Published: May 8th 2013May 8th 2013
Our time in France was coming to and end. All that was left to do was scoot along the coast, taking in lofty views of the Mediterranean from the corniches that stretch from Nice along to Eze, Menton and past Monaco. It was interesting to see a little of the culture of the French Riviera; palatial houses, sports cars and a bit too much bling on men and women. We spent our last night in Sospel, a tiny town in the mountains and just near the border of Italy. The drive over the border was stunning - through snow covered mountains, shrouded in mist and past gushing rivers.
Our first night in Italy was spent on the border of the Maritime Alps at the farming village of Peveragno. We went for walks in between showers, then drove into Piedmont to stay at Alba (the home of Ferrero Rocher and Nutella). The region is renowned for developing the Slow Food movement, which rejects the fast food market and instead promotes taking time to enjoy food with friends and sourcing food from local producers (for example most shops close for about two hours at lunch). Alba is a great town for walking
and admiring shops selling fresh pasta, meats, cheeses, biscuits, truffle products and their excellent local wine. We had our first Italian coffee, explored the local market, saw the beautiful cathedral and had a long lunch (experiencing Slow Food) at Osteria dei Sognatori. The lunch was amazing with four separate antipasti, a pasta plate, and a meat plate which we skipped (and had Italian desserts instead). Our next destination was Grinzane Cavour where we found an excellent free camping space overlooking vineyards and hazelnut groves. Grinzane Cavour is famous in the history of Italy's unification (1861). This was also the perfect location to start a wine tasting tour in Borolo and La Morra. From the Lonely Planet guide we were able to find the local wine association of independent producers and we had a fantastic afternoon talking about wine, looking at the fermentation process and tasting elegant reds with Daniella from Mauro Veglio winery. Barolo wines are some of the finest reds in the world and the producers are required to follow very strict processes such as growing the Nebbiolo grape on the South facing slope and ageing for at least four years in oak barrels, steel tanks and the bottle.
The next day we had a wander through the culinary town of Bra, then headed South. We arrived in the evening at a camp site at Deiva Marina, a good base to explore Cinque Terre. Unfortunately due to heavy rain a large part of the scenic walking track that connects the five towns was closed. However the sun was shining for us the next day and we visited three of the five picturesque towns - Monterosso, Corniglia and Vernazza - by train and walking track.We took a few days out on the coast at Marina di Massa, near Carrara which is is famous for its surrounding marble quarries (Michelangelo went there to choose his marble). We met some great Dutch people at the campsite who were well seasoned travellers and gave us lots of advice.We are now at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana to spend a few days cycling and walking in the Apuane Alps before visiting the cities of Florence, Lucca and Pisa.
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