A bit of Italian sunshine … 1/4/15

Can you believe that we left the UK on March 27th 2014 …. which means we have been away for more than a year now, although only 7.5 months in the motorhome. I am sure you will pleased to hear that we are still keeping up with the slightly odd ‘Keith and Gail-isms’ including baking our own fresh rolls, homemade Brownies and muesli as well as occasionally making American pancakes for breakfast, we have also continued with our daily exercise routine either running or Tabata….. and amazingly we are still talking to each other.

We are now completely settled into true Italian life and are quite enjoying it, I think I have even used the horn on the motorhome for the first time – see what the Italian passion does to you! We have moved on from the Italian Riviera, finding ourselves last weekend in Lucca which is an ancient medieval city with a beautiful (and intact) wall surrounding it. For those of you into your music it is also the birthplace of a number of composers including Giacomo Puccini (Madame Butterfly…. I am sure even the less musical of you have heard of that one!)   The city is made up of cobbled streets and plazas lined with beautiful old buildings including a disproportionate number of towers – all however full of character. The city had a lovely ‘buzz’ about the place and although there were a fair few, it didn’t feel full of tourists, or too busy and in fact it was very tranquil overnight.

Lucca2_20150328We parked up in ‘Area Sosta Lucca’ (10 euros during the week in low season and 14 euros in high season, weekends and festivals) just under a kilometre from the wall which was clean and quiet and had all the facilities we required.   Having spent a week in Italy without a pizza, we felt obliged to search out a decent restaurant to go to and were not disappointed. Ten minutes’ walk from the Aire we found a little local Italian pizzeria called ‘Al Pirate’, which was conveniently located just along the road from an amazing ice-cream shop. So, having eaten more pizza (and calzone) than required, we stumbled out the door and waddled 50 yards to the ice-cream shop where for once I had to hold back as I would have popped – Keith however managed to wolf down three spatulas worth of ice-cream 🙂

Obviously not being one to miss out on a good ice-cream, on Sunday afternoon after a bit more exploring of Lucca we headed back to our ‘local’ and decided we have found a bit of a gem … the ice-cream marker point has definitely been raised.

Although Keith was keen to stay a bit longer and go back to the Pizzeria to try the Foccacia Pizza, we figured that a) there is plenty more pizza to be had in Italy and b) if we continued our Pizza and Ice Cream consumption at this rate we may push Mika over her weight limit, so we moved on on Monday. The plan – as much as there ever is a plan – was to stop in Pisa for one or two nights however, we arrived at the Aire ‘Parcheggio Camper’ just after lunch and after a couple of hours walking we had pretty much seen everything …. well the tower, the cathedral and lots of road works, so decided to head on to somewhere a bit quieter for the night.

Pisa11_20150326Our overnight stop wasn’t too far up the road in Montopoli in Val D’Arno and it was a free Aire with services where there were 20 odd Italian motorhomes but over the 20 odd hours we were there we only saw two people…. So, all a bit odd especially considering that rather sadly, Montopoli in Val D’Arno is a medieval village/town which obviously used to be thriving, but has now been left with lots of empty shops and looks a little unloved and grey. So, although we planned to stay a couple of nights we decided to move on to Florence after a quick visit to the Laundrette.

We thought we would try our luck with a free Aire on the outskirts of Florence in Sesto Fiorentina, however we lucked out as the Lidl it was in front of had closed and the services had been removed. The lack of services probably worked in our favour as we ended up in Gelsomino SCAF Aire (15 euros per night) which was 2kms from ‘Puerta Romana’, so fairly central to Florence.

We wandered into Florence yesterday afternoon to stretch the legs and have a quick look around and it was buzzing – we have never seen so many ice-cream shops. Then today after a run round the edge of Florence looking down from the hills – me and Keith’s 100 burpee monthly challenge, we headed back into town to take in the markets and the rest….

Firenze4_20150401The architecture is beautiful varying through the centuries whilst using different materials – several of the churches and the cathedral built in white, green and red marble, other buildings with old timber beams and of course stone and brick from different periods. The different coloured marble really stood out making the cathedral one of the more unusual, and attractive buildings we have seen.

We have been really lucky with the weather over the last few days as it has been mostly blue skies and hovering around 15-20 degrees during the day … someone obviously felt guilty about giving us too much rain in our first week here. Unfortunately, it is set to rain over the weekend so we may just have to buy lots of chocolate eggs and sit in the motorhome 🙂

Happy Easter and/or Pesach …

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