After returning from ‘Soggy Sardinia’, we drove up towards Pisa, planning to stay at a campsite near there, which sounded lovely, being right on a lake.
The weather was so horrible that we decided to try a more developed place near Florence, hoping that the puddles might drain away more quickly there. We followed the trusty camping app, that had not let us down once, but had no luck finding the whizzy sounding place. (Bar and restaurant and decent shower block and and and….) It was a game of follow the dot on a map, along some very narrow, unforgiving roads, with walls that make the hedgerows in Cornwall look like cushions. We arrived at the exact location and there was only a field. Nooooooo! When I checked out its website, it had been bought out by a big campsite company and was closed (for ever or until the summer, who knows?).
We then followed the app to another campsite just north of Florence in a place called Fiesole. The road was a bit of a shocker; they love their narrow lanes to be edged by unforgiving walls round here. We went up and up and up until we arrived at the aptly named Panoramique campsite. (I suspect it would have been better to follow the signs to Fiesole, because they can get buses along that route.) Luckily (?) the rain was hammering down, so we could choose place to park without huge puddles and the place was pretty empty.
Despite the weather, we could just about make out the magnificent view over Florence.
We managed to set up properly, cook a meal and settle down in the tent, without too much discomfort (mantra no. 1 ‘it’s only water’) but we were woken up at about 2 am by some huge but weirdly short gusts of wind that sounded as if they were going to blow us away. Poor old Tim ended up going outside to tighten up all the guy ropes while I battened down the hatches inside the tent.
Next day (after a surprisingly good night’s sleep) we went for a little stroll around the local town. Fiesole is a little gem of a place. I suspect you have to pay extra to get a room WITHOUT a view in the local hotels.
Someone has made a killing on fancy individually painted gas cover paintings locally
We saw emergency bread banks in Belgium, but this seemed a bit much of an Italian cliché
They do like to commemorate things, but there was a very touching garden of remembrance, with plaques commemorating soldiers who died in both world wars. We then spotted the plaques that listed the partisans, (men, women and children) who also died during WW2.
There were an awful lot of plaques and monuments to these three Caribiniere, who are known as the three heroes of Fiesole, shot by firing squad.
For such a small town there was hods to see and we loved it, despite the dreadfully overpriced and second-rate restaurant (OK, it had a fab view, but in Fiesole, so what?).
After a couple of days the sun came out and we went to explore Florence, which is a beautiful city.
We were going to do the cultural bit, but the queues were horrendously long, so we just did our usual meandering, eating and drinking, even, finally trying the obligatory Italian ice cream.
The chocolate shops had guard rabbits to scare away small children
Other scary things too
On our last full day we went for a nice walk through the local wild area, where we came across the place where (apparently) Leonardo de Vinci carried out his experiments with human flight. Really???? I thought he did it all on paper.
Nice place though. We wandered on and found a lovely little sculpture park in an old stone quarry, complete with the start ship enterprise and the artist in residence.
After a very nice snack lunch in the main square of Fiesole,
we wandered back to the campsite and sorted some stuff out and then cooked dinner. At this point we became aware of an altercation between the nice lady from reception and a German man. He ended up peering around our awning and asking when we were leaving. It seemed that he had booked our pitch for that day, (we had jammily picked the best pitch in the whole campsite) but there was no way we were going to re-pitch the tent. He seemed content with our answer that we were intending to move on the next day (Yes, in the morning) so apart from Tim and me giggling a lot, it was all just peachy. It WAS pretty full by then.
Well it was all just peachy, until the following morning when we started packing up the Bushpack and found it was pretty wet in there. It was so wet in the roof rack sack that Tim managed to let out gallons of water (I am not exaggerating) and it was so bad that he had to re-pack Camel nose uphill to get the rest of the water out (or, so we thought).
We had decided that we wanted to pop into Bologna to have an ogle at the Ducati factory and then go onto Milan to enable us to visit The Last Supper painting in a church there.
We followed the sat nag to the factory and I suggested that Tim might like to go into the museum, it was worth a shot. No way, you have to book at least a week in advance, but we could hang around for a couple of hours in case anybody dropped out. Nah! We were more concerned with making sure we had somewhere to stay for the night. Something told me they get a lot of school groups
On to Milan then, past this rather cool railway station
We found a respectable looking campsite on the outskirts of Milan (usual theme, wash block being done up and the cafe not open yet)(Heated washrooms and a charming menagerie, however)
and decided to spend the next day drying out and washing clothes. When we took our bags out of the Bushpack, we realised it was going to be a bit harder than that. The ski boots were full of water and the bag of spare clothes was wet through; there was so much water in the pack that it had managed to get right over the top of the bag and into the waterproof lining. The sun had been shining merrily for a few days and the contents smelled like a swamp. It felt very strange to be sunning ourselves near Milan, with ski boots for company.
We looked into visiting the Last Supper, but ,of course, you have to book at least a week ahead. Meh! I decided it would be nice to have a little trip into Milan, as I had never been there, so (on the advice of the somewhat distracted reception lady, who was trying to help someone else on the phone at the time) we caught the bus into the city. If only we had read all the information on the back of the campsite map, we would have got off at the right stop and used the metro to go to the city centre….. We ended up in another suburb, tried to catch an overland train, but couldn’t work out how to buy tickets for it (a surprisingly difficult thing to do), caught the bus back to (what we thought was) the stop for the metro, causing amusement for a nice lady that had seen us going the other way, got off two stops too early and then thought ‘what the heck’ and decided to find a bar for some lunch. (There are no public loos, so you might guess why I was quite so keen to stop, by this stage). We had a couple of beers and some beautifully fresh salads, overlooking the L’Oreal factory and the nicely dressed executives from the same (boy, are we worth it).
By this stage, we thought, ‘blow it’ and went back to enjoy the afternoon sunshine in the campsite and sort out Camel. There was a little bit of ammusement to be had watching this bloke
take his drain cleaner for a walk
But with temperatures up to 24 degrees C it was a lovely little break!