Finally, we have stopped for a few weeks. With lack of internet and not being able to charge my mobile battery means I’m a few weeks behind with writing so hopefully I’ll get to catch up now. So here’s what we have been up to.
We had already experienced driving through the outskirts of Rome on the way to the house sit and by taking just one wrong turn we end up in an area with run-down properties, overgrown pavements and walls full of graffiti some areas seem more like a third world country.
So visiting the centre by motorhome would be difficult, once Ursula and Massimo return they drop us off at the metro from here its a short ride before we are stepping outside into Termini station where the temperature is high and we are amongst the mayhem of people that are already sightseeing and it’s only 10 am.
But before the sightseeing starts it’s a trip to Ufficio Postale to send cards home. An Italian post office can be a baffling experience just getting through the door was a task.
Once inside it’s busy but with so many counters we assume it won’t take long. How wrong were we! Since there are so many services provided you have to take a ticket for the counter you require. So we approach the big yellow machine, find the service we are looking for and punch in the letter that corresponds to what we need, we are then given a ticket and the waiting starts. It’s incredibly frustrating the numbers at each counter seem to randomly jump from high to low and back again it’s bizarre. What’s even more bizarre is the Italians seem happy to queue for what seems like hours, but put them behind the wheel of a car and they have to be in front of everything, honking their horns! Finally it’s our turn and the cards are on their way.
Rome is a city packed full of history and filled with monumental buildings but we were never going to be able to explore this city on foot in one day so we take the Hop on hop off bus, this way we can cover more ground.
Sitting on the top deck with panoramic views of the city passing before us and the running commentary through the head phones we have been given it’s an interesting tour.
Once off the bus with the heat beaming down on us we work our way through the other tourists all trying to get a glimpse of the same thing but all this sight seeing is thirsty work so we find a Pizzeria and have lunch. Once we are feed and watered we cross the bridge over to the Vatican.
John enjoyed seeing the sights here more than I did and obviously other people see things differently. But I found myself woundering if the people walking around here had seen what I had? Is this all for the Glory of god or the glory of the church? We had been told how amazing this place is and there’s no denying that the huge open space and buildings are rather grand.
I am not overly religious myself and I appreciate St. Peter’s is a must for many to see.
But stood in front of what is meant to be the most important church in the world, I found it difficult to equate with the amount of poverty that we have seen especially that surrounds St. Peter’s. Designed to impress and inspire the masses that gather here, the place clearly is a massive money spinner, the queue to go into the Sistine chapel goes on for miles. We don’t go in, I think all the time people feel the need to come here there’s only one person benefiting from it and it’s not the people who really need it.
Later that evening when we are back at the motorhome, my phone has picked up that we have been in Rome and sends me places of interest and news. Interestingly one of the items is about the Pope it’s reported he said “Life is for loving, not amassing possessions”. Well he clearly hasn’t looked in his own back yard lately to see the unbelievable display of wealth that surrounds him. Why does he need to live in such granditour? It made me feel uncomfortable that a church can have so much wealth when there is so much poverty in the world!
Next morning we say good bye to Ursula and Massimo and drive 56 miles north west of Rome where we find a campsite to stay at in Montalto Di Castro.
It’s just a short walk down to the sandy beach and even though there are a lot of people here it doesn’t feel crowded. We have a wander and paddle but it’s so hot we head back to the motorhome. The campsite is backed by green woods and farm fields and with only a handful of motorhomes here it’s peaceful. So once it’s cooled down we spend the evening outside.
Heading into Tuscany it isn’t far before we start seeing a change, fields full of lavender, rivers flowing and green hilly landscape, it’s definitely looking cleaner. Admittedly the roads are just the same until you get nearer the french border.
Orbetello is a pretty area looking over the lagoon we stop and have lunch before driving on and off the Peninsula. Once again it’s to hot to do much else so we stop off at Lidl and Decathlon just to cool down. Later that afternoon we park up behind a residential area in the village of Bagno Roselle and that’s where we stop for the night.
Sienna is where we are off to this morning. Parked just outside of the city wall it’s quite a walk up the steep hill to the centre, passing the beautiful cathedral on the way but it’s worth the walk once we are here. The lovely old Plazzo is surrounded by shops and restaurants, we sit on the steps, eat our baguettes and people watch. It’s hard to believe that during July and August it becomes home to the Palio Di Sunkia horse racing and that parts of the James Bond film Quantum of Solace were filmed here.
Moving on to San Casciano in Val di Pesa this was once, one of the many towns that helped protect the city of Florence in years gone by. It’s here we find something that is rare in Italy a sota that has all the services and it looks like it’s in a good location. It’s early evening and we are the only motorhome here. A local worker tells John by 10pm it will be quiet so when a few local children appear in the park we think nothing of it.
But just after 9.30pm and the arrival of half a dozen cars and quite a few people arriving by foot it soon becomes apparent we have arrived the day before the local festival and they are here to set up. Shortly followed by more children in the park it’s clearly going to he a noisy night so we decide to move down the road in search of somewhere quieter. We end up just off of a busy road amongst stored motorhomes by the looks of things it’s just going to be one of thoses nights where we get very little sleep.
Some days travelling can be exhausting if you havent had a good nights sleep, this is when you realise a good sense of humour is absolutely essential. So a little more tired than normal it’s a quiet morning as we drive to Saggio where we park and get the bus into Florence.
It’s easy to walk around old Florence with it’s many Piazza’s leading from one to another. From the cathedral, and it’s accompanying tower to the statue of David it’s an amazing place with something different down every alley we turn. It’s now getting busy so we walk down to see the oldest bridge in Florence, The Ponte Vecchio before heading back to get the bus.
Like all of the cites we have visited a good pair of walking shoes is a must.
It’s late afternoon as we leave Florence behind and head for Pisa.
When we arrive on the outskirts of the town we decide to stay at a paid sota for tonight. It’s barrier controlled so secure, safe and looks quiet, so little chance of noisy local kids, screeching cars or scooter tyres, until we realise it’s directly under the flight path! Thankfully the last flight is around midnight.
By the time we walk down to the town it’s much cooler and quieter.
As we follow the medival wall up to the town and through the old gate entrance. It’s hard to believe that amongst the surrounding houses we find the leaning tower of pisa.
All of the buildings in the square are magnificent but this free standing bell tower is 183 feet on the low side and 186 on the high it’s fascinating to see. The tower began to tilt during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground on one side that couldn’t support it so hence it started to lean. To get to the top there’s 257 steps to climb. We stand gawping at it for a while it makes you wonder if it hadn’t of been build on soft ground would it ever of been famous.
Walking back through the old town we find a small cafe and stop for a beer, while we watch the local Pisans go about their daily life. After quick walk down to the river and a photo of Garibaldi it’s back to the motorhome for dinner.
Tonight it rained heaverly, which after today’s heat was a pleasure to hear.
As we continue to follow the A10 along the coast we come across Santa Margherita Ligure. Until the end of the 19th century coral fishing was an activity of importance in this pretty town. Now as a reminder the base of the coat of arms is a branch of carol in memory of its disappearance. Every afternoon around 4pm in front of the harbour fishing boats unloading their catch can be seen. And it’s here we see the 8 iron guns, that were removed from the castle and are now used as mooring bollards.
From here we take the bus to Portofino. Traveling a long the tight road where at times you feel yourself breathing in so the other cars can pass. We pass the San Girolamo Della Cervara abbey built in the 14th century then it’s just after here the village comes into sight and we can see why it’s known as one of the Italian Riviera’s beautiful villages. This small half moon fishing village, with beautiful pastel painted houses lining the shore of the harbour is somewhere we both wanted to see. It’s narrow streets lined with shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants all leading down to the water. We sit on the harbour steps and people watch.
Next morning we move further north and drive quite a distance today. Passing through Genoa we are diverted due to the bridge that collapsed in 2018 so we are surprised to see where the bridge comes to complete stop and how very little as been done to clear the area. Sadly many lost their lives and others homeless that day.
It’s been a few hectic days visiting all those cities so when we come across the sota ( it’s just a car park) right next to the marina in Santa Stefano al mere we decide to stop here for a few days.
With only 5 motorhomes parked here when we arrive we park up by the back wall but it isn’t long before the arrival of three motorhomes from the Netherlands keeps us entertained. With the women giving out directions they shuffle their motorhomes until they finally set up camp behind us.
From here the nearest village is Piani Paorelli. Over the next couple of days we make several trips there, during the day so John can get his hair cut and to pick up groceries. And in the evening when it has cooled down we walk or cycle along the seafront.
One night we find the narrow lanes lite with candles and a crowd starting to gather outside the church.
With the night sky turning dark it’s quite a sight when the band starts to play and the crowd start to move. When the music changes to become more dramatic a Jesus strapped to a cross covered in flowers is hoisted up high and the parade continues.
For such a small village it wasn’t something we expected to see. Just as we get back to the motorhome the sound of fireworks erupt into the night, sadly we can’t see them if we had known we would of stopped to watch.
We have enjoyed the last few days here. I swim in the sea to keep cool whilst John cycles the famous Poggio climb not far from here.
Sadly there are no services here and we are in need of water to shower. Well we were using the showers in a disused building but it looks like we have out stayed our well there, they have put boards up to stop us using them. So it’s time to move on and we head towards the french border.