We stayed at Peter’s a day or so longer than intended even though there wasn’t much we could do locally without a car and were being harassed by mosquitoes. Also Aidan had a bad cold and spent a whole day lying on the sofa watching Octonauts. So, after six days of being in one place and just taking it easy absorbing some Italian life we were definitely ready to move on. We headed for Verona (via the wine co-op to stock up on a little bit more Soave!). There is a lovely city camperstop which we punted for – fairly quiet and tree lined by a canal. We put Aidan in the pushchair as he still wasn’t tiptop and had a moochy couple of hours looking around. What a beautiful city! Not too crowded or hectic, just a nice place to spend some time. We returned to the van for dinner and a rest then headed back out in the evening to see the castle and the medieval bridge as it got dark. Good fun! Although a few late night bevvies would have topped it off nicely – ahhh alas.
The next morning we set off early to see the main square and wander the shops and small streets – standard old city stuff! We should have made the effort to climb the tower, but carrying a 3 year old (which is inevitable) and Aidan not feeling his best we thought better of it and just enjoyed our massive fruit salads from the market whilst watching a guy DJing chilled funky music. We finished up with an hour in the park and were able to get out of our carpark before the time ticked over 24hours!
Our onward plans were a bit fuzzy. We hadn’t decided on a route for the next stage of our trip (and this was really feeling like a new stage) and so we drove out of Verona with only a vague idea to continue South into the hills. From there we’d make a better plan! So we drove about 2 hours into the Emilia-Romagna region and stopped at a free stop on the edge of a small non descript town. We waved at the Ferrari factory as we went through Maranello! As seemed to be the norm now in Italy a lot of concentration is required while driving the bumpy, slightly too narrow roads with very twisty exits and slip roads – poor Matt, he was ready to stop!
But here we are, in our lovely wooded carpark and we made dinner and had a little walk. That evening Matt and I made a plan and decided not to head any further South, but start to go across to the West coast (the Cinque Terre national park) and follow it round in to Southern France. This will give us a chunk of time to explore Spain as well – and not be too far to get home. Home?! Wow… yes…. this was another thing that was dawning on us and started to feel weird. We were over half way on our trip. Even though there are 2 months in front of us the downward slope is all too real. We don’t have any planned dates for anything like meeting people – it’s all just open and we need to choose how we end this!
Enjoy the moment! Of course its so simple – sort of. The next morning we tried to do out first Geocache in the parkland by the van, but there wasn’t a cache to actually find, just an ancient tree. We wandered into the town which was all go with the massive Saturday morning market! Then we met a lovely Italian man who parked up that morning with his family. He came over for a chat and after hearing our plans confirmed our ideas were on the right track, and gave us some suggestions etc! Grazie! Raring to go we packed up and started the one and a half hour drive West to one of the only campsites en route that we could find. Post lunch drive = sleeping kids. Perfect!
This was our first real feel of Italian countryside – rolling hills, rivers etc. In the distance we could see more dramatic rocky hills. For some reason even though we were pretty close to our destination I started looking at campercontact for any cheap/free stops around the place we were approaching. Maybe the drive was feeling long again. I spotted that you are able to stay overnight in the carpark at the top of the massive rocky outcrop Bismantova we’d just driven past – see pics! We U-turned and drove the 5 mins up the hill. Being a Saturday the carpark was full so we did what everyone else was doing and parked on the grass verge further down and went for a wander. It all felt very exciting. This was a mecca for climbers and there were lots of groups of people everywhere. There was a bar/cafe a the top and loads of picnic tables and national walking trails. We made dinner in the van and waited until the evening, when people were leaving, to grab a spot in the carpark! There were about 5 other campers too – so felt safe – a great find! Matt felt quite ill the next morning after getting Aidan’s cold so wasn’t up to much and we decided to just stay all day and a second night. Our biggest##### weakness with “freecamping” is not having enough fresh water, and as we hadn’t been to a campsite or seen a tap for a couple of days we were low. But the cafe sold bottled water so we bought that (along with coffee and croissants for brekkie!)
