Main Page    All Journeys    Travel Tips

ITALY      
 INFO & DIARY     

Photos
Map&Plan
Diary

 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Italian Republic is an unitary parliamentary republic which covers 301.338 square kilometres. It is home to around 60.674.000 citizens, of which 83% are Christians, 12% have no religion and 4% are Muslims.
The currency is Euro, worth 7,46 Danish Krone. The GDP is US$1.850 trillion.
The climate varieties, but it the north were I go, the climate ranges from humid subtropical to humid continental and oceanic. The coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany are generally Mediterranean.
Italy has the highest level of faunal biodiversity in Europe, with over 57.000 species recorded, representing more than a third of all European fauna. Among the more interesting larger mammals are the Crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata), Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota), Wildcat (Felis silvestris), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), Common genet (Genetta genetta), Golden jackal (Canis aureus), Italian wolf (Canis lupus italicus), Brown bear (Ursus arctos), Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), Eurasian badger (Meles meles), European otter (Lutra lutra), Boar (Sus scrofa), Wild goat (Capra aegagrus), Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), Mouflon (Ovis orientalis), