Adventures through Stunning Switzerland and Italy

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wong & Gem's European Vacation - Diary Update 13
Switzerland & Italy

Day 214 - Friday 28th September - Sass Fee - Switzerland
This morning we got on our bikes and explored the lakeside town of Ascona, had some breaky and then prepared ourselves for the drive ahead... oh no we have to go back into Italy to get where we want to go in Switzerland. As soon as we passed into Italy the roads became narrower and in much worse condition... luckily they were not as busy and we were able to get through most parts without too much trouble. We saw some amazing scenery with old ruined castles built in the middle of Lake Maggiore. Back into Switzerland and into the Alps... this really is some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. We made it just before dark to the Alpine town of Sass Fee which is one of the highest towns closest to the famous mountain the Materhorne. All through the Alps and the mountain passes we have seen men out hunting and on the way up to Sass Fee (which is one of the highest alpine drives in Swiss) we saw a group of hunters skinning an elk that they had obviously just caught. We have seen a few hunters wanting to hitch a ride up higher into the mountains... if they did not have big guns with them we may have considered giving them a lift!!
Wayne cooked the most superb Italian based meal tonight consisting of Rosemary scented polenta with veal scaloppini, fresh buffalo mozzarella and balsamic dressing and to top it of some amazing French Bordeaux... Oh it's great being married to a chef!! A sound sleep on top of the mountain was had by all...we love this temperature of 13 degrees.

Day 215 - Saturday 29th September - Sass Fee and Zermatt
Today we spent the morning exploring Sass Fee which is a car free Alpine Ski Resort and is surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains. It was very pretty and there were lots of little electronic taxis and buses zipping around transporting people to their hotels. We were going to catch a cable car up the mountain but were a bit surprised by the cost of $140, so because it was cloudy and we were unlikely to see a lot we passed. We jumped back in Misty and headed towards Tasch where we have to park before catching the Alpine express to Zermatt... another car free Alpine resort. Zermatt is famous for having year round skiing and of course the famous Materhorn... which is the mountain the Toblerone chocolate bar is based on. Zermat was quite a big ski town and it was very funny watching people as there were heaps of snow borders and skiers coming off the slopes and returning to their hotels, there were people running around in toweling robes heading off towards the saunas and spas and great shopping.... We were tossing up whether or not to buy a funky fondue set... that's one of the things the Swiss are famous for is the fondue.... We decided to try and find one somewhere else where the prices are not inflated for tourists!! We checked out the stunning Materhorn Mountain and then caught the train back down the mountain. We saw a great camping site from the train on the way down and went to check it out... even better we could get wireless internet from one of the hotels in the area... so Wayne could get his on-line Poker fix... we checked in and while Wayne played poker Gem got chatting to the owner who was in his 60's and happy to explain all about the area, what the little wooden houses were for (storing feed and the cows in winter) and telling me all about the avalanches in the area... That is certainly one thing that we have noticed along side all the roads... there are big nets to catch all the falling rocks, most of the mountain passes are under cover so that when big rock slides or avalanches occur the cars hopefully don't get taken out !!

Day 216 - Sunday 1st October - Zermatt to Vals (Switzerland)
After a great sleep in we set off at midday towards Vals where we are meeting Simon and Franzie... these are the other young Swiss motor homers we met when we were in Finland in June... they only have about 2 weeks left on their adventure. We thought it would be a relatively short drive from looking at the map... but we were wrong... Navman said it was 350 kms and we then realized we had to drive through the Furka pass which winds though the Alps up to 2600 meters and consists of very narrow roads (not as bad as Italy though!!). Gem drove the entire way (otherwise she would be throwing up from motion sickness with all the winding) and Misty obtained no war wounds. There is a hotel at the very top of the pass and also a massive glacier...we stopped here for a while and then prepared for the downward decent... unfortunately the roads got worse on the other side and it was a slow drive ... all the time praying we would not go over the edge !! We eventually arrived in Vals just a short time after Simon and Fraenzi and it was great to catch up with them and hear all their stories... we also compared war wounds on the motorhomes... they had also unfortunately been broken into in Brussels and had their lap top and some other valuables stolen. Wayne cooked up a storm for us all tonight and we sat up to the wee hours of the morning and consumed 4 bottles of red wine!! At least we beat the record from Finland where we only drank 3 bottles.

