13th March to 19th Long Way Home Update!
We woke up with this as our view after our first night o Elba.The island of Elba is one of the loveliest places you can go in Italy, a myriad of beautiful beaches to suit all tastes sandy, pebbly and all types in between. The main town of Portoferraio has a luminosity about it with a wonderful fortress, Martello tower and a lovely port.
The countryside around is majestic and the roads were great fun to get around in NiKi. So we gave up and hired a car for two days so we could visit as many places as possible. Napoleon was imprisoned here, but as a ruler as reformed everything. Improving sanitation roads, improving agriculture. In just 300 days he changed the island completely, and in just three we were able to get a true flavour of it. We had researched where to stay as we took a late ferry over and in pitch darkness, only to find the site closed, parked on the beach for the night. The next day we found there is only one option in winter, Orti del Mare a small campsite that offers inexpensive motorhome stops, and one with ‘full fat’ luxury facilities. As this was a break, we chose the latter and had an extraordinary view over the sea.
We would recommend it, and the island highly, at the recommendation of the lady at the tourist office we had a lunch treat at Teatro Bistro in Portoferraio, really fantastic local food run by a young couple, upholding traditional cuisine.
Fortified by our lunch we were back on the ferry to the mainland heading to Siena one of the many jewels in Tuscany’s crown. The core of the town is fully medieval and the Piazza del Campo did not disappoint, it is full of grandeur and with the sun shining a perfect place to have a picnic or gelato. Just sit down and watch the world go by. Our budget is stretched a bit in Italy but Siena allows for this, great sandwich shops that sell pizza slices to full pasta heaven for a few Euro, we found Consorzio Agrario Di Siena on Via Pianigiani offered the best. Grom on Via Banchi di Sopra was the gelato of choice! On top of that just walking around soaking up the atmosphere was enough for us here.
We had booked another treat lunch at a famous Chianti winery the next day so in the late evening headed off to a cute town nearby called Greve in Chianti and visited the largest wine tasting Enoteca (shop) in Italy so we were told. We were able to taste many different wines and wander around the town that is considered the heart of the Chianti region.
Wine tasting heaven.
We stopped at one of the largest vineyards for our St. Patrick’s day lunch, parking NiKi beside the Maserati’s, Porsches, and other magnificent cars she felt perfectly at home. Antinori nel Chianti Classico is an imposing place all steel and modern architecture, the food and service are old school Italian, perfect. Not cheap, but an affordable as a treat, if you are near here we would recommend it.
Fully fed we set off for the magic that is Florence, we are under some pressure to move on as we really must go home and get jobs again so our deadline is the first week of June and we want to relax a bit in Croatia. Elddis have set us a little task of visiting as many UNESCO world heritage sites with Florence we will have visited fourteen with one more to come before we take the ferry to our 16th, we were a little UNESCO’ed out so our visit to Elba was a way of relaxing. But Florence ticks all the boxes for a visit and though we rationed ourselves to one full day it was a dream place to visit, the heart and soul of the renaissance and rebirth of European culture. We chose to visit one museum, the Uffizi, we queued for an hour to get in and at €8 was a steal, stupendous art, beautifully presented and well explained. UNESCO heaven, then a stroll around to the Cathedral, amazing a bit like a classic wedding cake crossed with the Taj Mahal. Very very beautiful, the interior was much starker and nearly menacing but enjoyable and religious in feel. The Ponte Vecchio is very alluring with the river flowing under all that gold! Again a whistle stop tour but after 10 hours ambling around we had gained a feel for that great city. Yes David’s gelato challenge was added to here with a visit to Vivoli on Via dell’Isola delle Stinche being our choice here. Gorm, in Siena we felt was better and they have a branch in Florence as well.
Back to NiKI and the next morning we left Florence to visit Arezzo not on everyone’s tour but we had seen La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful (1997) ) Roberto Benigni’s tragic comedy set in the town and wanted to visit. If you can do visit this magnificent little town, the heart is there, and has a real feel of what Italy is really about, the piazza is sort of a miniature Siena with better food! There is lots to see and do and it is very accessible. Oh by the way, do watch the film if you get the chance it is very good, if a bit sad, as well as funny.
We are still in a sort of rush to make Ancona to catch Tuesdays ferry so we left Arezzo and have parked up beside Italy’s fourth largest lake at a lovely Aire in Castiglione del Lago. We are parked less than 100 yards from the lake with a great view. We mix and match where we stay from Campsites to Freedom / Wild camping. Life in a motorhome gives you flexibility to explore see places you would never go to on a two week break. We recommend taking a look at all options at where to stay. Tonight we are guests of the town on their Sosta as they call them here. They charge €12 and for that you get a place to park electricity water and waste disposal, all with a view of the lake. We have reviewed every place we have stayed at in Spain and the Long Way Home. If you want to take look click on the red words and you will see the Google map and all those lovely spots for you to enjoy too.
So having started in Italy a tad annoyed we would have to conclude that like everywhere it has its good and its bad. But all in all as the director said, ‘La vita è bella’ live life and enjoy it.
Until next week and Croatia…..
Our Route This Week