyard at lunchtime , it was easy to imagine the medieval madness going on. Climbed the tower, 218 steps , but worth it to see the vista over the town.(Ive seen enough Duomo’s to last me a lifetime).Got some great photos
Oh, as an aside , Andrew found a little shop with BB guns…..hmmm, illegal in Australia,looks like a real pistol - but could be fun……..so we get one and ammo for 7 euros.!!!!!!!!! Weve been popping off everywhere. Wonderwoman has a go , and as she’s shooting a road sign, a car comes past with a horrified look. Oh, and who said we were wasting money?????
Got back , everyone was stuffed so had a quick meal and went off riding in the tuscan hills, different sounds , smells and again , drivers who accept bike riders as traffic. Everything is early summer, barley fields that smell similar to beer, lavender and sunflowers. Got purposely lost, and all I knew was I was 11k from home. Climbed a track up a mountain so steep my front wheel was lifting off. Rode into a huge courtyard, a Lovely Italian lady emerged with a puzzled expression and said "you are now at the top". We exchanged pleasantries as I gasped for air, (they had converted a castle to their extended family home) and I rode off heading west hoping to make it home before darkness. Found my way back onto the Florence /Siena road , and 10ks later got back home
Saturday – Siena & Volterra
Wandered over to Siena, woops, looking for a park, drove in through the city boundary………realized what I’d done, went back down the hill to a carpark…too late ,they photographed me and I’m getting a fine..no one could tell me how much although they know it will be between 35 and 150 euros!!!!
Taxation by stealth – arseholes. I knew this was on in Rome and Florence , but punters be warned , assume every town that has a shitload of tourists has a toll boundar Wandered the town, larger than San Gimiganano and not as quaint ,had lunch in the square where the day before they ran the Il Palio , the family horserace which is the most dangerous thing I have ever seen. They ride horses bareback flat chat around the sand covered square 3 times, then the winner celebrates for the following days. Horses fall, smash into barriers, everyone screams like banshees – no rules here.
Amazing drive up to Volterra, true Tuscan landscape, actually quite similar to Gippsland. We stopped so Andrew could photograph some sunflowers and a rev head was giving his Ferrari 430 a workout, Andrew gives him the burnout sign , boy racer obliges and the sound of a screaming Ferrari in the hills was awesome. This section of road also has a local use – everyone who has a race spec Ducati or Superbike bangs on the leathers on Saturday afternoon and thinks it’s the Isle of Man. Full noise screaming over crests…Awesome but a tad dangerous. Volterra, a beautiful walled town (entry restriction AGAIN!!!!) cross between SG & Siena. Built on the highest peak so the views were spectacular. Built 700 years BC, we’re talking old. Different Architecture – old english, gothic arches …an Etruscan mixture. Lesson Learnt - to see the towns clearly , visit after 4 or when one of the adjacent towns is having a major event. Not so many punters.
Worked well for us. It was much cooler and very relaxing. Volterra is not as widely advertised in the tourism guides as “Siena” or “San Gimignano”, but equally as good, if not better and the views beat both of the above. Highly recommended!