We are moving onto Tuscany today and a small village called Poppi and slowing the BBA V3 down a bit with a five night stay and taking some rest and relaxation.
Gretchen’s find on Air BnB looks just like we wanted to stay in while in Tuscany and we hope it turns out as planned when we get there.
First though we have the drive down the coast a little further and then inland.
The weather in Rapallo as we are packed up is fine and clear. However ahead it is not the same and we think we will run into rain before the day is out. Thankfully the forecast ahead for the next few days is for warm, sunny weather.
Rapallo is a town squeezed into a narrow valley that runs up from the sea and of course that means narrow streets.
We set off down the road we had walked to the ferry yesterday and turned across the small river that runs through the town and came to a halt on the bridge.
There were no traffic lights or a roundabout and we were puzzled why the traffic had stopped until we got to two cars away from the problem.
At the end of the short bridge we saw a woman get out of her four wheel drive stopped in the lane. We thought at first she had broken down but no off she walked to do her shopping. They stop anywhere in Italy even on a narrow bridge blocking the lane!
We got ourselves around her vehicle and off up the hills out of Rapallo and we made good progress until we came across a vehicle unique to Italy.
The three wheel Piaggio is like what we refer to as a ‘Mr Bean’ car. They have a small cab just big enough for two small people and a tray for carrying goods at the back. They are often used as farm vehicles or carrying goods around town. On the flat they aren’t too bad as far as speed goes but on a hill they struggle for more than 20 or 30kph.
With a winding road there was no chance to overtake and so we pottered along for a couple of kilometres behind him. We think he was oblivious of us until I moved out towards the centre a bit more and he saw us. Then our chance came and we zoomed by. Hopefully that will be the only Piaggio ahead of us today.
We are on the SS1 today down to around Pisa where we will move inland and it is around here that our GPS is showing heavy rain.
We had thought that the SS1 was immediately above the Cinque Terre although we hadn’t actually checked the atlas to confirm that. Had we been that close to the ‘Five Villages’ we might have taken a stop in one of them. But as it turned out the SS1 was further up in the hills behind the coast and we never actually saw a road leading down to the Cinque Terre.
Mind you we probably wouldn’t have taken it anyway as the weather really closed in as the road took us higher and higher and at the summit of 605m we were down to driving at 30kph just to be able to see far enough ahead of us. Luckily the traffic was almost nonexistent and the mist and fog cleared as we descended.
We took a stop at Sarzana to buy a baguette for lunch. As we walked up to the Lidl store with light rain falling we noticed two African guys with their goods for sale in a shopping trundle taking shelter in the doorway. By the time we came out the sun was breaking through the cloud and they were preparing to get back to their business of hawking their sunglasses, socks etc etc.We still haven’t seen a great number of what we believe are migrants but we guess that will come when we get into Germany where the largest number have been settled.
We found a spot along a deserted beach at Massa for lunch but the wind was too strong to be able to eat outside and so we made the best of what we could and watched the waves crashing onto the shore. We were so pleased that Portofino happened for us yesterday as it wouldn’t have been much fun on a boat going there today.
We drove on after lunch noticing the numerous number of firms lining the SS1 that manufactured marble from slabs that had been taken out of the hillside quarries you could just make out in the mountainside. There were huge blocks of rock that were dark on the outside waiting their turn for a cutting saw to reveal the milky white marble. Also along the road were stores selling marble statues of all shapes and sizes. Even MacDonald’s was coloured marble and there was no obvious sight of the usual red and yellow colour scheme.
Since we arrived into Italy we have noticed a reduction in the number of roundabouts than in Spain and France with most of the intersections without a roundabout being controlled by traffic lights which appear to work on demand which most of the time keeps the traffic moving quite well. We are divided over the advantage of roundabouts over traffic lights.
We toyed with the idea of stopping by the Leaning Tower at Pisa as it came into view from the SS!But we have been there before and we decided that pressing on especially if the weather ahead was going to include some heavy rain as the GPS was still showing.
At Pisa we switched to a four lane road which as expected picked our progress up as we headed inland towards Florence.
At one point a Sixt rental van had sped past us rather dangerously and we didn’t expect to see him again. Then around the corner there he was throwing on his brakes. He had spotted a blue vehicle on the side of the road and had thought it was the police with a speed camera. It turned out to be a vehicle of a shade of blue similar to the police vehicle shade but wasn’t a police car rather a private vehicle parked in a lay by while the driver was relieving himself at the front of the vehicle and partially hidden from view.
Needless to say when the driver of the Sixt van realised it wasn’t the police he was off at great speed again.
Watching from the car window the new crops of wheat in the fields were waving lazily in the wind which was starting to pick up with the approaching rain we were about to run into.
It had been 20C when we turned inland from the coast and very quickly that dropped to 14C as lightening also filled the sky before the rain arrived.
The plan was to skirt around Florence but we hadn’t done our homework well enough and again we found ourselves in the middle of a sizable city at the end of the working day with traffic mayhem. Thankfully the rain had stopped and that at least helped the driving a bit in very busy traffic.
The city seems to have added a light rail system since we were here last in 2009 although it probably hadn’t reduced the flow of cars.
Tour buses were lined up just beyond the older part of the city ready to go and pick up their passengers who had had a day sightseeing.
The N67 took us clear of the city and as we hadn’t been in the vicinity of a supermarket to get our supplies in for the next five days we stopped at Pontassieve where there was a decent size Co-Op (Italy’s answer to Carrefour etc).It was bedlam inside however but at least we got what we needed and resolved to try a supermarket more local to where we are staying for anything we had missed.
Switching to the N70 the road climbed steadily as the temperature outside dropped to a chilly 8C! We hadn’t expected this but it was a result of the weather front that bought with it the thunderstorm. Here we were dressed for summer as the temperature when we left Rapallo was very pleasant.
Things warmed up outside the car as the road descended from the summit down into the Casentino Valley that runs basically north to south ending near the city of Arezzo about 40km away.
At Poppi we turned up the hill and travelled the windy 4km to our destination and accommodation for 5 nights.
Rossana and Frederico were there to greet us and we got the full Italian welcome with kisses on both cheeks.It takes a bit of getting used to being from conservative little ole New Zealand. Also having been in the car for a good number of hours meant we weren’t quite ready. But it was all genuine and although they didn’t speak English they did understand it. So as they demonstrated various things in the apartment in Italian we replied as necessary in English to acknowledge that we understood.
With the drop in temperatures and us in our summer shorts etc the warmth of the nicely heated apartment was most welcome.
We don’t intend to travel far from Poppi over the next 4 days and 5 nights but just mooch around the little towns and villages nearby.
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