Sunflowers and pizzas
20.08.2008 25 °C
During a whistle stop visit to Rome to visit Cats relatives, we also managed to squeeze in a quick side trip to the fantastically impressive Coliseum. It didn’t take us long to re-acquaint ourselves with the amazing Italian coffee, pizzas and gelatos – it was good to be back!
When initially planning our trip, we were both really excited about the prospect of spending some time soaking up the Tuscan way of life. The area more than lived up to our expectations… We spent a week exploring the medieval hilltop villages and towns scattered amongst the gold and green rolling hills depicted in so many books and movies.
We had forgotten that July meant the European holiday season was in full flow, so some of the most beautifully impressive towns of Sienna and San Gimignano were over run with tourists (we often forgot that we fell into this category too!).
We still managed to escape the hoards though, by exploring the hundreds of lanes, shops, delis and restaurants. Amongst it all, in the heart of Sienna we discovered the best pizza restaurant of our trip so far where we treated ourselves to a long lazy lunch (Cat has had to succumb to my addiction of Italian pizzas).
San Gimignano was a charming old town, dominated by 14 ancient towers, the tallest of which we climbed. It was hot going, but worth it for the spectacular views.
As per normal though, our favourite times were spent on our bikes where we managed to find some beautiful quaint villages, which fortunately for us always had a charming plaza and café!
The hills in Tuscany were a lot more forgiving on our legs than the last time we were in Italy in the Dolomites. The views were stunning though, especially when we came across field after field of sunflowers and bales of hay.
Most of the roads we found ourselves on were pretty quiet. After a few hairy incidents, we soon made it our mission to stay away from the crazy Italians flying around narrow roads in their little fiats and piaggios.
From Tuscany, we hugged the Italian coast on our journey back to France. We spent about an hour in Pisa, fighting our way through the crowds and tacky stalls to see the incredible leaning tower.
We spent a few nights camping on the coast near Viareggio in another very expensive and over packed Italian campsite (the Italian camping experience is nothing like it is in France). We based ourselves here so that we could cycle to Lucca, and spend some time exploring the town that proved to be far more beautiful and charming than Pisa.
Cats map reading meant that we took the scenic route though, which meant that we ended up doing a 50km detour down a very busy road. Fortunately she redeemed herself by finding me a great café for lunch…
Our last couple of days in Italy were spent exploring the stunning Cinque Terre, a serious of ancient, picturesque fishing villages perched amongst the most inaccessible cliffs and steep bays.
After treating ourselves to the most fantastic lobster ravioli and a chilled bottle of rose, we joined the tourist trail and explored the well trodden coastal walk through the olive groves and amongst the rocky outcrops.
Before heading back to France, I managed to convince Cat that we should spend our last night in Italy in our campsite restaurant devouring yet another fantastic wood fired pizza.
It never ceased to amaze me how every tiny bar and eatery in this country managed to produce the most fantastic food and coffee, I will certainly miss it…