Didn't quite make it.

The Cathedral & Campanile, or Bell tower

The Baptistry

The Campanile, or Bell Tower

THURSDAY 19-09-19

Well that was a bit of a noisy night. First we had a falling out between three motorhomers, who according to our Brit camping neighbours this morning, was between a German, a Frenchman and a Swede. I seems the German couple were being rather noisy and were challenged by the other two. It was quite loud, and maybe it seemed louder because we'd just gone to bed. Anyhow by this morning only the Frenchman remains onsite here in Dodge City.

At 01:50 the thunderstorms commenced, and my word they were noisy. It's times like that you wish you had a tiled roof over your head. The storms along with the associated very heavy rain came in waves and lasted, on and off, for three or four hours. The alarm clock had been set for 07:00 with the intension of catching the 09:05 bus from down the road in to Florence arriving about 10:00, which is when the Cathedral opens its doors. But when the alarm went off I felt as if I hadn't slept much at all, and I knew The Chef would feel the same, so I told her to stay where she was - we'll go in later, so we closed our eyes again.

Having paid over the odds for some crusty bread up at the campsite shop and turned it in to lunch we made our way down to the bus stop to catch the 14:00 bus in to Florence. Naturally it was running late, it wouldn't be Italian if it wasn't either late or none existent. This meant that we got in to the city about 15:10 having hit a lot of traffic. We had a few navigation problems to begin with but eventually arrived at the cathedral at 15:30, just one hour before it closed being a Thursday. However having looked at the length of the queue for those with tickets, and the queue of those waiting to get tickets, I told The Chef I wasn't bothered about waiting around that long just to get to climb to the top of the Cathedral's dome. She did point out that my going to the top was the reason we came here, and I agreed, but said that life was too short to be spent standing in queues.

So we mooched around. The sun had finally broken through, it having been a cool and cloudy day up until then. Once again there were lots of Yanks around. There were even slim ones. Once we'd decided we'd about had enough we started to make our way back stopping off for an ice cream each on the way. I had what I thought was a one scoop, four euro cornet, and The Chef had a six euro ice cream in a tub. Obviously I was given two scoops because we were charged a whopping fourteen euros which is about twelve pounds fifty. Never mind Florence, this will probably be the last time you get to screw us.

The journey home on the bus was quite straightforward due, thankfully to The Chef, who remembered the problems we had last year and where the bus station was eventually to be found.

On our arrival back at the campsite Camping Village Poggetto, we found we had new neighbours. Yet more Germans, who as caravanners, can never have enough space for their pitch and have managed to spread themselves out very nicely, though I have yet to see the obligatory folding rotary clothes airer.

Tomorrow we are on the road first thing heading towards Bologna, a city which got the better of us last year in that I couldn't come up with a workable solution for parking the motorhome ................. but this year.................... I have a plan.

A picture in a shop window of the horse racing

Piazza Del Compo

WEDNESDAY 18-09-19

Well it was very fortunate that I got chatting late yesterday afternoon to a Brit who had parked his car next to us. He was telling us the way in to the city, and had we not been told we'd have been scratching our heads that's for sure. Having now done it I have to say that where we have parked, in what has turned out to be a very large public car park which no longer charges, not even for motorhome overnight parking (GPS: N43.33323˚ E11.31739˚), proved to be a perfect location.

So this morning after a lovely hot shower, we walked for about five minutes to the railway station. Opposite that is a small indoor shopping complex, but what it also has inside are a series of escalators and moving walkways climbing up across a valley and in to the city centre. Once at the top a left turn and a fifteen minute walk max', and we were there. Such a relief, and so much easier than when we were here last year and walked in to town from a different parking area.

We walked through the Siena backstreets until we came across the Piazza Del Compo. This is a large, paved, public area, so large that in August they create an oval track covered in sand and have horse races on it. We spent a little time there before making our way towards the Cathedral. Last year The Chef went inside for a look around. You have to pay, but last time we were there in the evening and she was quickly through the system having bought a ticket and entered the Duomo, or Cathedral. Today however, there was firstly a queue to buy a ticket, and then having got one, a queue to join for entry in to the Cathedral. Having seen a flyer for it today, and seeing how ornate it is inside I wished I'd gone for a look round it last year. But there was no way I was going to endure the process today.

