Monthly Archives: April 2017

The very best of Tuscany, Italy.

Florence was defiantly a highlight of our Italian trip, nestled in the typically iconic Tuscany countryside of rolling hills, covered in cypress trees and small wine producers, a beautiful area of Italy, an area we would recommend to the reader and favourite of ours we may return to.

A fantastic back-drop of Florence too.

We find a good tip, when we are in a city, to get a good guide what’s in the surrounding area, we just head for the nearest place displaying postcards, scan through the photos that keep repeating, then look up where they are and if we fancy it…go along. This happened with the next 2 ‘points of interest’, the Pratolino gardens & Vinci museum. First the Pratolino gardens, Easter Monday, two days after they had just re-opened following refurbishment and a long winter break, the sun’s out and half of Florence seems to be on the road. After sitting in a traffic jam (a new concept) for an hour, we get to the car park to find it’s full/rammed…and some! So we continue past until we find a little car park in a little town of Vaglia. Frankie is dismounted and were in business, a 10 minute zoom down the road and a pleasant (free) afternoon in the park in the sunshine,  and a night in yet another free car park. All went well until 08:00 in the morning, it turns out we were parked in the local rozzers car park, a tap-tap on the window and the instruction was to “hop-it”, in Italian of coarse.  I chance my arm: “can you give us half an hour?” answer, “no…you’ve got 5 minutes!” …nice! We pulled around the corner and had breakfast before setting off to Vinci.,

The “Appennine Colossus” by Giambologna.

Just down the road, the Leonardo de Vinci museum, Vinci: €11 entry. Mathematician extraordinaire, artist, engineer, imagineer and all round great bloke. What this fella didn’t know, the stuff he wanted to know about. He must have constantly been drawing up new ideas, lifting cranes, pulley systems, helicopters, ideas on man-powered flight, bicycles, tanks (yes fully armoured tanks) and anatomical studies of the body and how it works. Is there any subject Leonardo wouldn’t tackle? And in all the free time he had, he knocked out the Mona Lisa. He was born just 3km down the road, his house still owned by the museum that laid on this excellent exhibition.

A gold leaf pounding hammer

We also need to thank the town of Vinci for laying on a free Sosta at the edge of town. A dozen spaces, water and waste available all gratis, perfect. You don’t mind handing over €22 to the museum when you can bag a free night.

We are here. The white dome is an air-conditioned tennis court. The landscape…typical Tuscany.

Just down the road and up next, Pisa. The river that runs through Florence is the Arno, We’ve traced the source of it high in the casalino woodland park near Mt. Falco (1658m). As all mighty rivers, it starts as a trickle in the hills, we’ve parked up next to it several times whilst it was just a stream, running down the western backbone of Italy, through the city of Florence and out to sea at at the mighty mouth of Pisa. The river Arno has played a massive part in the importance of Florence (and Pisa), providing a main arterial route inland, a passage for goods, and transport for people. It’s been a common denominator for us too, we seem to have been within earshot of its running water for weeks, never venturing far from it’s path. Pisa’s the end of the trail for the Arno and for us, and we’ll miss it.

The river Arno, flowing through Florence.

I was in half a mind to skip Pisa. Wanting to avoid all those pictures of tourists pretending to prop up the bell tower, Pisa’s reputation precedes it. But our travel guide (the Michelin ‘Tuscany’ guide rambled on about the elegance of the baptistery and Cathedral (Duomo), the Piazza del Miracoli (miracles square) and the Torre Pendente, the leaning tower. If UNESCO have seen fit to list this whole lot, who am I to swerve a toot? We snook into a free parking place at the bus park & set off for a 1km stroll into town.

The Baptistery, Cathedral & Bell tower

The sun was out, belting off the crafted white marble, almost blinding against an azure blue sky. All three buildings stunning pieces of work, perfectly complementing each other. We refrained from performing ‘the pose’, instead venturing into the city to sample the local made gelato.

Stephen Hawking (apparently) credits ‘Galileo’ as “the person most responsible for the birth of modern science” and Galileo is Pisa’s most famous offspring. I’m not sure he ventured into the Cathedral much, being a heretic and one of the first official atheists. Born in 1564, two months before William Shakespeare, discoverer of Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, Sunspots and inventor of the microscope, another brilliant mind, another brilliant man (must be something in the Arno). The inquisition finally  brought an end to his brilliant mathematical and astronomical genius, he was tried for heresy (belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious [especially Christian] doctrine) and when he refused to declare that the earth and other planets did indeed orbit the sun, Galileo was arrested and goaled. The general, conceited line of thinking at the time being that everything orbited the all important and God-made Earth. To save his own neck, Galileo was forced retract his publications and theory of planetary movements and was placed under house arrest near Florence. At 70 he continued his scientific work on falling objects and died, blind in 1642, he was buried in Santa Croce, Florence. We had lunch in the park outside only a week ago. RIP Galileo.

A pack-up lunch in the park outside Santa Croce, no swanky restaurants and expensive coffee for us.

I don’t normally take the opportunity to bleat on about ‘People’ on this blog, but extraordinary humans like Leonardo de Vinci and Galileo are ‘the fathers’ of two subjects that ‘do it for me’, two of the subjects that I can connect to…the solar system & mechanics. Some people’s brains absorb words, some see patterns in numbers, poetry in binary, beauty in prime numbers…not me, I love the subject of the industrial revolution and anything about the solar system, especially the timeline and distances involved, it just blows me away, cooks my noodle. So Galileo & in particular Leonardo de Vinci are long dead hero’s, two fantastically gifted Italians that I think deserve more than a mention on my ten-bob-blog. Lecture over.

Fellow tourists ‘propping’ up the tower

My 101st post.
Charles sleeping spots:

Vaglia (just north of Pratalino park) n43.900647 e11.28190 but I wouldn’t advise it.
Barco Real, campsite ACSI €19pn. Nice sanitaries. 2 nights.n43.84131, e10.91056. (don’t allow peer-to-peer)
Vinci Sosta. FREE. Water & waste available. Rural, quiet. No WiFi.
Pisa, (Calci) Sosta, should have been €8, machine broken.FREE, Noisy until 23:00. All services. No WiFi. n43.72710 e 10.51680