Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Italian delights

Finding wifi with a signal strong enough to upload the blog had been a pain for the past two days. I've been using the IPhone app instead, but even this has proved frustrating with the 3G signal wafting in and out. Anyway, more or less as soon as I had written the last post about how irritating Italia can be, she decided to turn on the charm and prove that really she is winsome and delightful really.

We've had a great drive from Lake Bolsena area to a good camper stop next to the Via Aurelia, a little to the north of Piombina. We camped on the shores of Bolsena some time ago in the early noughties. It is not the most spectacular of Italy's lakes, but it exudes a quiet peacefulness and the towns around its shores are ancient and interesting. Sadly, we did not have time to linger but headed west on the SS74 towards the coast.

Most roads are simply a means of getting from A to B, but some transcend mere utility to become things of beauty. This road is exciting to drive, first climbing from the lake through a stark landscape of spent volcanoes. Near Pitligliano it enters a series of steep ravines,. At the village itself set on a tufa cliff there are a series of tricky hairpin bends. Trucks are banned, and Maisy only squeezed through by taking up both sides of the road to negotiate the tightest turns. After a few miles the road reaches a more pastoral land of green hills topped with red roofed farms and cypress trees. These southern uplands on the border of Tuscany and Lazio are as lovely as the Chianti, but less frequented. Finally the coast is announced by a sky of silvery blue, the sea itself is hidden behind a littoral of umbrella pines.

If the SS74 was the first 'find' of the day, then the second was the Promontorio dell' Argentario, an island, similar Elba or Giglio, but attached to the mainland by three slender causeways. We ended up for a lunch stop on the quayside at Porto Santo Stefano. It's a classic small Mediterranean harbour that would not look out of place near Cannes, Portofino, or Positano, yet it not as famous as any of them. The view from the window was worthy of the rear deck of a super-yacht; actually it was from the back of an aged Ford Transit, but it still felt a bit swanky.

Talking about Ford Transits, Maisy was great to drive today, rock-steady on twisting roads, a bit of 'umph' climbing up steep hills, the automatic gear-box intelligent enough to deal with all the hazards we faced. Moreover, there was little traffic on these southern Tuscan country roads, so for once driving was pleasurable rather than stressful. The afternoon was a little tedious by comparison, a two hour trundle north to a Sosta beside the Via Aurelia, a few kilometres north of Piombina. Pisa and the flight home approaches. Not journeys end, merely a break in the proceedings, but a milestone nevertheless.


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