The heat on this trip has been quite sapping. Every day apart from the wet day back in Villenueve-Loubet has been very humid and 30˚C+, and a good few degrees hotter than I had anticipated.

So anyway we eventually concluded that we had probably seen all that was worth seeing on our brief visit here last year and were just going over old ground, so decided to make our way back 'home'. Once back we considered various options and went for upping sticks after lunch and heading towards Florence where I am hoping to climb to the top of the Cathedral for a view of the city. So back on the road heading along the bumpy, twisting, but free motorway back towards Florence. From now on we are heading north and thus slowly making our way home.

We were making for a Camperstop which was supposed to hold 125 motorhomes and offer all facilities including electricity, with the added bonus that it was only 2km, about a mile, out of the city centre. Oh dear, it was just a small public car park in which motorhomes need to take up two narrow parking spaces to fit in, and worst, and most annoying of all was that there was no electricity available, nor has there ever been. So now I've got to offer feedback on both of these camperstops to the publishers. It's only by offering such feedback that the information in the books can remain accurate. We were only there about forty minutes, just long enough for me to dump the black waste and top up the fresh water tank. We had decided instead to head for the campsite we used here last time. It's quite a long way out of the city, Camping Village Poggetto (GPS:N43.701294˚ E11.405310˚) warranting a bus ride tomorrow morning all the way back at a cost of seven euro's each return.

So quite a long day all told, brightened up by The Chef going online with her iPad this evening and telling me that there are thunderstorms forecast here tonight with a cool, cloudy day tomorrow. Heaven.

Pisa, Italy

The acoustics in the Baptistery, Pisa, Italy

Old Town

Leaning Tower and Cathedral

The Baptistery

The Baptistery, Cathedral and leaning Tower

TUESDAY 17-09-19

It was a bit of a worry last night when our gas boiler wouldn't fire up, not even after checking right through the system. We were beginning to think we may have to cut this current all-too-brief trip short as a consequence. Luckily when I got up during the night as us old gits seem to need to do, I thought I'd give it a try and thank The Lord it worked just fine, don't ask me why it had a hissy fit, I've no idea, but I will get it checked and service when we get back home.

We arose in good time so that we could try and get to the 'Leaning Tower Complex' in good time before too many coach loads of tourists turned up.

Our overnight Pisa coach and car parking area (GPS: N43.729508˚ E10.391688˚) is a great location, and basically as we walk out of the car park towards the railway line we can see the tops of the monuments right there and then. This is the second time we've been here and we've yet to see a train on the railway line that we cross, but never mind, despite that as we were about to cross, the bells started ringing as a warning that a train was on coming, so I looked both ways down the track - nothing. So while we deliberated about just walking across, what I thought was an open crossing with warnings, The Chef looked up to see the crossing barriers coming down and called out to me otherwise one of them would have cracked me on the head, so not a good start to the day. I suppose that's what us old people do, suck toffees and have accidents.

We were soon at the complex of the Cathedral, the Leaning Tower which is its bell tower and the Baptistry, an annex of the Cathedral. We were later, and as a consequence it was busier than last time, but still fairly satisfactory. I was interested in visiting the Baptistry again because the last time we were there one of the folk who checked the tickets (€5 each for just the Baptistry) popped through and gave what I, as a philistine,  can only describe as a chant, to demonstrate the acoustics within the building, but I failed to record it. Sadly he wasn't there today, but having enquired, we were told that the 'singing' would be at 09:00, that was only a couple of minutes to wait, and so I dashed up the stone staircase the balcony from where I intended to video the event. Unfortunately I missed the very beginning of it (a young lad with a willing heart, but not nearly as good as the other guy) and having legged it all the way up the staircase I was having to try and suppress my deep breathing from being out of puff while recording it.

