Into Tuscany

Trip Start Jul 23, 2012
1
18
60
Trip End Feb 03, 2013

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

12/9/12

We woke up with a dry tent again which was surprising as throughout the night we heard some rain drops and quickly jumped up to get all our things in under cover, waste of energy as it turned out. We got away early and rode to Levanto to ask about the walk which is contoured along the coast between about 5 villages collectively known as Cinque terra. The lady at the information center was very helpful and pointed us in the right direction. We decided to ride onto Monterosso, the next village, and parked our bikes then jumped onto the train to Riomaggiore for lunch then we would walk back.

When we arrived at Riomaggiore we had no idea where to go, the signage for the track was pretty non-existent, we immediately missed the great sign posting France had for everything. We wandered through the tiny streets heading in the direction we felt was the way and eventually we found a small bar to grab a sandwich and coffee for lunch then we strolled through some even narrower alleys finally finding the track and continued along the coast to the next village. We both were a little disappointed with the walk as there was so much graffiti and padlocks along the path, which really ruined it and was very unexpected. We got to a tunnel, which was quite pretty from a far however when we walked through it was rather ugly and ruined from all the graffiti. When we finally reached the next village, Manarola, we had come to the conclusion the path was for lovers as there were so many padlocks with hearts and initials on them and every little bar along the path had the pictures of two people cuddling/kissing. Not a great first impression of the Cinque Terra unfortunately.

The next section of the path was closed so we jumped back on the train and got off at Corniglaia to walk to the next village. This section of the track was much better however there was a lot of litter along the track, which detracted from its beauty. However we did get wonderful views of the coast and as you walked further away from the village we had a fantastic view of how beautiful and colourful the villages are perched on the coast. It was a little overcast so the colours were not as bright as they could have been on a clear day, and due to the weather even our pictures do not do the colours justice.

The walk to Vernazza took us just on 1hr, and by this time we were both very hot as it was so muggy and quite aware of the time as we wanted to get to Pisa before dark therefore after having an explore of the harbor we jumped back on the train to Monterosso.

We had one last large hill to climb before we reached our bikes, after having a large drink of water and one last look at Monterosso we finally gave into the heat and put on our motorbike gear and rode off eventually getting onto the motorway, learning how to rig the system just like France, to Pisa which took 1.5hrs off the trip, if we had of gone along the coast. The wind had really picked up and every now and again we would get huge gushes, which was very off putting. The GPS took us straight to the campsite, in the past 24hrs the GPS has been a godsend! Perfect for making riding in the Italian traffic much more pleasant and less daunting. We quickly set up the tent and then went for some well needed showers. The camping ground was only a 10minute walk to the Tower so we had a lovely stroll into town. It was an awesome feeling seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time, it is a great feeling when you have always heard about a place and read it in books to then finally see it for real is fantastic. The square was very pretty and as expected full of people. We grabbed a few classic photos of the tower then enjoyed walking around the other amazing building. As it was getting a little late so we decided to grab some dinner at a restaurant where our table had a brilliant view of the tower. The dinner was not as spectacular as the view however we did have some entertainment when Rhys decided to play with a street seller who was trying very hard to sell him a Rolex watch for the 'lady'. No watch purchased however stomachs full we walked back in the direction of the camp ground, there is not much else going for Pisa, other than the Tower, therefore we walked straight home.

13/9/12

We are pleased to inform you we are still alive and did not get blown/washed away in the storm last night!!! Man what crap weather we had. Firstly Raelene was not sleeping the best as the campsite was lit up like a Christmas tree, way to go Pisa campsite, the lights don't need to be on all night… We then woke up at around 0100 to the sound of the tent flapping and the rain beginning to fall. For the next hour or so the storm blew pretty hard, we moved our bikes from the potentially soft ground out onto the road in front of our site and battened down the hatches! Thankfully it blew itself out and come morning we were lucky to have blue skies to roll out of the campsite under. We made our way directly to Lucca, one of the only remaining walled cities. What an amazing place. We parked just outside the wall and for the next two hours wandered around the inner city and across the top of the wall. The wall in places was up to 40 meters thick and is basically a outer retaining wall with earth piled up on the other side. To imagine this was all done by hand…crazy stuff. Its also worth noting the image of wealth that these places portray, from the design and decoration of the buildings to the high-end fashion shops down to the people wearing the clothes and the shoes of the season, we have found this all throughout Italy more than france and we both feel out of place being rather un-dedicated followers of fashion!

After Lucca we jumped back on the bikes and made headed for Florence. We drove through some beautiful country and then were lucky enough to hit a highway and from there the going was pretty easy. But for now I have to own up to something that im not too proud of but that Raelene thought was pretty amusing! I dropped my trusty bike….on the road in the middle of a busy intersection…bugger! We had made a wrong turn and so we had made a U-turn and were trying to turn left onto the correct road. For some reason I had a brain fart and had left the bike in second gear, on trying to move off I gave it only a small hand full of throttle and of course, it stalled. Having the front wheel turned at a tight angle already, the bike bucked and began to fall!!! NOOOOOO! Didn't have a chance to hold it up and it went down gracefully to the audience of 20 odd cars at the intersection. It would have been a funny sight to see me standing there with my hands in the air and my bike on its side on the ground! Thanks god for crash bars on the Beemer! Raelene quickly jumped off we picked it up, started it and off we rode! The only thing wrong was a busted indicator glass that will have to be sourced from a spares shop at a later date! And of course a little dint to my pride, poor old bike, should be nicer to it…heavy bastard!

