After two nights in Levanto and some of the prettiest fishing villages your ever likely to see we had to leave. Next stop Viarregio, nothing much to say, this was just a stopping off point on the way to Pisa and was picked purely because it was convenient. The route from Levanto was hilly, hot and very scenic, we were on the coast after all ! We passed through several towns with marinas full of boats, expensive ones to boot……
The campsite itself was ok, although yet again, no grass ! There was however cold beers, hot showers and I did find a barber to sort my hair and beard. Nothing spectacular to see so a quiet night and early bed. Headed for Pisa the following morning, flatter roads now as we’re heading slightly away from the coast. Lovely tree lined roads through fields of sunflowers, the occasional farm, rocky outcrop and village making it a very pleasant ride…..
Arriving at Pisa you just follow the signs around the walled city and there in front of you is this..
When we saw it for the first time it was a case of wow, it really does lean and how, over four metres out of true from the top! Apparently it all started going wrong very early into construction so they started to correct the lean as they built so now it’s sort of banana shaped. They have stabilised the tower now but it will still lean to nearly five metres when the soil is really wet. I reckon they could make it straight but hey they’d lose a load of tourists and money !! If the tower didn’t lean it would never have created such a buzz, there are hundreds of towers and campanile all over Italy and this one would have been overlooked. Still we did as thousands before us have done and got our photo with the tower before taking a wander around the grounds. We didn’t go up the tower as the queues were so long. As there’s not much else to do here it was soon time to leave.
Next stop would be San Gimignano and a very nice campsite with great facilities but to get there first we had a few hills to climb, hills would be a feature of the next few days. As would the fabulous scenery, vineyards and medieval villages on hill tops. You get to see San Gimignano well before you actually get there as its at the top of a huge hill… , with the heat and heavy bikes it makes for a tough climb. When we did get there Thijs wanted to go and see it but Naomi and I said we were tired and wanted to go to the campsite, we’d see it in the morning !
After breakfast we cycled back up to San Gimignano and spent a good hour there taking photos, it was fantastic, very few people or cars and lots of little side streets to explore….brilliant. We found out later that this place is famous all over Italy because its a rehab centre, great place to get better.
Siena, didn’t know much about it before coming to Italy but its now our next stop, we arrived at the campsite and just about got our tents up before an almighty storm, it literally chucked it down, we put off going into Siena until we’d dried out a bit. As you might have guessed today’s ride was quite short, giving us plenty of time to go and look around this incredible town. Again it’s a medieval town situated atop a very big hill,and the views from here are amazing. In the centre of Siena is a huge piazza, they have a horse race here once a year which is also famous, we’ve seen the photos and it looks incredible. Around the edges of the piazza are restaurants and bars, tacky souvenir shops and a few good quality but pricey retail shops. What dominates the piazza is the church and campanile or tower, it’s huge !!
As we sat drinking beer looking at the tower we saw people going up it, from that moment we knew that’s what we’d be doing next. The queue was surprisingly short but the climb was steep and long with barely enough room to pass people on there way back down. Still no matter how hard the climb it was worth it, the views across the Tuscan landscape were truly amazing, red clay roofs and vineyards as far as you can see, stunning. We could also look down on the piazza from here, it really is huge.
Photos taken, oohs, aahhs and wows all done it was time for us to go back down, easier for us as there were less people trying to come up. A quick wander around Siena away from the piazza next, beautiful place, full of history but its obvious that the focus is the piazza as everywhere seems to lead back to it. We did however manage to find a few places mentioned in the guidebook before heading back to camp. We treated ourselves at camp and went for beer and pizza, both of which were excellent !!
The following day was one of our toughest days, a few really long hills through yet more fabulous scenery before climbing the biggest hill at the end of the day up to Monticello Amiata.
As villages go there’s not much here but it was one of my favourite campsites. We passed a supermarket on the way up to camp, only about 1km back, it was shut so we pitched our tents first before heading back to shop. Now Italian supermarkets are a bit odd, Italy hasn’t really embraced world culture or food so when you go shopping for food be prepared, it’s difficult to find anything else other than pasta in some places.
Now the campsite seemed family run and was very friendly added to this we had our own little pitch….our own space, wow !
Good showers, cold beers and Wi Fi all made it a very pleasant place to be. We found out via email that Luca, another TDA rider was on the other side of the hill, it would have been great to see him but that damned hill stopped him coming to us and us going to him, shame !
I was looking forward to the following morning as our route took us back to the coast towards Grosetto, first it was downhill for about 30km before it flattened out for the run into town. A beautiful ride down through forests and along rivers with the coast always in sight but some way off. We arrived in Grosetto slightly confused, we couldn’t find a road south towards Rome that wasn’t an autoroute, surely this wasn’t right !! We stopped at the tourist information, finally one that was open and not closed for lunch ! The lady informed us that it was true, there are no other roads south from Grosetto other than the autoroute. We could either go back the way we’d come ( not bloody likely ) or take a train, apparently were not the first cyclists she’s seen looking lost and confused. She knew exactly where we should go, what train, when, how and where so that’s what we did.
That’s a different story though so don’t forget to read my next blog 😉