After it was over I found the lad and asked him if he would repeat it if I gave him €10. He said that he was not allowed to either accept money or do extra 'performances'. I couldn't believe my ears. An Italian telling me he couldn't take money. I asked him when he would do it again and he said it was every half an hour and so we I decided to sit it out for half an hour and catch it then. The irony is that there were only four people present at the time. The Chef and I, plus a young couple who came in, spotted a machine which, for a couple of euro's would give the listener the history of the Baptistry through two sets of headphones. I kid you not, they stood there immersed in their world of video representation whilst this guy performed a 'chant'; basically, he told me it was of the same note, and that couple were completely unaware it was all going on. So the bonus was I got to see it again for free without a crowd, which was a result.

Then we hung around for the opening of the Cathedral at 10:00. My word that half an hour dragged. Never mind, we got in first having been right at the front of the queue for half an hour and were rewarded with - yet another rather dismal Cathedral interior. They don't do a lot for me most of the time I have to say, but The Chef likes looking in them. We again didn't bother going up the Leaning Tower at €18 a shot, it wasn't that important to us.

After a bit of a walk towards the Old Town and back we arrived at our 'home' for lunch followed by our getting the vehicle ready, and hitting the road. Next stop Siena.

It wasn't a particularly good journey, with our spending quite a lot of time on a 'motorway' as opposed to a toll road, and these things are rather substandard. There were even sections of contra-flow, so they could resurface the road, but when we got back on to the stretches they had already done they still had the characteristic lumps and bumps in the surface, they'd done nothing to improve the surface before laying another coat of tarmac.

So anyway, here we are on the outskirts of Siena for the night in a freebie car park. Tomorrow we will walk in to Siena for a nice look around before hitting the road again in the evening.

 

At Pisa, Italy

A late lunch at a small Truckstop

MONDAY 16-09-19

At last, today was the day we cast off our shackles and escaped Rin Tin Tin and the Deaf Dutch. We were up in good time and set about finishing off the chores before leaving. We had been without electricity since yesterday evening which wasn't helpful. It wasn't just us, our French neighbours had also suffered a failure. Never mind, after a visit to the supermarket for some fresh bits and pieces and paying our bill we were on our way. Well, when I say 'on our way' I mean off to the other supermarket down the road which is more motorhome friendly when it comes to being able to access the fuel pumps. Tank filled at about €1.45 a litre we were on our way down on to the toll road towards Pisa in Italy.

Needless to say, on paper the trip should have been quite straightforward but we had to cope with the toll road bridge which collapsed in central Genoa. Given that the bridge must have collapsed over a year ago, the Italians have had ample time to sort out a well signposted detour around the obstacle. But this is Italy, the nation which does nothing properly except produce rank armpits to keep the flies away, and build very fast cars which have to be exported because Italian roads are too bad to drive them on.

We were tossed between listening to the satnav and following road signs to who knows where which resulted in us going round in a circle on the local toll road system picking up tickets from machines, and pushing them back in at the exits as we went . Twice we went round the system before ignoring the satnav all together and trying to focus on a road sign that would get us out of the mess. We were truly beginning to believe we were never to escape the Italian 'Detour', and destined to have spent eternity going round and round - oh how we laughed!

We eventually spotted a sign which was for a location in the direction we were heading for and took that. For quite some time I expected us to finish up right back where we started, but when I spotted green fields and trees, I guessed we had finally broken free.

At the start of the trip the satnav had informed us that the trip from Villenueve-Loubet in France, to Pisa in Italy would take five and a half hours, for what was about a two hundred mile trip. Now for all its faults the timings the satnav gives are usually pretty accurate, and damned me if it wasn't spot on for this trip, so how the hell did it know that we would spend loads of time circling the suburbs and toll roads of Genoa?

Within the last few miles of the journey, having left the toll road, we came across a Q8 garage knocking diesel out at €1.41 a litre, so in we swung to top up. Hopefully if we keep bumping in to such garages as we need them we can keep our fuel costs down.

So here we are this evening parked up at the very large public car and coach park just a short walk from the Leaning Tower of Pisa etc. There are only three of us motorhomers here tonight, us flying the flag for the UK and two French snail-chewers. I have deployed the folding solar panel in the windscreen in the hope we can get a bit of freebie electricity to keep the habitation battery topped up.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and do what needs to be done here before then setting off for Siena which is not too far away.