We made it to Florence and on following the GPS we were hoping to find a campsite. Earlier, before leaving Lucca I had typed in an address of a nice looking site in the hope that it would take us straight there. Little did I know that I got the address slightly wrong, putting the correct street but the town as Florence instead of Bottai.....Another bugger. On riding along we were directed down some tiny little side streets and we seemed to be heading directly into the middle of Florence! Thinking that this was going to be a pretty centrally located campsite we continued, only to pop out into the middle of a crowded Piazza! Turns out this was the Piazza Di Santa Croce out the front of the quite touristy Church of Santa Croce! Anyway people are all around taking photos and through we roll on a couple of heavily laden touring bikes in to the middle of the square. We hastily pulled over and diverted the GPS to the closest campsite. Forward it said! So off we went only to be blocked by a length of chain obviously separating the street from the square we had managed to find ourselves in! I crossed though the square once again, dodging people taking photos, and found a little gap in the chain…meant for pedestrians. Through we shot and headed in the direction of the main road, away from the crowds! Quite a funny experience!

We finally found a campsite and pulled in. It is set among the olive groves overlooking the entire city of Florence. What a find! We rolled in , set up our tent and headed off to explore a small part of the city before dinner time! Only a short walk form the campsite is the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge famously crowded with jewelry shops. We quickly headed past there, so as not to unnecessarily part with some money…and headed further into the center of town. Here we chanced upon the Palazzo Vecchio filled with many marble and bronze statues, some of roman and local origin. There was a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David along with Hercules and the centaur…amazing sculptures!

I treated myself to some yummy gelato and we headed back to the campsite. On the way we swung into a local grocery store and I became inspired! Grabbing a few choice ingredients and of course a bottle of chianti, we headed back to camp and I cooked up a feast, we drank red wine and finished doing the blog. Weather is not as threatening as last night but really we never know! Hoping to explore more of Florence tomorrow. Should be great!

14/9/12

Had a lazy start to the day, enjoyed a cappuccino at the camping grounds bar, Rhys got them for cheaper as he was able to ask for them in Italian (basic but still Italian). We then set off for a day exploring Florence. It was a little overcast and we got a few drops of rain but nothing worth buying an umbrella off one of the many sellers, it is amazing as soon as the rain started all these sellers appeared with umbrella’s then when the rain finished they disappeared and reappeared with fans or handbags or whatever else they were trying to sell.

Our camping ground is in a fantastic spot, so close to the centre of town. We walked to Piazzale Michelangiolo that gives you a great panoramic view of Florence then it is a short walk along the river into town.

Our first destination was to find the piazza we drove into yesterday, after reminiscing about yesterday and having a bit of a laugh we walked through the streets passing shop after shop selling leather goods to find the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, a building featured in Rhys computer game Assassins Creed. We had a wander into the Cathedral, which was massive and very beautiful; the dome has amazing artwork all over it. The line to up inside the dome was so long we decided to come back later in the day. We spent the rest of the morning walking through the streets, there are so many lovely, expensive shops, which make window-shopping a lot of fun but all the cheap stalls set up amongst them, really ruin the feel of Florence, which is very disappointing.

We walked for quite some time in the hunt for a park to stop for lunch and after no luck we finally sat down on a bench in a small piazza and enjoyed our homemade sandwiches.

Rhys was getting annoyed about walking past the buildings and not knowing the story/history behind them so we finally gave in and went into one, the Medici Chapels. It is an old tomb of the Medici family, which was donated to the city of Florence after the last member of the family died. It was a massive collection of artifacts and the room where the family members were buried was amazing! The detail in the walls and expense of building it was impressive. Rhys found this room so fascinating that it took him nearly 45mins just to walk around it – once! (It took the average person 10mins).

By the afternoon the crowds had settled a little bit and we lined up to walk the 300+ steps to the top of the dome on the Cathedral of S. Maria del Firoe. The passage way was very narrow with the steps were tiny and very windy. As we got closer to the top the steps became very steep and we climbed to the top of the internal dome, amazing architecture, we then had a ladder to climb and we popped out on top of the Florence! The dome gave a fantastic view of the city. On the way down we had to challenge for space with all the people coming up, not many would let us pass so it took a long time to get down. When we got back into the Cathedral we had a fantastic view of the paintings on the inside of the dome, the paintings are of both good and bad and wow some of the stories are very grotesque.

It was then time for a drink, we sat down at a Irish pub (cheapest place) looking out at the statues in Palazzo Vecchio drinking wine/beer. With some encouragement we left the pub and went in search for a restaurant. Eventually we both agreed on this cute little place in a side street and Rhys had the most amazing steak with pepper sauce while I had a typical Florence pasta which was delicious. We had a nice stroll home then hit the thermorests – hoping the partying people wouldn’t stay up too long.  
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

Nicola Nauman on

Just love it! Your stories are great, would have been so funny watching you trying to save your bike from falling Rhys! Photos are fantastic too, brings back so many great memories : ) I would highly recommend you try the nutella gelato while in Italy! Mmmm.....I look forward to the next update xx

Jenny Yerbury on

We are loving your stories, such a great read - keep them coming. Great photos too and this blog bought back lots of memories for us.
Lots of love xxx

Barbara Lodge on

Nutella gelato??? OMG Nicola - evil ++ LOL

Add Comment

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: