Slept a lot better last night. Used a mozzie coil and probably had enough wine. Walked to the market. Poured with rain. Still a thunderstorm hanging around.
Walked to the Uffizi. The queue was a mile long. Left it. Walked to Academia. Same problem. Looked in shops a bit. Got soaking wet. Finally bought an umbrella just before the rain stopped. Bought a pair of leather shoes!
Drove to San Gimignano. A walled city. Found accommodation in a convent (Youth Hostel was closed) for 35000L. Not bad. Clean.
Drove to Volterra. Another walled city. Nothing much but scenery around the whole area is lovely. Bit like Provence.
Walked around San Gimignano looking for some cheap salad for dinner. Got ripped off for 9000L for one old focaccia sandwich and 2 bruschetta when I only wanted one.
Had a glass of Chianti in a bar so that Mark could watch some soccer. Saw Italy score a goal.
Showers and toilets were disgusting! Blocked drains. Room was good.
Had to take a sleeping tablet last night. Traffic was so consistently noisy. Had a good sleep after that. Woke up about 2 minutes before the knock on the door for brekkie. A major disappointment! One mouthful of coffee and a croissant with lemon icing. Yuck!
Headed straight off out of Lucca for Pisa. Leaning tower was gorgeous. Very small and cute. Very impressed with it.
Other monuments also very nice. Lovely marble.
Rest of Pisa nothing much. Drove towards Florence. Still haven’t found any bakeries or shops.
Went through a few towns on the way. Nothing open. Totally crapped off. Concerned that Florence looks a bit big and busy to drive into and find accommodation in so turned off highway for Sienna and and thought that we would get accommodation there and then train to Florence.
We drove into a town and found a car park outside a gorgeous old building and better still finally found an open bar where we had some lunch. Lovely pasta etc. We asked where we were and found out that we had fallen straight into the heart of Florence!
We walked around and found some accommodation and realised that we were in the centre of Florence and within walking distance to everything! We were parked outside the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) and the Ponte Vecchio was just a few blocks away! Florence wasn’t so big and hard to navigate after all!
Stayed at La Scaletta Pensione. Expensive at 125000L per night with bath but quiet. Couldn’t sleep for mosquitos though… Brekkie not bad. All monuments, museums etc that we wanted to see were closed on Sunday! Except for the Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore . Paid to walk to the top but couldn’t make it past the bottom of the dome. Too claustrophobic in crowds…
Went into Picasso display but it didn’t mean that much to us as we didn’t know much about him. Had spent our time learning about Van Gogh instead.
Everything closed at lunch time. Had a siesta. Did our washing after much walking. Did a bit of shopping but didn’t buy anything.
Had dinner with another Australia called Colin. He was very nice. Bought Gelati and walked afterwards. Then had wine together back at the hotel.
There was a thunderstorm this afternoon. Rang Mum and Dad this morning.
Very noisy last night. Very loud TV in the next room. Mark had to get the occupant to turn it down. They turned it off. This was about 12.00.
Traffic roared past. Cars started tooting their horns up and down the road. Probably because the World Cup game had finished. After TV went off, I miraculously fell asleep all night. Woke up to more traffic this morning.
Had breakfast at the bar. Help yourself to a croissant. They turned out to have apricot jam in the middle. Glass of OJ and lukewarm, small cappuccino.
Headed off for Geove. Turned off torturous coastal road and traffic jams at Savona. Italian Riveria so far is disgusting.
Autostrade to Genova was a dream. Cost 3500L. Well worth it. Genova was the indescribably hike U gave ever come across. Couldn’t find the city centre. Got lost and lost. Car parks were full. Shops all shuttered and closed. Probably for lunch. Drove for nearly an hour trying to find a park or get out. Set in a cliff I think. Ended up from bottom to top and down again. Finally left without seeing it. headed for La Spezia. Saw an old man knocked off his motor scooter by an ambulance!
Towns finally got nicer. Lots of lovely examples of Tromp d’oeil on the houses. Pretty coloured houses. Soft pinks etc with painted on architecture.
Stopped at Recco to find some lunch. Nearly everything shut again. Finally found some coffee and some pizza. Coffee 2500L and barely a mouthful. They are getting smaller!
