Every week we seem to across something that fairly blows our minds, we wonder then what could possibly top it, last week the coast in Liguria was incredible so we thought maybe a week heading into Tuscany might be a bit less stunning. We were so very wrong.
The week started with rain, we aren’t complaining it is December and we expect rain. To be fair we have seen so much good weather since we left home we must be due a fair bit of rain but its been sunshine and showers so nothing too dramatic yet. Each morning we always check the forecast and it has to be said we now check the forecast for Greece at the same time, any drizzle doesn’t seem to bad when we see the sun is out in the Peloponnese. One of the reasons for being away in winter is without a doubt to find some sunshine, we are now keeping a close check of the temperatures in Portugal versus Greece, hoping we made the right decision to head East for a change.
From Deiva Marina the Cinque Terre were too close to pass up, the train station was less than five minutes from the campsite and it cost us €2.20 each to the villages. Using the train was a little more stressful than we anticipated, everything including the ticket machine is automated. It went reasonably well until the there were announcements of delays so we weren’t sure which train was actually ours, we took a guess and got it right. Monterosso, is a postcard pretty village but compared to the other four it didn’t compete with the overall view from the sea. Whereas the other villages sit on rocks at the sea edge Monterosso has a sandy beach but once you are in the village it is without doubt stunning. But to be honest we really wanted that amazing sight from the sea and none of the ferry trips were running. There are coastal paths between the villages that give some awesome views but all bar one had been closed due to landslides in the last couple of weeks. We thought out best chance would be Manarola as it seemed you get right down to the sea and look back so we hopped back on the train and sped through another few kilometres of tunnel.
Best choice we could have made, not only could you get down to the rocks but part of the walkway was open near the village. It is probably beyond me to describe just how awestruck we were at Manarola. Nothing quite prepares you for the experience not only of the multicolouted houses seeming to be stacked on top of each other but everything about somewhere that for so long was cut off except for by sea routes. The harbour is tiny and as today when the sea is slightly rough they pull all the boats up the through the minute paths and streets for safety. For a small place there are plenty of steep narrow alleys which they call carrugi, leading up through the village or down to the sea. We were so caught up in the atmosphere we went mad and had lunch out (first time since we left home). A little family cafe, I was ready to practice my newly acquired Italian as I now know how to order the basics, but was beaten to it by the son of the house who spoke better English than we do. As pesto originates in Liguria I went for the house special of pesto lasagne, Iain on the other hand went for the other famous specialty of the area, lets just say Bright Eyes wont be wandering over any hills anytime soon 😦
Having lingered on the Genoa coast for over a week we thought we would move on and with Pisa just a couple of hours down the road there was no way we could not stop off and have a lean with the tower. An easy drive right into the city for the sosta, until the Sat Nav took us wrong in the last 200 metres and we were opposite the entrance but needing to go around the oneway system to get in. A lovely lady on a scooter appears, points to sosta and when we nod she motions us to follow her as she takes us on a shortcut across a cycle path, through a garage and then up to the barrier – without a word she is off back in the traffic, people are so kind where-ever you are in the world.
Prior to arriving in the city we had discussed the merits on staying in the city centre. To be honest we had concerns, mainly if it was only us there how safe would it be etc. We need not have worried, at least 50 vans parked up and right on the side of the main road which we think is always a good thing. We set off for a quick glance of the tower before tea, map in hand we were confident to be there in 15 minutes. Two hours later we had traversed the whole city and not a glimpse of any tower. Instead we had walked pretty much most of the city centre. The river Arno runs through the centre cutting the city in two and the whole thing is surrounded by incredible city walls, apparently these are the ‘new’ ones built in the 12th century. On both sides we found pedestrian areas a plenty and Christmas markets galore where we did treat ourselves to a very scrummy walnut brittle. All the big Italian named shops and just as many tiny boutiques and gift shops. What clinched it for us though is the buildings, every shop is topped by four or five storeys of magnificent Italian architecture. Pisa is more than worth the visit for the city itself, the tower is just icing on the cake.
Day two, map in hand we set off for the tower, again. This time we found it fairly easily and have to say, it really does lean and to be quite frank looks like its going over someday soon. I had thought it started leaning a few hundred years after it was built, but no it was leaning as they built it so they just carried on and built the lean into the structure. Whilst we knew about the tower, we didn’t know that there is also the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Monumental Cemetery, not sure if its just in your eye to look for leaning but the other buildings do not look that straight either. Of course we did the photo posing holding up the tower, it seemed that pretty much everyone there was doing the same, when in Rome…..
….. we are not going to Rome. Its been an on / off idea as to whether we want to go there or not and we have finally agreed we don’t. No reason other than its going to be hellish busy, so instead we are heading inland to Tuscany and over to the Adriatic coast for Christmas. We came a few miles inland last night to Montopoli to stay at a campsite we had found. We pulled in and it looked ok, no one else there and €27 a night. On our way through we saw a sosta in the village, free with 15 motorhomes on it. We went for the sosta, perfect for an overnight although we did realise during the evening all the other vans were empty – possibly just the villagers using it for parking during the winter. We were both pleased this morning to wake up and find we weren’t in the middle of a gypsy encampment as that thought was crossing our minds!
We had a brief stroll around Montopoli, well more a stroll up as the village clings to side of a hill. At the top there was a viewpoint to see the glorious views of Tuscany set out around you – that didn’t happen due to severe fog. Today we move inland searching out medieval Tuscany.