Levanto was our next stop (as recommended to us by carpark man) and we set off in the morning for the 2 hour drive – hoping the buy some lunch on the way. The drive was amazing/hard work! It was a good road but was winding round, up and down and all through the dramatic hills of the national parc Tosca-Emiliano to the coast. It just went on and on! Also, this was the first time we noticed Autumn as all the trees were changing colours, so there were beautiful multicoloured hillsides. We had a pitstop in Fivizzano and hoped to get a pizza. But as seems to be the case in most of rural Europe , no-one is ever around and everything is a bit closed! We went to the bakery and each got a slice of Foccacia instead… and this was the first of many Foccacias over the next week or so! We were now entering Foccacia region… who knew?!
The first 2 campsites we tried in Levanto were full. FULL!! It’s the beginning of October?! Anyhoo, Matt called the third one and there was space. We loved Pian De Piche – we were housed in the extra bit of green at the front of the campsite which mean’t we had more space than the standard pitches (the Italians love to pack everyone in) It was nice to camp with a mixture of campers again and a younger crowd, not just rows of motorhomes (I will have to expand on this another time in my Love/Hate motorhomers blog – this post is going to be long enough as it is!!) We made a good camp and didn’t really feel like leaving too soon – we did 4 nights. We are definitely enjoying our longer stays in places. Levanto is lovely and felt very Italian with people zipping about in Ape’s and scooters, and we made the most of our days there on the beach and eating Foccacia. It was the first time we’d seen the sea since Rugen. That feels a while ago now! Our big day was seeing the Cinque Terra which is a collection of 5 very old coastal villages built into the cliffs along the coastal coves. You can’t drive there but there is a train connecting them all and also the coastal path and boats. This was a brilliant day. Beautiful weather and and great atmosphere. We chose a boat back from the last village to Monterosso where we had a swim before getting the train back for dinner at the campsite. (oh and more Foccacia. Seriously you need to try it!)
Italy was fast becoming a cliche of wine, coffee and food. (Which is cheap!) We were really getting into the swing of it and it felt like we were on a proper holiday 🙂 Looking back on it, we think it was a bit of a jolt coming into Italy after so many weeks travelling Northern Europe. We couldn’t put our finger on it at the time, but Matt put it really well when he said that Germany/Austria were all about doing things – so much to see, especially for children, that was easy to find and access. We left on a real high (literally on the cable car!) and it now felt quite different and we hadn’t done much research into good things to see and do. It feels more about soaking up the culture and just travelling around!
From Levanto we went to Finale Ligure on the Italian Riviera using the toll motorway E80 which was an amazing journey. Running parallel to the sea you are either on a bridge or going through a tunnel in order to get through the hills quickly. Our beach crawl continued with a stop off at Varazze for some great swimming in big waves – we just picked a place en route that was about the right time to make the sandwiches and it worked out perfectly. Our camperstop that night was right at the end of Finale Ligure beach where we parked up right up against the rocks looking out to sea. This was amazing until night time came and the wind started up and the waves crashed onto the rocks! I did not sleep well at all!
So the next morning was a big day for me… the last day of being in my 30’s! Woah… how do you get your head around that? I thought about it all day – it was actually quite a relief being 40 the following day as I didn’t have to worry about it anymore! Anyway, we all had a perfect type of day – enjoying the promenade, coffee, wandering around the shops (still not buying anything! – Oh apart from a volleyball… but it’s for the kids – that doesn’t count!) Pizza and swimming in the sea! Then a free stop at a marina further up the coast with another sea view. Goodnight 39.. it’s been a pleasure x
So 40 – here we are. Not much going on although I did get a free hot shower in the marina showers that were only for boat people – ha! (free is becoming my favourite word) Also good phone calls home\inlaws (hello mum!!) But this marina stop was all about the awesome bike path that runs along a disused railway all the way to San Remo. The following day we set off to hopefully make it to San Remo. We planned that Matt would cycle all the way back alone and then bring the van to meet us. But my little winner of a boy decided (after a pizza lunch) that he wanted to cycle all the way back! 23km altogether. What a stunning ride with sweeping views along the coast, through railway tunnels and past little cafes for tired cyclists. Very tired and happy Seppos and another free nights sleep by the sea 🙂 They say life begins at 40 right?!