Milan, Italy

We arrived at the Agrotourismo site mid-afternoon.  Too late to go into town so instead we stocked up the food and drink mine and then enjoyed an evening of British TV – We are far enough north now for the ‘tight’ UK only satellite footprint to spread to us. It was great to watch some ‘prime time’ BBC TV – paid for by the 1977 TV licence fee.  Does anyone know what they have done with the rest of the money?

On Sunday we spent the day in Milano.  We had lots of things on the list but we managed to be pretty unsuccessful at the planned things – damn those queues.

We wanted to see ‘The Last Supper’ but it’s sold out for the next three weeks – fail!  Instead, we went to see the church where it resides. We wanted to see inside the Duomo, but the queue was hours long, so we satisfied ourselves with a view of the outside – still pretty impressive!

We walked around the Sforzesco Castle and then the Sempione Park behind it – a great walk around an urban garden.  Then we went up the Torre “Branca” – a 100-meter tower built in 1933.

Our last visit for the day was to the Science museum – Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia. T really wanted to see their Enigma machine – but guess what – it was not on display!  

Instead, they have a good collection of Theo Jansen Strandebeesten – including a running demo – so that was awesome.  They also had the Carabinieri demonstrating a bomb disposal robot so we spent some time watching that too! The museum is a great visit although it has a pretty eccentric layout and we got lost many times!

Back to the mothership early evening. On the way back we spotted what looked like an enormous rat down by a small stream.  We had already spotted rats there earlier in the day, but as the glance was of a massive beast we hung around and got some great views of the massive buggers.  We later found out that the big ‘rats’ are Coypu – originally from South America and accidentally released in other parts of the world after being farmed for fur.  

Then to the van for a homemade pizza and a Bond film.  Early start the next day. We both bemoaned that we have not seen the sea for many weeks.  It will be a couple more weeks yet but we’ll try and fit in a lake!

Maranello, Italy

There’s only one reason to visit Maranello right?  We arrived at the free stopover at about midday and had a rushed cheese and biscuit lunch.  Then on the bikes and a 3km easy ride to the Ferrari factory and museum. The museum is good – it’s not as big as the main Ferrari museum in Modena, but we could not arrange a stopover for Modena.  An easy afternoon looking at many millions of euros of Ferrari masterpieces including a collection of Michael Schumacher F1 winning cars. We decided not to do the factory tour – it doesn’t actually go inside any buildings – Ferrari keep what goes on in the factories top secret!

There are quite a few companies around the factory and museum offering Ferrari driving experiences.  It’s probably saved us 1000€ that T driving license was stolen in Rome! Instead, a ride on the F1 simulator was enough followed by a peek over the fence at the Fiorano test track.

Then back to the van for evening meal and a great chat with a brit couple who are also on a gap tour.  They are a lot younger than us and travelling in a converted mobile library truck along with a 2 and 5-year-old. They are heading east where we are heading west.

Next morning and a quick look at the cemetery next to the camperstop and then off – 170km to the next stop!

Bologna, Italy

Just a quick overnight in Bologna.  We had an afternoon in the town seeing the mandatory sights.  It’s a great town, but a rather odd layout. Many of the buildings seem to have built with fortifications, like a city wall but are inside the city.  Many of the buildings are red terracotta tiles and look great.

Firenze, Italy

When in Rome as it were, so we’ll use the Italian name for Florence – Firenze.  They should know it’s their city after all! We arrived at about midday – the campsite is run by the same company that runs the Rome location.  So It’s immediately like a home from home and we get settled in a few minutes and after a quick lunch, get on the shuttle bus to the town centre.  As with many big towns, it’s hard to (legally) park the Mothership in the city centre so the campsite is the best option.

We only had a couple of days to see all that Firenze has to offer.  It’s really not enough time. So the first afternoon, we just went to the Famous bridge and wandered the town.

We take in the Bridge and some of the famous piazzas and get to see the cathedral from the outside – the queue was huge!

That evening we tried to book tickets for the following day only to find out that you have to book an exact date and time a week in advance, which is a little crazy, but there you go!

The following day we had a great time doing a full exploration of the town – it’s the cultural week in Italy, so many of the national monuments are museums are free.  We explored the Pitti Palace and gardens and a couple of smaller art galleries.

T insisted that as we were in a large town we find a curry house for lunch.  We found a place with great reviews and a Madras and Vindaloo went down very well!  Authentic Indian curry with an Italian slant. Not bad at all!

Civita di Bagnoregio

We could not carry on with our Italian adventure without fitting in at least one hilltop town. Civita di Bagnoregio was a great fit because it’s only 15km off the motorway and there is a camping Aire nearby.

It was odd to be back on the road again after nearly a month in Rome, but also it felt good to be on the move.  We were off and out early doors (for us that is) at 9:30 and arrived at the camping aire at about Midday.

We unstowed the bikes and then it was off like the clappers down the hill to the town at Bagnoregio – park the bikes and then a 3KM slog back uphill into the old town proper of Civita.  It’s a 5€ entrance fee to the town and then a walk across a long, steep – and today at least – very windy- footbridge to the town.

It’s really two towns – Banoregio at the bottom of the hill and Civita at the top. The old town is over 2500 years old.  It’s gradually been getting smaller – literally – as it is built on a tall sandstone cliff which sits on clay and soft tufa. An earthquake at the end of the 17th century accelerated the demise of the town.

Sad to note that the town has a population less than 10 in the winter.  Most of the houses are owned by rich families that only come to visit in the summer.

We’ll tell you about our month in Rome some other time – but for now back on the Road – Florence is next on the list.


It was an easy drive down the SS1 from Tarquinia to Roma.  The campsite for the next three weeks is on the outskirts of the city around 8 km from the city centre.  This is not really surprising for a city the size of Rome – the bigger the town, the harder it is to get near the middle in the mothership!

Anyway, the campsite is lovely, but is very expensive.  The swimming pool and Jacuzzi etc are shut up for the winter, but there is still a restaurant open on site and there are a couple of restaurants and a supermarket close by, so we had everything we needed.

We spent a day doing a month of washing and giving the mothership a spring clean in time for our visitor due in a couple of days. We explored the locale and suss out the supermarket, buses and train station.

A trip into the city the next day just sussing out the public transport and walking the town was wonderful, but T managed to get his wallet lifted on the metro despite taking all the normal precautions.  He managed to lose his ID, a few euros and a couple of credit cards. So it was a couple of frantic hours cancelling cards and ordering replacements that evening. No biggie really, but lack of ID might be a pain.

And the next day, over to Fiumicino airport to welcome Charlie.  T has not seen him for five months and it was great to spend a week in Rome with him.

So over the week with Charlie we had a day or so catching up and doing family stuff.  But also we did the tourist things in town – The Colleseum, the Vatican Museum, the fort etc.

After we escorted Charlie back to the airport, we got on with the serious task of looking at the odder things!

Our day of the dead was a visit to the catacombs on the Appian way – the famous Roman road from the eternal city to the south of Italy.  It’s a cobbled road for much of it’s route out of Rome and is pretty narrow. But that doesn’t stop the bus drivers from haring down it!

The catacombs date back to around 300 CE.  This is the time when Christianity sweeps across the land and because they believe in resurrection, they don’t want the body destroyed by fire – the pagan funerary tradition.  Also at that time, burials are not permitted within the city walls of Rome, so cemeteries spring up outside the town. With full christian burials rather than only small urns of ashes, the cemeteries soon fill up.  As much of Rome is built on soft volcanic tufa, it’s easy to dig down. So the Christian cemeteries moved underground. The catacombs extend for many kilometers and are many levels deep. Each burial is in a horizontal niche carved out of the rock wall.  The body is wrapped in linen and placed in the niche, scattered with quicklime and then the niche is sealed with marble or terracotta. Each level of the catacombs has four or five stacked niches. There are more than quarter of a million graves, just in the three catacombs that we visited today.

Of course the rich had larger niches and even family vaults. Today, nearly all the niches are open having been robbed of their marble over the last 1700 years. And over the last 30 years, the human remains have been moved as they too were being stolen by tourists. So the remains have been moved to the lower levels of the catacombs where no visitors are permitted.  The tours are all with a guide – it would be too easy to get lost without one and there are radon fears. The tours are all quite short – perhaps a few hundred meters of catacombs, so the walk and talk lasts about three quarters of an hour. You can see from the photo – this is a map of one of the smaller catacombs – how extensive they are.

Sadly we have no photos from the catacombs themselves – for whatever reason, photography is forbidden in all the cemeteries we visited today.

And so ends nearly a month in Rome.  The Eternal City certainly lived up to it’s name for us!  From here it’s North rather than further South.

Tarquinia, Lazio

Selina found this stopover at the last minute after we decided that the leg from Porto Ercole to Rome was too long.  For the first time, we tried an Agriturismo stop and we have to say we are really impressed! It is 10€ per night including water, sewerage and electric, which is amongst the best value we have found. Essentially, a section of the farm is set aside for camping cars.  There are fresh water and electric on each pitch and a separate area for grey water and black water – just like a proper campsite.

We chilled out for the afternoon and the next day we spent the day wandering the town.  A highlight was the Monterozzi Necropolis.  There are believed to be 600 burials on the top of the hill just outside the town. These date to the Etruscan period – around 500 BC.  The burials are about 15 feet underground. Around 50 have been fully excavated and a handful are able to be viewed. They are underground caverns hewn from the rock and then plastered and painted with murals depicting Etruscan life.  Well, Etruscan death really.

The excavated tombs are empty apart from the murals – the sister museum in the town holds many of the artefacts discovered. Although many of the graves were already robbed during the last couple of thousand years, there is still plenty to see of the Etruscan burial customs!  So that was the afternoon gone!

Next, we set out for Rome!

Pisa, Italy

We researched the route better for this journey. Getting to La Spezia we had a couple of brown trouser moments including ending up in a 2.5-tonne limited road, a narrow backstreet while looking for the motorway from the SS1 and going under a low bridge (3.5 meters – where T has measured us at 3.4).

So we thought we knew what we were doing at the La Spezia end and we checked the route into Pisa including street view for the roads to the camping stop.  All good we thought…

…And to be fair it was not too bad. We got directed down two roads with height limits that the satnav didn’t know about and the campsite was down a one-way road with a 3.2-meter viaduct at the start. But it worked out fine, the viaduct had 3.2-meter signage but was closer to 3.5 so we *just* fitted!

So, we are learning to ignore the satnav warnings in Italy.  Our satnav is a special motorhome one – basically, it is a modified truck satnav.  It supposedly has all the road widths and length/weight limits programmed in as well as all the bridge heights.  So it’s smart enough not to send us down roads where we can’t – or shouldn’t – fit. But it’s been a nightmare in Italy.  So from now on, we are navigating best as we can the night before each journey to make sure the route seems safe!

Anyway, the aire at Pisa was quiet – it has space for 60 vans, but there are only four others here when we show up.  It’s 12€ for the night and we save a few euros by not having the electric hooked up.

Straight out for the afternoon to the tower, there are other things to do in Pisa, but we only had half a day, so to cathedral square it was!

Around Cathedral Square there are a number of attractions.  The tower itself was 18 euros each (trying to recoup the £200 million spend reducing the lean!), so we decided that was too rich for us. The Cathedral was free and it was 16€ to do all the other attractions for both of us.

So we wandered around the Cathedral, the Baptistry, the Composanto and the museum.

The next morning and we met up with a lovely brit lady – we had seen her van before in St Tropez – it stands out as it’s an ambulance conversion and we chewed the cud for half an hour. Then a reasonably early start towards Rome – We have a couple of overnight stops on the way.

La Spezia, Italy

This was just a quick overnight stop that is convenient for Pisa in the morning. It was a long drive down.  We did mostly the toll road, but just for a change we also tried 40km of the SS1 coast road that winds along the seafront.  The wonderful twisty roads were wonderful, but we could not face 200km of it!

The motorhome aire is down near the docks at La Spezia.  The aire is run by the local ambulance station. The area is a little run down, but the juxtaposition is that lining the docs are the shipyards of some of the great superyacht companies such as the Ferretti Group and Sanlorenzo

The ‘small ships marina’ (in quotation marks because some of the ships are of course superyachts) at Lotti Porto, was a really nice affair.  Looks pretty exclusive and must cost a pretty penny to moor your boat there we think. Great to be able to walk along the jetty without locked doors everywhere!

Also in attendance was one of the Sea Shepherd boats.

La Spezia
La Spezia
La Spezia

Dolceaqua, Italy

Dolceacqua ( sits on the banks of the Torente Nervia about 7km up the river from our campsite at Vallecrosia.  As we had a cycle path right outside the campsite, we got the bikes out for the first time in a few weeks and had a lovely ride up the valley to the village. As we cycled up the valley we were facing huge mountains topped with snow.The whole route was separated from the main road so we felt great bumbling along.

As we did not do extensive research for this visit, we were not really sure what to expect.  I fact we nearly missed out this stop as we were not sure what the village had going for it. So glad we didn’t.

We were presented with a picturesque town on the banks of a mountain river.  The two sides of the river are joined by a gorgeous high arched 15th century bridge (among other more modern bridges).  On the far side a ruined castle (Castle Doria) sits on a high ridge and below the castle is a labyrinth of narrow and steep cobbled alleys lined with lovely narrow but tall houses.  Many of the house are joined by buttresses and in some places fully enclose the alleys making a maze of tunnels. We were completely flummoxed by the beauty of it and we have hundreds of photos that somehow all seem to look the same.  We spent three hours wandering around the small village.

In 1884, Claude Monet visited Dolceaqua and three of his works cover the view of the bridge. Art is still very much in the way of life here are there are many art studios and galleries buried in the maze of twisty passages.


When we tired of the cobbled lanes (YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE) we crossed the river and found a wonderful restaurant,Casa e Bottega (, and had a fabulous slap up meal. Pasta with beef starter, Rabbit main, Apple crumble for pud.  We had a village produced red with the meal that was so good we asked if we could buy a bottle to take away. The best meal we have had in a long time.

And then a slow bloated cycle back down the valley to the Mothership.

Dolceaqua was one of the places suggested to us by family and friends:  when we had our 100th birthday bash, we asked people to mark wonderful european places on the map any many obliged – we have around fifty extra places added to our map!  When we were writing this up, we thanked Em and Luke for the Dolceaqua and they say they’ve never been, so that’s us confused. If it was you that suggested Dolceacqua – thank you, thank you – please let us know!

Blog updates in the van in the evening and preparing for a long leg tomorrow to La Spezia.