Scenery is getting nicer and nicer. Then we drove into Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. Superb! A tropical paradise! Houses are from a fairy tale. Streets are winding. Harbour is a picture with cruise ships and yachts. Too pretty for words!
Climbed to the lighthouse at Portofino through lush, cool gardens. View was superb. There was a tiny Gelateria a the top which sold the best capuzzino for 2000L in a decent size cup. They were 5000L down in the bay. It would have to be one of the most beautiful paradises on earth. Unfortunately the other half of the world thinks so too. Not too crowded at the lighthouse.
Drove back to Santa Margherita and managed to find accommodation in a hotel/pensione (Hotel Nuova Riviera) a couple of blocks from the centre. Has a little balcony and is ont he 2nd floor of a building separate to the one that reception in in (that was full). There are about 4 or 5 rooms that all open out onto a little foyer where there is a nice bathroom and toilet. 75000L per night without facilitates in the room but very nice and owner was very friendly.
Walked around Santa Margherita then went out to dinner.
Tracked down a lovely little Ristorante using Lets Go book. Difficult to get accommodation. Lots full because of the weekend.
Meals were nice but not fantastic. Position and setting of restaurant was good. Wine was ordinary. 32 000L.
Walked around and had a gelato afterwards. About 25 deg C at 10.00pm. Just nice.
A rather noisy night last night. We were on the 4th floor and it was stifling. had windows open for a while, risking the mozzies but had to shut it to get some quiet.
Went out for brekkie. Walked and walked through last night’s touristy area then around towards the old area. Mark got sick of walking so had to stop at a rather boring looking cafe near the park but it had a reasonable breakfast – croissant, baguette, chocolate croissant, yoghurt, coffee for 35F. Not bad.
Was going to leave Nice then but saw a sign to a flower market. Got the car and parked it near there and found the lovely old area and a huge market. Flowers, fruit, vegetables etc. All surrounded by the lovely old streets.
Lots of backpackers coming out of our hotel as we were near the train station. Mopeds everywhere. Did some washing before brekkie and chatted to a nice old Spanish guy.
Drove towards Italy via Monaco and Monte Carlo. Spectacular coastline around St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Stopped at Monaco. Very small, clean, nice town. Went through the palace. Lavish but smallish rooms. Very nice. Well worth a look.
Whizzed through Monte Carlo, then spotted the beach there and decided to have a swim. Very pebbly. No sand. Bit uncomfortable to walk on but not bad to lie on and better than sand. Water was slightly chilly but quite bearable.
Nice little beach near the Casino. Quite a few people but not too crowded. Sunbaked topless like 50% of others. Drove on and crossed the border into Italy!
Italian Riviera is not as nice as the French Riviera so far. Deteriorated to grittiness in some areas. Noisy scooters and bikes everywhere. Deafening.
Traffic jams in some towns along the coast. People casually slung on motor bikes everywhere with children on the front and back. No helmet sometimes and no protective gear. Was 25 deg C at 7.00pm. A beautiful haze on the horizon that blended sea with sky so you couldn’t tell the difference.
Money difficult to comprehend. So many 000s. Stopped to get out some Lire from the bank, buy a dictionary and go to the loo. Cafe/Bar was cheap for cafe at $3.00 for 2.
Drove and drove and drove through various coastal towns, traffic jams, horrendous noise etc. Had a destination in mind but it got to 8.00pm and we were sick of it, so we stopped at Hotel Tre Torri that cost 80 000 life ($75) but has a fridge and space. Sick of driving. Had a shower.
Drove into town a bit looking for dinner. Hard to find. Ended up in an extremely noisy ristorante (Pizzeria – Ristorante – Pub ‘Eco Del Mare’ with about 30 young military guys having a great time, watching soccer, drinking heaps and singing. Food was good and cheap. Had gnocchi with tomato sauce and Mark had cheese pizza. Waitress spoke English so it wasn’t too bad ordering. 23000L.
Asked for a salad at dinner and was given a bowl of lettuce, tomato, carrot and separate bottles of oil and rose coloured vinegar to mis our own dressing on it. Yum!
Bought some constipation tablets today. Got sick of it. Was great going!
Hard to face another language and currency. Got used to French.