Glad to hear you had a super weekend in Dublin and managed to sample all the delights of its nightlife and the Guinness experience, as well as enjoying the Westlife concert in Croke Park.
We said ‘goodbye’ to the Emilia Romagna region and ‘hello’ Tuscan hillside on our trip to Florence. The journey took us high along the toll road across more tree lined valleys and hills and through more tunnels. Progress was slow as we got caught behind a heavy goods lorry but nevertheless enjoyed the views if not the condition of the road surface which was appalling – there must have been over 200 severe clunks when going over potholes & bridge joins – and just in about 50 miles!!!. So, it was a bit like rubbing salt into the wound when, due to a blip in the toll machine, it spat out a charge of €56! This has yet to resolve and for that money even I would have taken a bucket of grit and filled in a few holes!
**** Toll Story**** Went to campsite reception & she translated that we had to go back up the Autostrada 17kms to Firenze Sud & check in with Punto Blue – the motorway operators. The real charge should have been about €11. So on the following Tuesday whilst Foxy was having her hair done in the style of Austin Powers – I drove 50kms, paid 2 more toll fees & sorted out the problem. When I got back to the original faulty tollbooth there was a big lorry trying to reverse out of the same lane that screwed us up!
Nevertheless, we are now enjoying ourselves in Camping Il Poggetto (small hill) nestled within the region of Valdarno (Valley of the River Arno) just SW of Florence. The site it is relaxed but efficient and offers a swimming pool, gym (not used), small supermarket, and a restaurant with a large balcony which offers views of the surrounding countryside and terraced pitches. We had a nice meal on the first night as it was Friday & money was released. We chose an empty lower area, but the herding instinct soon kicked in with the arrival of a German wag one side of us swiftly followed by another the other side! Can you believe it? The latter was also towing a Smart car the colour and markings of which matched exactly their Hymer motorhome. Now that’s what I call accessorising!
Our first trip out was to Greve in Chianti, 4262which initially took us, and I keep blaming Doc Brown, along a single track path through an area of olive groves. Then we gently climbed the hillside and as you can rightly imagine to our left and right we were surrounding by slopes covered by Chianti vineyards and so into Greve. It was another market day and we purchased a large, €10, chunk of Parmegiano cheese and some strange looking mushrooms which, later in the day, went into a tasty risotto a la Bill. There was a bloke in front of us who bought 4 bits of cheese for €26!!
After an intensive briefing I was let loose into Florence. The adventure started with the bus ride along narrow, twisting, hairpin roads into the city which could easily be compared with any Disney ride. My first task on arrival at the bus station was to find where I might catch my return fare (always important) and this wasn’t helped when I asked the bus driver (in Italian I might add) that he made a casual flick of his arm in some general direction yonder. Where? Needless to say task done and now it was onto some easy touring on an open top bus, in the sunshine with the breeze in my hair – couldn’t get easier. It was slightly frustrating because all the high spots are within the city so I could only initially get a glimpse of a church or a roof top, but we continued up into the hillside area of Fiesole where I was rewarded on a backwards glance of the city’s famous sky line. Once back it was ‘shoe leather’ time and yes, I did have a plan! First it was Ponte Vecchio, with its gold and silversmith shops, and blast I had forgotten my wallet, then onto the Uffizi to reserve tickets for later in the week, followed by Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Croce and San Lorenza with its leather market. Yes, I was on a roll! It’s unfortunate, but I know necessary, that many of the buildings have some scaffolding or even a couple of cranes to mar the view, but obviously this continuous maintenance and restoration is essential.
Finally, immerging from a shady narrow viale I entered the sunlit filled Palazzo Duomo with its magnificent cathedral and its familiar ‘golden’ domes and blue and white exterior. I know dad says I see everything through rose coloured glasses but I found it quite breathtaking. You could sit and admire the many sculptures on the exterior for a day and still find new ones. Based on this opulence I was inspecting a certain level of decoration for the interior but I was slightly disappointed as it was rather stark in comparison except for the decoration within the dome. I can only guess that either the architect just decided he couldn’t possibly better the outside or just run out of ideas!
The following day we bussed it to Siena, and I know this might give the impression that I am easily swayed, but it’s definitely now scoring Siena 2 – Florence 1 on the Duomo front! The ‘busy’ intricate exterior was well matched by its interior with paintings, floor mosaics and sculptures by famous artists. Well worth a visit. I found Il Campo much smaller than I imagined and was surprised to see that the stone flooring in the centre of the arena was contoured and not flat. This is where the famous annual Palio horse races take place. This spectacle is full of pomp and circumstance with parades and traditional costumes and demonstrates the rivalry between the 17 clans of Seina. Over two races on different days all the horsemen ride bare backed and dangerously race around the arena, and the ultimate winner then has the honour of representing his particular clan.
We got the arse-numbing bus ride home along the toll-free autostrada and then the connection via Florence. A quick visit to a 99cent shop to pick up some goodies & home for another pizza. Eyes bigger than stomach as pizza far too large!
Shirl got haircut this morning at local ‘parrachurria’ whilst I sorted the toll. 2 other Brit campers are dropping by for a vino tonite so we can discuss our next stop. They say it’s mossie-infested so we will probably change.
Don’t know next blog day as we are going on to a couple of farms. Next real campsite is on the 17th – so I may get a blog in then.
M & D xxx
Our garden peppers coming on…
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