Thank you very much. Italy again for another wonderful trip, and showing us more of your delightful country. Thank you very much as well – to Mr Mark for putting us up in his lovely Lucca flat, while Buster had some waterworks repaired (thank you very much to Elddis as well, for sorting that out).We won’t be saying any thanks to Covid for yet again making us change our plans and have to back track!
We headed to lovely Lucca last Saturday after a wonderful time, walking and touring a section of Portafino, Cinque Terre etc. The weather really hadn’t been that good, but that Saturday as we drove it held its own and we arrived at the Lucca Aire in sunshine, before reuniting with Mark.
Buster, due to no fault of his own, had developed a leak with his water tank. We would guess that somewhere along the miles, or from the bouncing ramps with the various ferries, we have hit something and a crack has been made. Unfortunately, again given the roads, twists and turns we could not afford to ignore this and Elddis had arranged for Buster to be repaired at a nearby dealer. So, on the Monday morning we dragged Mark out of his bed, way to early for him, as we picked up a hire-car and he then co-piloted me in Buster to the dealer.
With a tear in our eyes, we left our lovely motorhome and piled into the Fiat Panda to do a tour of the nearby Chianti wine region, and of course sample a few of the vintages. The weather was again, not brilliant with intermittent sunshine, thunderous skies as David pushed the tiny Fiat along the roads that dissect the picturesque ancient vineyards of Tuscany. Everywhere as drove we saw evidence of Chianti’s famed Black Cockerel trademark, before we stopped for our first vineyard tasting.
We were lulled into Castello di Gabbiano by it’s stunning castle and vine terraces tumbling down the hill from it. We were not disappointed and between the three of us purchased enough to forego any tasting fee.
The area is also known for its olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We have much olive oil in the van, but none Italian so D and I purchased a bottle of their finest, while Mark along with his wine, brought some balsamic.
As it was now beginning to get past lunchtime- the Italians aren’t quite as bad as the French for their 12-2pm only eating lunch rule, but not far off and so we headed to Greve for a light repass in the attractive central square. With the knowledge of further IT purchases for Marks flat and also a stock up food shop, we headed back to Lucca via Media World and Carrefour.
The next two days were a mini-break for the three of us, as we set off to see for us the last two Cinque Terre villages and for Mark, his first two. We had booked an ‘apartment’ in Riomaggiore for one night, so as to make the most of the villages and area. Riamaggiore, is the easternmost village, the largest of the five and the unofficial HQ, and the tiny harbour at the bottom of the steep ravine is one of the regions favourite ‘postcard’ views.
The apartment was smaller than the inside of our van, but without either the clever space or interior design, but never mind, it was only for one night and I managed to live with the two men’s snoring, although Marks did win the day.
The next day, we hopped on the train to the next village Manarola, paying our train fares as we went 😉. The whole area is a wash with terraced vines and this particular village is known for it’s sweet Sciacchetra wine.
However, we had got there fairly early and having again done all the appropriate ooh’s and ah’s, and not doing any of the walking paths around there, it was too early to try this wine and so we headed back to La Spezia and the car.
The day was thankfully quite lovely and so we decided to head to Port Venere, which is sort of an honorary sixth Terre member. It’s perched on the western promontory of the Gulf of Poets and for Mark it was the winner. It might have had something to do with the fact that the town is not perched on seemingly impregnable cliffsides and is much opener, almost. Some of the drops in the Cinque Terre villages we visited had made Marks stomach turn, along with mine, but all three of us had to admit that the trip had been very worthwhile and fun, seeing places that again we are lucky to still be able to visit and enjoy during these Covid times.
The drive back was nearly as memorable, as Mark decided he would take to the wheel and get some Italian driving experience in, before deciding if he should purchase a car whilst living here.
He had on the way, made us giggle with stories of other car hire holiday tales, and his son did comment back as to whether the Fiat had more than two gears. Unfortunately, one tale came home to roost again. Thankfully, the tunnel wasn’t too long, but D and I knew something was seriously wrong when silence took over the inside of the car and trust me, these two have made my ears bleed since meeting up again. The car stuttered slowly along, before David said “You only have 300 meters more, Mark”. Sunlight broke out again as we exited the tunnel and Mark pulled over into a layby, swiftly handing the car keys and steering wheel back to David. As a girl of many phobia’s and Italian tunnels up there as one of them, I could sympathise with his pain, but given the number of tunnels there are in Italy, we all agreed that trains and buses might be Marks best option in Italy. It was a few hours before the p- taking began between the boys over the incident, with Mark leading the charge on it and he was quite insistent that the event should be mentioned in the blog.
On Thursday, we got the call that Buster was ready to be picked up and so we collected our much missed home and again with Mark co-piloting, thankfully with no tunnels on route, as I’m not sure how the two of us in one vehicle sharing a phobia might have managed. With a few more IT bits to be done for Mark, our decided day to leave was to be Saturday and our route a ferry from Genova to Barcelona, but thanks to Covid that all got changed, or rather the route did, with our chosen ferry being cancelled and the next one not till January. We have thought much with the weather now turning autumnal as to where to go next. The main choice was either back to Greece or Spain and as tempting as Greece was, for many reasons we decided to stick with heading to Spain, unvisited on this trip, but much explored and loved in Nikki, our other beloved Elddis Encore in 2016.
Friday, brought David and I a real treat, as we amazingly met up with two more UK motorhomers, who also actually read this blog (who knew!!). We have not seen any family or friends on this trip, and again we have not been able to make new friends on our travels with other motorhomers, with everyone doing their best to do what they can to avoid Covid, but also enjoy some travelling and we have seen very few other UK motorhomers at all. But like buses, two couples arrived and we met up with each of them on that Friday.
Unfortunately, due to other happenings we could not spend the amount of time we would have liked to with the each of them, and swap the full motorhome tales-toilets, near misses etc, nor did we manage to get to see either of them again on the Saturday at the Aire before we all left, but Grazie Mille to you all for sharing your time and lifting our spirits as to the fact we’re not the only UK travellers out there!.
We are now back 3 weeks later in one of our fav places- St Tropez after driving today some 250k’s in the pouring rain and through many, many of Marks nightmares to continue our journey on to the south of Spain. In some ways it’s quite a blessing to be back in this part of France as I have drunk all of my Provence rose wines and so I can throw out David’s golf clubs and re-stock!
Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and so we are going to do nothing but lie naked on the beach topping up our tans, as you do when in St T.
Grazie Mille to you all and here’s hoping we get into Spain