Week 5 – L’Aquila to Florence


Waking up looking forward to week 5, we opened the windows to find about an inch of snow! The morning sun melted most of it quickly and we ventured in to town. L’Aquila is actually a pretty nice and welcoming town. A few interesting things to look at (though don’t bother with the 99 spout fountain as it was, well, a bit damp especially compared to Villa d’Este in Tivoli) and a morning market where the pork and crackling Panini was just begging to be bought. It is a nice change since last week to be welcomed this much – a large free Aire with full facilities (and another overflow one), well signed, and friendly tourist information who gave us a load of info including a book of bike rides in the mountains. (The Aire must be making money for the town as every day the police gave 5+ cars parking tickets for parking in the campervan area!)

On the first afternoon we used the local laundrette to catch up on washing (no Nick Kamen moments!) and sat in the park reading in the hot sun next to a pile of snow. Weird. The next morning we used one of the bike routes as a 17 mile running route. Almost killed us and after another walk around L’Aquila we just vegged, napped, and enjoyed some local wine. Planning the rest of the week shows this area has loads of free and welcoming camper stopovers almost everywhere. A huge improvement and we’re left feeling a lot happier.

After another night in L’Aquila we got up and went on a bike ride on one of the trials given to us. After 11km of really rough terrain we definitely reached the bike limits (road hybrid tires & no suspension) and our legs reached theirs too! At the top of the climb we managed an ice cream followed by an easier run down. Superb views over the mountains – really impressive. L’Aquila and area have really put us back on track.

Our next target stop was Trevi and the drive there was lovely through some unspoilt places, with Spoleto looking particularly nice. However we went straight to Trevi and to the free camping place at the top of the town. Trevi looked stunning from a distance clinging to the mountain, and a walk around the town showed it to be stunning. Lots of small streets with old houses and walkways everywhere. It appears to have undergone recent sympathetic renovation however it really looks unspoilt. The tourist info gave us some more bike and walking routes – think we’ll give these a miss.

We had a lovely meal in the town, some nice pasta and pizza and some very drinkable wine – and for desert we had a chocolate and nut pizza! Naughty, nice and a bit much for us, though we followed it up with a lemon sherbet flavour liqueur. We slept well. After having a long hot shower and draining our tank we topped up again and left towards Assisi.

Assisi is a stunning town, we saw most of it from inside the van having ignored a “permit holders only” sign. Glad the van is agile as we had some interesting ancient streets to navigate! Once we’d seen most of Assisi we found a parking area (2€ ph) for motorhomes and parked their and walked in to see the views again. A place worth seeing, but more tourist-tat bound than other places – where else can you buy salt & pepper monks! On leaving the barrier was up on the car park, so as we’re sinners anyway who had been to a religious town, we thought we’d be forgiven for simply driving out… Quickly.

We decided to head to Lake Trasimeno and get a chill day with our water fix. Absolutely coincidentally we bumped into the same couple we met in Holland in November who were heading south with us heading north. Even more coincidentally they have a new van, an almost matching Horizons Unlimited Innovation model which they bought soon after seeing ours. And even more coincidentally I set up an advert for the previous owner! Such a small world – as we’ve never seen any similar vans anywhere and we’ve only seen perhaps 3-4 other UK vans in the whole of Italy. We shared a good amount of wine with us hosting a small meal.

The Sunday was a little overcast, so after a morning run along the lake we decided to stay put and just catch up on rest, movies and music. Yep – travelling is quite strenuous! After sharing some tips and overnight stops with Barry & Hazel we all had a lovely beer in one of the nearby bars in a backroom under a lovely brick arch.

On the Monday we bid farewells and we headed north to a location they recommended, Radda in Chianti. The drive there was lovely through the Tuscany hills, and the town itself is very welcoming to campervans. A lovely free aire location and a nice town to explore with medieval tunnels and nice shops and streets. In the morning we headed to Florence along some lovely windy roads with stunning countryside and more picture-perfect hilltop villages. We headed for an “okay” aire just outside Florence with a simple train ride in to the city.

Florence was only added to our trip due to our diversion to Radda so our visit was unexpected. The weather wasn’t great to be fair, yet Florence proved to be a great place to visit. A small city without the chaos of many, yet full of character and interesting views on almost every corner. Considering how many stunning things we’ve seen on our trip, we were truly surprised by the Duomo and as we turned the corner both had “wow!” moments. Really very impressive. As are the side streets and the Ponte Vecchio and the bustling market. Florence is a must see – sadly just let down by the rain.

Week 5 has turned out to be completely different to the disappointing week 4. Not only have ACSI come good and made the dodgy campsite that over charged me last week give me a refund (Don’t mess with me!!), but everywhere we’ve been has been mightily impressive. The countryside has changed, its cleaner, well looked after, and just a much friendlier area than the area we covered the previous week. The Umbria and Tuscany regions seem to want visitors and campervans, and in the last week we have been provided for wherever we went free of charge. A huge contrast which is making us excited for the next couple of weeks.

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