Monday, 11 April 2016

The day after good

Friday 8th April, 2016

I suppose it is tempting fate to blog about how great things are. Really you are setting yourself up to come down to earth with a bump. Not a big thud thankfully, but definitely a glitch or two over recent days. One reason why we chose to stay at Camping Toscana Village, apart from its proximity to Pisa airport, was its bus links to Pontdera. I fancied visiting the Vespa museum at the Piaggio factory. Google maps even marked the bus-stop in Montopoli with the number and links to the timetable. The girls in reception however seemed unaware of the existence of a bus link and persuaded us to visit the place when we left, assuring us that the Piaggio site had big car parks.

They were right, the car parks covered acres, but they were full of the factory workers' cars parked in that slightly haphazard manner, with scant regard for straight lines, that only Italians seem to be able to achieve. No way could I find somewhere to leave Maisy, so we went to Lidl instead.

Only Google Earth can show the size of the Piaggio works - including the test track.
The Piaggio factory itself came as a mild shock, it was not measured in acres, but square kilometres. I think in the UK we have simply forgotten what a manufacturing economy looks like. The last plant I remember passing of this size was Longbridge, now demolished and turned into a retail park by the angels of St. Modwen. We have simply abandoned our factories and replaced them with retail and warehouse sprawl. Italy and Germany did not - and every badly parked car in Piaggio's vast parking lot belonged to a worker. Most of the cars were Fiats, built by other Italian workers in Turin. At the end of a shift the Piaggio worker can say, "I helped build x 100 bright shiny scooters." What can a Tesco worker say? "I asked X 100 people if they needed help with their packing and sold them an astonishing number of pot noodles." It's not the same is it?

OK, we failed to make it to the museum - but the girl in reception's Vespa is truly a beauteous specimen

Complete with flower placed coquetishly on handlebar.
So glitch number one, failed to visit Vespa museum, but had a rant about the demise of British manufacture. Glitch two, back to the challenges of Italian roads. We were heading for a site near Montecatini Alte. It meant cutting across country on minor roads. They were potholed and none too wide, made truly hair-raising by the number of large trucks hurtling towards us, all packed perhaps with essential widgets for the Piaggio works. The ACSI book helpfully advised that on arriving at Montecatini Terme, under no circumstances should we follow the sat nav instructions, but look out for signs to Camping Belsito. Our problem was we could not spot the signs so had no option but to heed Muriel's terse instructions. Soon we were climbing upwards on single track roads with steep banks and sharp bends. After a kilometre or so a sign advised that the route was only suitable for vehicles less than 2.5 tonnes. A sign at the bottom of the hill would have helped, especially since there was nowhere to turn around. Luckily we met no on-coming traffic. We have one too many moments like this using a standard Tom Tom sat nav. Maybe we need to invest on a Garmin Camper which plots suitable routes based on the width and height of your vehicle.

Drizzle, cart-track and VERY steep!
Finally we made it. Camping Belsito is well named, we have a lovely corner pitch with a view across the Tuscan hills framed by a picturesquely placed olive tree; the hill-town of Montecatini Alto is a short, but breathless stroll, and the fin-de-si├Ęcle spa, Montecatini Terme, a 15 minute bus ride away. 'Things to do, places to see' to misquote Guy Pringle.

Lovely corner pitch

with a fabulous view.

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