Monday, 13 August 2012

Tuscany and Cinque Terre

By Mark

After spending a few days with the Fragiacomos we thought it was time to push on but it was hard to do so after being made to feel so welcome. It was great to have a base along with a toilet and shower, good food, great beer (think I owe you 1 or 2 or 3 Marc) and of course great company.

Our direction was south west and towards the Tuscany region. We picked a great day to leave, a Saturday when all the Northern holiday makers were on their way home. This made it slow going for the first 20 odd km's until we found our nice little quiet road. The back roads always take a little longer but are always much more scenic but for once we were moving faster than the motorway traffic.

We were headed for Siena with our direction taking us through Florence but we did not get there until the following day. We had a contact in Florence, a guy we met back in Thailand who owned a restaurant there. Only problem was that on a Sunday everything is closed! As we rode through Florence we were surprised at just how little there was open. In the end we passed straight through and made our way for Siena which actually had a few places open. Siena is a beautiful old city with some incredible looking old architecture including the main church and all the buildings surrounding the central piazza.

Our direction towards the west coast took us straight past Pisa, how could we not stop for a look around and of course get the obligatory photo with one of the most famous buildings of all time. We had a bit of a mission trying to get close enough so we could get a picture with the bikes and the leaning tower. The local Police man was not that keen on us blocking the main path in but once he disappeared we got a quick snap. Pisa is tourist hell, it is really strange as we had been cruising along all day not seeing any other tourists, then we stopped at this town and bang they were everywhere.

We thought coming to Europe we would not get the attention that we have seen all though Asia but surprisingly we still get quite a lot, many holiday makers see the bikes, especially mine with the world map and our route we have taken to get here and this seems to be a great conversation starter. While enjoying our little time in the spotlight we really wanted out of this town and fast as we still wanted to make it a few more kms down the road before we camped up for the night.

We hit the coastline and wow, it is incredible, the mountains meet the sea and it was so beautiful to see the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean again. The one place in particular we wanted to visit was an area called Cinque Terre. It is five towns stretched along cliff sides along a 10 km stretch of coastline. The villages are built on impressively steep mountain sides that go down to the waters edge. Our first stop was the village of Riomaggiore. I think this was one of the most impressive of the lot. We stopped by a patisserie for some of the best breads and sweets we have eaten on the trip. While sitting on the steps digging into our nosh an old Italian Nonna stops by us after finding a coin and goes straight into a conversation in Italian, neither of us understanding a word, but the old girl didn’t seem to mind and when she was done saying her piece she was off. So were we, the tempting clear waters of the med were calling, it was warming up quickly and we needed a swim. So we hit the road and made our way to Monterosso Al Mare where we knew of some actual beaches. The road twisted and turned on a very narrow path for about 25km’s along some of the most amazing coastline with grapevines lingering perilously on steep mountain sides. They even have these dangerously steep rail lines with buggies and trailers attached to bring the grapes out onto the roads for collection. After many stops along the way we made it to Monterosso. First stop was for a cold beer and then to the beach. The towns are lovely and so are the beaches, the only thing I don’t like about the beaches here in Italy is that they are lined with beach chairs and umbrellas. Give me an Aussie beach any day with long stretches of sand to lie out your towel. Here you have public and private beaches, you of course pay for the privilege of the private beaches with sun beds etc and when it comes to the public, well you get about a 10m stretch of sand to set up. After being told to move on from the private beach where we had first set up we had the joy of trying to fit in this crowded space. It is like a game of tetris trying to find a space to slot yourself in among all the other tight arses who also don’t wish to pay for a bit of sand to lie on. At least the tempting waters made me forget about the rest. The water temp was divine and after cooling off what better way to stay cool than with a Gellato. They have to be some of the best we have eaten, could have sat there for the rest of the day eating but we needed to find a place to camp. Boy did we find a great place. Just above the village of Riomaggiore

Looking over the city of Siena

 One of many churches that are in the city

Many old buildings here

The main Piazza

Seen this a few places now, interesting but don't know the meaning behind it!

 Looking back towards Siena and the hills of Tuscany

Shame about the haze as the landscape was quite pretty if not a tad dry

The city of Livorno

You should all know this one!

Another grand building that sits alongside the leaning tower

Starting to like camping under bridges,
 got to take what you can get when you don't want to pay to camp


Cinque Terre


 Monterosso Al Mare

Check out all the sun beds and umbrellas

Sunset from our camp spot above Riomaggiore

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