Day 217 - Monday 2nd October -Vals
The small town alpine town of Vals is actually quite famous for its Valser natural mineral water where the bottling factory is and also Quartzsite which is a light grey to black rock that looks like marble. It was interesting staying here as it was such a beautiful serene atmosphere in a valley between the mountains then all of a sudden BOOM!!! The earth shook and we all had the living daylights scared out of us!!! The quarry for the Quartzsite was about 1km away from where we were and they would blast about 5 times a day!! It became a joke in the end that every time we heard the boom we would all yell out ... there's another kitchen bench being made. Did we mention that Simon has a major war wound on his arm today as in the middle of the night he went out to pee and had had so much red wine that he fell over and scratched all his arm... very funny... we gave him some paw paw ointment to heal it up. Today was very relaxing and lazy...we all went to the famous Vals thermal spa which is in a very funky modern building made from the quartzite... it was very minimalist but in the alpine setting it was also stunning as you swam in a thermal pool outside looking at the mountains. There we also pools inside and they all ranged from a chilly 14 degrees to a very hot 42 degrees. We all jumped in the 14 degree pool and then jumped in the 42 degree one and felt all our body tingle!! There was also a room where the natural mineral water poured into a well and you could drink it. We stayed and soaked in the pools for 4 hours and turned ourselves into wrinkly prunes! Then off to have some lunch and a walk before going out to a traditional Swiss restaurant tonight where we ate some fantastic Venison... it is hunting season so all the restaurants have "Wild Menus". We just have to remember not to wear our moose hat when we go walking through the woods as we are likely to get shot!! We were all so relaxed tonight that we had a rather early night and went to bed at 11.00.

Day 218 - Tuesday 3rd October -Vals to Interlarken & Lauterbrunnen
The weather was raining and overcast this morning at about 14 degrees and apparently going to get colder in the next couple of days. We all woke up and were about to have a big breakfast feast together... then BOOM!! The earth shook and we all were woken up with the earth moving again! We had one final feast together and said our goodbyes before heading off in opposite directions. We hope to meet Simon and Fraenzi again somewhere one day as we have had a lot of fun with them and it's great to meet other adventurous people. So we set off for another hair rising drive through the Swiss mountain roads and went over the Oberalppass... well this was even scarier as it was raining and as we got closer to the top of the mountain the visibility became nearly non-existent in that we could only see about half a meter in front of us... we pulled over hoping that it would clear and hoping that we were not going to drive over the edge but it was pretty much set in... another car finally came along and we followed them down the mountain doing about 30 km all the way !! It was an amazing pass though with a couple of very impressive glaciers on top of the mountain. We finally got to the beautiful setting of Interlarken which is set on stunning lake Thun... we explored a few little townships before setting off up the mountain to the Lauterbrunnen... another gorgeous Alpine town which is the highest point where you can drive to in order to catch the train to Jungraujoch - the highest point in Europe (4150 m above sea level). We are in what is called the Bernese Oberland and this is where they yodel, have stone throwing competitions, blow alpenhorns and Bernese Mountain Dogs come from. From here you are supposed to see the mighty peaks of the highest mountains in Switzerland - The Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.... Well it was so cloudy we could see the base but not the peaks. Tonight we spent admiring the amazing and very very high waterfall that we are staying near and exploring Lauterbrunnen. We went out for a typical Swiss dinner consisting of cheese fondue (have never had a fondue like this before it was very very good) and rosti. Yum.. the food was good.

Day 219 - Wednesday 4th October -Lauterbrunnen, Thun
Bugger when we woke up this morning it was raining, cold and cloudy. We walked down to the train station to see if they could tell us if it was worth doing the trip to Jungfraujoch (the highest point in Europe). You have to catch a train up the mountain for 2 hours and the scenery is supposed to be superb and you look out over a glacier world! Well we were prepared to spend the $350 to get up there but the live feed from on top of the mountain showed that you could not see a dam thing as it was snowing and cloudy... we waited and waited and it did not improve and we decided in the end not to go as everyone said if you don't have good weather it is not worth the hike up. We were very disappointed!! We could not even get up to Schiltorn - which has a revolving restaurant 3000m above sea level and was the film location for the James Bond movie "On her majesty's secret service". The live feed showed that all you could see was white as there was a snow storm up there!! So we jumped back in Misty and drove through Interlarken again and then on Thun where we again admired the most amazing scenery of the Alps. We also explored the Schloss Schadau (Big Castle) where Wayne found the Swiss Gastronomy Museum and took an hour tour with an old lady that was very excited to show him around because he was a chef... Gem sat out on the lake admiring the view and trying to converse with an old Swiss man. Then it was off to Bern where we found the perfect campsite... too bad it was closed for the season... so we took off again to the other campsite and got settled in for the night. Next thing another motor home pulls up and we heard the accent and they saw our stickers... a family of fellow Aussies from the Sunshine Coast. We had a great time chatting out in the cold.. These guys had been up to Jungfraujoch today and we were rather glad to hear that we had made the right decision not to go as they said they could see nothing but their kids enjoyed their first experience in snow!!

Day 220 - Thursday 5th October -Bern to Montreaux
Today we got up and had a chat with our Aussie neighbors and their two children and then took off into town on the bus. We explored Bern (The capital of Swiss) and did a walking tour of the city. We took in the Kramgasse and all the shops in the covered arcades, the Zeitglockenturm which is a clock tower on which revolving figures chime on the hour (we waited for it to go off and again it was like the one in Prague a bit of a let down). Gemeah had fun here as we were standing next to a Japanese tour group and their guide was giving them a talk about the clock.. She could only understand about half but oohed and aagghed when they did and the couple of old Japanese people next to her were laughing their heads off but rather excited that she spoke to them in Japanese as well. We also crossed the river Aare to see the bear pits (bears are the city symbol) and watched the very cute bears sit at the bottom as people threw fruit directly into their mouths !! What a life... they get to laze around all day while someone eats them and they are supposed to be hairy and fat (sounds a bit like Wayne really!!) Then off to do some shopping and back to the campsite. We caught up with our Aussie friends again and as they finish their trip in 2 days they gave us a heap of food. including Kraft peanut butter (yum we have not had this since we left) and vegemite !!. We had another great chat and set off at dusk towards Montreaux - the French speaking part of Switzerland. We drove past the Chateaux de Chillion as we tried to find the motor home spots... this place looks impressive and ritzy!! We found the spot for motor homes and joined some Germans for the night. What a great spot next to the lake, there are people playing botchi in special designated areas and we were also entertained by the local fire fighters who were practicing their drills and fire fighting skills.

Day 221 - Friday 6th October - Motreaux to Evian to Geneva
Today we were woken up by a very bossy and very loud German woman trying to give instructions to her husband to reverse their motor home... they obviously had a problem with their handbrake and thought they may end up in the lake as they kept piling rocks under all the tires. We decided to go watch shopping in the main street today as Wayne wants to buy a new watch. We did not succeed at getting a watch but he got a couple of Swiss Army Knifes that are specifically for golf!! Then as we were walking along the boulevard we came across some markets and Wong found an antique Swiss army helmet, a bayonet and a gun that were quite unique... he wanted to buy them to hand in his bar one day but after much thought he decided not to as we would most likely not get the gun in through Australian customs. We saw the big statue of Freddy Mercury that is on the boulevard... apparently Montreaux is where Queen had a big recording studio and where Freddy spent his last days before dying in 1991. There is also supposed to be a statue of Charlie Chapman who also spent a lot of time here, but we could not find that one. Then we set off to find Château Chillion which is the most famous castle in Switzerland. We found it and spent an amazing 4 hours touring through the castle which was just beautiful as it sits on the lake and overlooks all the beautiful snow capped mountains... it was also great not to have to fight through any crowds of tourists... only a few Japanese were around ! Then we drove around the other side of Lake Geneva and into France specifically to go to Evian... where the bottle water comes from... the mountain range that is on the label sits as a background to the town and it is stunning!! Evian was very ritzy and full of 5 star hotels but was also very pretty. It was amusing to see that all the towns on the drive in were run down but as soon as you hit Evian the money and wealth just become over powering!! Next we drove into Geneva and found the spot for motor homes... just next to the private air port where Wayne had a great time drooling over all the private jets!! This is Switzerland but they speak French and the food is very French... so when Wayne found the massive shopping centre across the road he had fun admiring all the food!! I have learnt that if you want to entertain Wayne you just have to drop him off at a French or Italian supermarket or an internet station!! Tonight we worked out how to catch the bus into town and walked around the old town. We saw the famous water feature and the garden clock!!

Day 222 - Saturday 7th October - Geneva to Chamonix Mont-Blanc French Alps
Today was basically spent shopping for watches and Geneva is certainly the place to do it as every second shop is a watch shop!! Today Wayne blew the budget astronomically as he bought a TAG Heur dress watch and then all a TISSOT sports watch!! There was nothing else that really excited us about Geneva as we were told that visits to the UN were quite a waste of time so we headed back to Misty... Wayne had to take me into the shopping centre before we left so that he could show me all the wonderful food and he could spend our last Swiss Francs before we cross the border. Yum we got a massive box of Lindt balls!! We drove to Chamoix Mont-Blanc in the French Alps and stopped for the night, with views of the snow capped peaks and two massive glaciers that sit above the town.


Day 223 - Sunday 8th October -Torino, Genova, Camogli
We woke this morning and it was about 7'c and quite cool as there was no sun over the mountains yet. We drove through the 11km Mt Blanc tunnel which takes you through to Italy; we did not expect the 42 euro toll or the safety instruction. They are big on safety in this tunnel as apparently a heap of people died in an accident in the tunnel in 1999 and it was shut down for 3 years... so it must have been bad... we also saw a big memorial as we drove up to it (Well the way the Italian's drive we are not really surprised at such a catastrophe!!). We stopped on the Italian side for some hot chocolate and went to use the loos... you can tell we are back in Italy...there are squat toilets (so disgusting for what is supposed to be a civilized country) and they were absolutely filthy to the point where we could not use them otherwise we would have thrown up!! We drove through Torino, home of Tic Tac, Fiat, Nutella and Lavazza Coffee and admired some of the sights as we went through. We took the wrong motorway exit and had to drive through Genova in the evening peak hour traffic which is bad enough in Italy with all the thousands of crazy Vespa riders who don't realize they should ride in lane in the direction they are traveling... but to top it off Genova is absolutely huge and we also managed to take the exit that led us past the busy boat harbor that was hosting the largest boat show in Italy....DOH! It had now turned dark and we were trying to find the motor home spot in Camogli (a stunning old fishing village that is now a tourist spot) which was really difficult and the roads turned into small winding paths that had shear drops into the ocean... this and the crazy drivers were making Gem a bit stressed out and a bit of an anxious wreck (and she wasn't even driving) so when we eventually found what looked like a camping spot with other motor homes we decided to stop but when we got down the hill we found out that it was just a car park where the Italian's park their motor homes... oh well we were too tired to move and we squeezed in between a couple of others to look inconspicuous for the night !!

Day 224 - Monday 9th October - Santa Margherita Ligure, Portifino, Rapallo, Chiavari to Portovenere
Well we survived the night and got up nice and early to make our way towards Santa Margherita which we managed to find after negotiating more scary tiny roads. The scenery of the coast line here is absolutely stunning and there are obviously some very rich people with beautiful villas that are on the cliff faces overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Santa Margherita was lovely but trying to park Misty was a bit of a nightmare (this is why they all drive Vespas and smart cars) and we also could not understand the parking meter instructions. So we drove and drove around the place and Wayne eventually gave up and we kept driving... which was good as we got to admire more stunning scenery and them stumbled upon the town of Rapallo where we found free parking with other motor homes (and Gem realized she had been here before). We jumped out and wandered around town and then found the tourist boat that we wanted to catch to Portofino. The weather was just magic and the boat ride into Portofino was great because it was amazing to see the scenery from the water and see all the stunning villas built into the cliff faces. Gem had been to Portofino before but last time it was raining so it was fantastic to see it in such perfect weather. The marina here had two massive super yachts in port and everyone was drooling over them... they were stunning!! Some famous Italian was in Portofino as he was smoozing with everyone and was surrounded by gorgeous beefy body guards (we think he must have been a politician the way he was smoozing the crowds!!). We jumped back onto the boat then had a lovely lunch in Rapallo and then set off on the drive towards Portovenre... again we hit peak hour and could not find the main motorway (the one you have to pay for) and managed to get on the free motorway which is in bad condition and takes you through every town and therefore every bit of traffic chaos!! We drove into Chiavari, which again was huge and stunning and here we managed to find the main motorway, so we got on that so we cold save time... it does cost a bit but the amount of time we saved avoiding the traffic was probably cut down by 2 hours and it is also less stressful!! We drove through La Spezia which was a very ugly place and it basically a navy base. Then another 15 km and into Porto Venere where we found the motor home spot in an olive grove high on top of the hill overlooking both La Spezia (which looks pretty at night) and the stunning Porto Venere .... Again Gem was here 4 years ago and this is the other place that she has told Wayne he will love... let's hope so.

Day 225 - Tuesday 10th October -Porto Venere
As we where getting ready to walk down the hill and explore Portovenere on the Cinque Terrie in the Italian Riveria we heard this almighty BOOM and felt a shockwave and the ground shook and Misty shook...this was even louder than Vals. We got the ABSOLUTE CRAP scared out of us! We soon discovered after peering over the opposite cliff that we where above an Italian Navy training base and they where training on a few of the battleship cannons. Talk about scaring the living daylights out of us!!. For the next 1 ½ hours they kept firing the cannons and the shots got louder and in quicker succession, until the last one was 15 cannon blasts in a row. Misty's gas alarm went of with the shockwaves (even though it's only supposed to work on gas), the people next to us had 2 little dogs and the poor things were going nuts. If it was Ruphus we fear he would have keeled over with the first blast!
Gem's heart was still beating a little too fast (from having the crap scared out of her) we wandered down the hill that is covered in olive trees for the 25 min walk into town. We wandered the alley ways and took in the stunning view with the crystal clear, deep blue waters, luxury super yachts and the multi- colored 5 to 7 story high buildings on the waterfront. While Gem was looking in the shops Wayne went and ordered his morning café macchiato, but they where so good this morning he didn't stop at one and was quite wired for the rest of the morning. We tasted some of the local extra virgin olive oil... absolutely exquisite. Gem Gelatied (new word - to have not more than 1gelati, but to have daily).
We wandered around the cliffs of "Byron Grotto" and Wayne climbed down the rocks and dove into the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea. While swimming around in the clear waters he kept getting bitten....well sucked on... by baby octopus and when he got out he had bite (read suckered) marks over his arms. Quite funny really, beats being eaten by a shark, bitten by an eel or stepping on a stone fish which is what we are normally on the look out for at home. I told him he should have caught them and cooked them up for dinner.
We took a stroll up to the church of St Pietro which sits on the point on the edge of the cliff, over looking the ocean. It is made of Black and white marble and its stairs are all worn down from centuries of use and tourism. We watched with absolute hysterics these 4 Italian lads with their very small work truck driving up the long stair to the church because they didn't want to carry the few sheets of timber on the back up the stairs. Well they drew a crowd with all the tyre's squealing burning rubber and the stench of burning clutch as they pushed and bounced their way up. As they reached the top (it took them ½ hour to go up 20 stairs and travel 40 meters) they received a round of applause from the tourists and shaking heads from the locals. We wandered up to the castle on the hill, which was closed due to a 4 hour siesta. Then back down the narrow steep alleys through the town and Wayne went off to buy some more mouth watering (and very expensive) Pesto and the best foccacia he has ever tasted. Then it was into the water for a swim with a bunch of the Italian oldies that were soaking in the sun on the beach.
Tonight Wayne reminisced with Gemeah and we went for dinner at the restaurant Gem ate at with her mum 4 years ago. Fantastic Seafood and razor back clam chowder. Great local white wine, grilled sea bass and grilled vegetables to top the night of. Perfect Day... can't wait to do it all again tomorrow.

Day 226 - Wednesday 11th October -Porto Venere & The Cinque Terre
We woke up bright and early (well 8.30 is early for us) to catch the boat to the 5 villages that make up the Cinque Terre. We heard the navy preparing for more boats of shooting so we were glad that we were not around to get the blast again!! We missed the first boat so we went to get some breaky from the shop that sold the amazing foccacia breads and sat around the waterfront people watching... it was amusing to see the carabineuri (police) playing games with all the black African men (some of whom are obviously illegals) making them pack up their displays of handbags, sunnies etc and then checking through their paper work... the ones that obviously have paper work cover for the ones that don't while they run as fast as they can to hide!! But its all just a game really as the carabineiri know perfectly well they are there... but knowing the Italian's it would be too much work to chase after them... can't work too hard over here and they all have to have a siesta from 12.30 to 3.00. We also saw one of the boat captains catch a massive octopus in a net right in front of the boat... dinner for the night. The weather was stunning again this morning and the boat ride to the 5 villages was awesome (Gem is getting better with boats and did not feel one bit sea sick but it was perfectly flat!!). We got off at the last stop of Monterosso which is the main village and we walked around exploring the streets. The water here is crystal clear and we had a great time swimming and having stone skimming competitions... the beaches don't have sand just heaps of stones. Then off to have some lunch at a restaurant over looking the ocean and to take in some of the wine which is famous from the region. We sat down next to an Australian family from Melbourne who we spent ages talking to. Then off for another swim before exploring more of the town and back onto the boat for the trip to the other villages and then home!! The navy had obviously been practicing their battle ship shooting some time during the day as when we opened up the bathroom the cabinets had been shaken open and the hooks had fallen off the walls!! We both got a bit burnt but what a perfect day only to be topped off with a bottle of Moet and pesto pasta for dinner.

Day 227 - Thursday 12th October - Lucca
This morning Wayne set off into town again for his coffee fix and to pick up some of the amazing extra virgin olive oil that they make here. Gem was busy cleaning Misty when the navy started letting off massive explosions again... Gem nearly wet herself laughing when some old Germans turned up and were checking out the sight (totally unaware of the explosions) then all of a sudden they hit the deck as a massive explosion went off... I really thought they were going to keel over they got such a fright!! Well we had to say goodbye to the beautiful Porto Venere and moved on into Tuscany to the town of Lucca which is a gorgeous walled medieval town where the city walls are perfectly preserved. After driving around and around the walls once or twice we eventually found the motor home spot and got settled. Then it was off on our bikes to explore the alley ways and Piazza's as well as the busiest shopping street - Via Fillungo. Here we had fun watching the Old Italian men all dressed up in their suits chatting away and watching everyone promenade down the main street. Wayne found a delicatessen and had fun ordering some of the specialties of the area like Mortadella...so that we could have an antipasto for dinner. Then it was off to ride along the rim of the city walls which was great because it gave us a peeping Tom's view into the lives of those below. We watched the sun set over the Tuscan hillsides and found our way back to Misty. Tonight Wayne said that this was his week of bests... best Coffee, best Pesto, best ciabatta, best foccacia, best sun dried tomatoes, best olives, best extra virgin olive oil, best Parma ham, best mortadella he has ever tasted (the boy really does like his food)... if it was not for all the rude pushy dirty Italian's Italy would be great!!

Day 228 - Friday 13th October - Pisa to Florence
After a very long sleep in we set of towards Pisa, but somehow NAVMAN had a hissy fit and took us about 30 km off track... we eventually worked out that we were lost and got back to Pisa and spent about 3 hours exploring. We found the leaning tower and the surrounding Campo dei Miracoli with the cathedral and baptistry to be absolutely stunning (and surprisingly clean for Italy). They say it rivals Venice's San Marco square for beauty and they are right. After a spot of lunch (lasagna, insalte and pizza of course) Gem wanted to climb the leaning tower but Wayne didn't, so he was dropped off at a café so he could get wired on more coffee and eat some tiramisu. Gem set off to climb the tower and it was quite disorientating ...because it was round you get dizzy walking up and then the lean really makes you feel disorientated as you change directions with every step. Anyway the view from the top was amazing and well worth forking out the money for. Next it was off to Florence and trying to negotiate more crazy peak hour traffic and ridiculously tiny streets. After missing the turn for the motor home parking spot we had to negotiate our way through some of the tiniest streets we have ever seen (we were both freaking out thinking we were going to get stuck!), then another lap of the city and we got back to where we were and found our spot for the night... the car parking guy was killing himself laughing as he saw us drive past the first time and then saw we had navigation... so he must have been wondering how we missed it!! Gem was trying to work out from the Italian attendant how far away central Florence was, but the language barrier got in the way and they just ended up laughing at each other.

Day 229 - Saturday 14th October - Florence to San Gimignano
After we visited the local coffee shop so Wayne could get more coffee and we could get directions we found our way into town... we realized we are only staying a few streets away from the main areas. Most of the day was spent seeing the sights of Florence but we did stop for lunch at a restaurant which was a bas move as the food was disgusting (even Gem could have made better carbonara than this... so Wayne was a little bit pissed off as he hates paying for bad food!!). We found our way to Piazza San Lorenzo which is famous for the leather markets and lots of other goods (including pashmina shops which Gem decided not to splash out on as she bought about 5 last time she was here so instead she bought some more jewelry... well a girl has to shop!!). Well Florence was jam packed with people, but we managed to take in the main sights including the Ponte Vecchio (a beautiful 14th century bridge which was the only one not destroyed by the Nazis in 1944), the brown tiled dome of the Duomo, Piazza della Repubblica, Statue of David, the Uffizi Gallery and the surrounding shopping streets. While we were buying some sunglasses off one of the black African boys there was an almighty commotion at one of the café's in the streets and some Italian's took off running through the streets shouting things... when we got closer to the café we think either someone had their bag stolen while they were eating (thieving bloody Italian's) or someone did a runner on the bill and were being chased by the waiters... either way it was a very big commotion (like all things Italian they go over the top in acting out like the girl I saw in Venice who had her foot stepped on... you would have thought she had her leg chopped off the way she carried on... just wanted to slap her !!) Wayne was not overly impressed with Florence (it was very dirty and the smell of urine overpowering in parts) so we decided to move on and drove through the worst roads we have been on (very bumpy, uneven and full of pot holes the size of craters) to San Gimignano. Here we fond some very expensive motor home camping (more than double that of Florence... they really know how to sting tourists here) spot for the night but we were so tired we just didn't care and he also ran a shuttle service to the town so we were happy. When the guy went to take our number plate details down we looked at the front of Misty only to realize that her front number plate had fallen off over the crazy roads we had just driven on (there was some swearing about the stupid bloody Italian's and their pathetic roads and then we got over it and Gem made a new one out of an envelope and clear masking tape!... that will have to do until we get back to England). We took the shuttle bus into town at 6.30 and found that this town described as a walled medieval Manhattan (as it has 13 towers which were built by the wealthy families to show off) to be a tourist magnet but also stunningly beautiful and well preserved. It was full of beautiful tiny cobblestone streets with stunning pottery shops and delicatessens that sold the local specialty of wild boar (so of course Wayne had to try some and it was very yummy). We found a supermarket and then it was home so Wayne could whip up some Pesto Chicken Pasta for dinner. We entertained ourselves watching a Wallace and Gromit movie called "The Curse of the Were Rabbit"... well I am sure that Rome probably heard Wayne laughing!

Day 230 - Sunday 15th October -San Gimignano to Arezzo
We had a nice little sleep in and then set off into town at about lunch time. We had fun exploring all the interesting shop and just taking in the stunning surrounding Tuscan landscape. Wayne found a shop that sold the most yummy pannaforte which is a cross between a cake and a desert and looked divine.... So of course he just had to buy some!! We finally left this beautiful Tuscan village and set off towards Arrezzo which is famous for being the setting of Roberto Benigni's movie "Life is Beautiful". We were going to stop at Siena which is on the way but Gem had been here before and Wayne had seen pictures and was happy with that so we admired it as we drove past... on the way to Arezzo we saw one of the most stunning decorated Tuscan houses that is on all the post cards... unfortunately the road was so busy and small that we could not stop to take pictures! We got into Arezzo and got stuck in traffic as there was a massive market on and there were people everywhere. We found the motor home spot but it was too far away from everything so we took off and found a parking spot in the cemetery... everyone in Italy visits the cemetery's on Sunday and they have the most exquisite flower shops... nice flowers for dead people!! Gem has been here before so was able to take Wong on a little tour of the place. We headed towards the markets which were crazy busy and too crowded so we took off into the main streets and admired all the buildings and the sloping Piazza Grande - last time Gem was here it was the sight for the "Saracen Joust" which was an amazing medieval jousting competition... it was still very stunning at night. We found a great Pizza bar to have some dinner and then took in the stunning cathedral where a lot of the locals were attending mass. We finally weaved our way through the streets back to where Misty was parked (Wayne was freaking out in the cemetery) and we went back to the motor home spot... only to find that we were the only ones there... well we felt it was just a bit too isolated so we did a lap of the city only to find that all the motor homes were parked in the massive car park just outside the city walls...we have not really felt good about free camping in Italy as they say that it is not safe but we felt alright about this as it was with a heap of others including Italian motor homers. Tonight we watched the DVD "The Breakup" with Jennifer Aniston... Wayne was upset because it was not a happy ending... he was later cheered up by a late night (early morning for OZ) phone call from our 4 year old nephew, William.... we had a great chat with Will, Tom, Luke & Louise and then if was off to bed.

Day 231 - Monday 16th October - Arezzo through the Tuscan country side
We explored more of Arezzo this morning and for lunch we found the best Pizza we have ever tasted in a tabbachi bar/delicatessen. Then this afternoon we headed off through the Tuscan country side... Wayne had talked to a photographer in San G. about where he had taken all his amazing photos... so Wayne was determined to find some of the same spots. We drove to Cortona which looked like a very pretty town sitting high up on a hill (we did not go in through), and then through the most magic countryside to Pienza and Montepilciano where were stunning little villages and good roads with no too many crazy Italian drivers. Through more beautiful country side and into the town of Bolsena on Lake Bolsena where we found that all the camping grounds where shut for the season but we did find a spot just for motor homes where we spent the night in amidst an olive grove right on the lake...with a heap of other German motor homers. Tonight Wayne made another fantastic anti-pasto for dinner (oh I forgot to mention that he disappeared into a supermarket for an hour) and one of the dips we had was called "Mousse di Tartufo" which is a mousse made of truffles ... and very orgasmic!! This was topped off by a bottle of French White Wine and then shots of Limencello and Campari... well we just had to have some Italian drinks as well.

Day 232 - Tuesday 17th October - Bolseno to Rome
We both woke up at 6am (because we were so alcohol affected we went to sleep at 9.30) and read our books and then had a nice little sleep in to 10.30. By the time we packed up and got into Bolseno it was 1.00 and everyone was on siesta. We explored a few of the streets and admired the castle that was here but because everything was shut we decided to high tail it to Rome. The scenery around Lake Bolsena was stunning but the roads were not great so we were happy when we found our way to the major highway that you pay for. I was trying to prepare Wayne for Rome by telling him that while it was beautiful he had to expect even crazier drivers and more filth but one can never be totally prepared.... we hit peak hour and we had people driving on the wrong side of the road like it was totally normal! Our trusty German book told us where there was a site just for motor homes about 5 km from the heart of Rome and we were very happy that we found it as not only was one third of the price of the camp sites (only 15 euro instead of 45 euro... double it for the Oz price) but the man who ran it was lovely... he spoke great English and his daughter lives in Brisbane in Taigum... about 5 minutes from Sandgate!! Small world. Well he is also going to get his mechanic to give Misty a service and he showed us how to fix our kitchen tap... it has been loose as a bolt dropped out from all the shaking and leaking some water.... Well we attempted to fix it but it turned into a major disaster with water going everywhere and Wong having a massive hissy fit... Gemeah just went and asked the nice little Italian man if he could have a look and next minute he whipped out the right tool and it was fixed... well we think it was anyway!! Oh and I sent Wayne off for a walk to calm down and he was trying to find wireless and wandered into the motor home storage yard next door (but part of the same facility)... next minute he has tripped the silent alarm or they have spotted him on the cameras and he is being hunted down by two big security guards!!

Day 233 - Wednesday 18th October - Rome
After organizing for Misty to have a service and oil change we jumped on a tram and into Termini Station. We hoped on a hop on hop of bus and took in the sights of the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Piazza Venezi, the Vittoriano, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Arco di Costantino, and of course the Colosseum... however Wayne was too tired to go in so we took off home hoping to wake up bright and early so that we can get to St Peter's Basilica early before the crowds. It was a new experience trying to brave the Roman traffic whilst crossing pedestrian crossings, they just don't stop and you are really taking your life into your own hands... we got better by the end of the day and worked out once you step onto the road they are more likely to stop... but even then they sometime just swerve to miss you. They also don't stop at red lights so you are never sure when the green man says walk if it is safe or not.

Day 234 - Thursday 19th October - Rome
Today we had a mission... get up early and get to the Vatican to beat the line up into St Peter's... well it did not happen and we got there by about 10.30 and the line was gigantic...300mts or so, however it was moving very quickly and what we thought may be a couple of hours only turned out to be 25 minutes. We took in the beautiful masterpiece that is St Peter's Basilica (the biggest church in the world) and then we found our way around the Vatican walls to line up for entrance to the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. We wandered around through the Vatican admiring all the artwork, tapestries, statues, the gardens and courtyards and the richness of the place. Next the Sistine Chapel... last time Gem was here she remembered that the guards went off their nut if you took pictures and they saw a flash (this was not to protect the painting but because it is copyrighted...so the Vatican can make people fork out ridiculous prices for a copy)... so Wayne was determined to try and take a picture... he did succeed and got a picture of the ceiling!! When we got outside it was raining and all the black guys selling gadgets were running around trying to sell umbrella's... they are hilarious they seem to have gadgets on hand for almost any type of weather ! We found a pizza bar for lunch at 5.00pm (we did not realize we had been in the Vatican for so long) than wondered around the streets. When we finally decided to go home we had to work out how to catch a bus back to the train station.... Then the train was delayed. It was interesting watching everyone try and get into the train they just run and push and shove you out of the way, people fall over and they step over them, it's on for young and old just to get a seat... the young people are also quite rude and never offer to give up their seats for older people....except young guys in there teens always give up there seats for older ladies. (mums boy syndrome) We know it is not considered rude to push in Italy but it really does piss us of... I suppose if it is what you are bought up with than you don't know any better.

Day 235 - Friday 20th October - Rome
This morning we jumped on a bus with hundred of other people (they really know how to pack in as many people into a bus except the Italian's just push each other...we think they need the professional pushers like they have in Japan) and headed towards to Colosseum. We jumped off early because we could not stand the crowds on the bus and decided to walk the rest of the way. This is the best way to see Rome as we got to walk through all the ancient ruin that are opposite the Roman Forum then observe the Roman forum from a distance. We enjoyed watching all the street performers dressed up as Roman soldiers and Julius Caesar as they tried to con you into paying to have photos taking with them... one of them was even flashing us but he had orange undies on underneath... we thought he should have been original and had nothing or a leather pouch !! Inside the Colosseum we hired an audio guide and enjoyed walking around the entire thing listening to the commentary. Next it was off to the Roman Forum and Palatine where we wondered around using the lonely planet as a guide to inform us what each of the ruins were. Then down came the rain and Wayne did not have an umbrella so kept getting petered by all the dark boys who miracoulosly appear from no where to sell umbrellas. We walked back to Termini enjoying taking in the streets and looking at all the shops. Stopped off to get some stuff for dinner and then got on a tram where again there was a crazy number of people jammed into a small space. We could not stand it anymore so we decided to jump off early and found an internet spot to amuse ourselves for a couple of hours. When we finally got back home there was a massive gate across the entrance and we thought we were locked out so we just kept pressing the buzzer hoping that someone would answer.... Wayne walked a couple of hundred meters next door thinking it was the same facility and rattled the gate to see if anyone was there that could let us in... next minute this massive freaky Italian came out and was obviously on drugs because he would not let Wayne talk and just kept pushing him, Wayne was freaking out thinking that he was going to hit him in the head and just kept thinking that he did not want to go through anymore surgery for his eye if it detached!! Then another two came out and Wayne was trying to tell them he was just after the entrance and they finally calmed down the big freak...I saw all of this from a distance and did not really know what was happening but was getting ready to run up and hit them in the head with my shopping bag and scream.... Luckily a lady turned up in her car to get into the gate and they all settled down... the security guy inside our complex said that he had just been gone a few minutes and that is why we could not see him to open the gate... he said that they often have problems with next door and that they are all crazy like half the people in Rome!!! Bloody crazy Italian's we really have had enough of them!!


Day 236 - Saturday 21st October - Stuck in Rome
Well Gem had spent the morning packing up and cleaning (while Wong had a sleep in) and was quite happy about setting off to Pompeii and getting Italy out of the way. Then she leant over to get a broom to finish cleaning inside Misty and then SNAP!! Her back went and she has pulled some major muscles and is in absolute agony. It is rare for Gem to cry so when she does you know she is in pain and there was lots of crying and screaming and the rest of the day she was basically wipe out on anti-inflammatories and mersyndol which luckily we had with us !! We are not going NO WHERE !!

Day 237 - Sunday 22nd October - Stuck in Rome
Gemeah's still in quite considerable pain and not moving. Her day was spent drugged out and them watching a movie all whilst lying down.. on the lower bed which is very uncomfortable for her as it does not have the foam padding of the double bed... but she can't get up the top to her normal bed. Wayne went out and got his internet, coffee and pizza fix. We are still not going anywhere as her back is bad and to top it off Wayne is now feeling fluish !!

Day 238 - Monday 23rd October -Stuck in Rome
Gem still not moving but in less pain. Wayne had time (all day) to figure out why the sink was leaking water... not the tap after all but the drain pipe inside the sink is cracked... the shop here at the camping spot does not have one so will have to find a Hymer dealer.

Day 239- Tuesday 24th October- Stuck in Rome
Gem moving more and getting very bored !! Wayne being doing a good job playing physio and nurse and ice pack getter... what a wonderful husband he is. Finally got an appointment with a doctor for tomorrow. Wayne loosing all sense of humor as he is feeling very fluish and intolerable of the very bored Gemeah!!!.
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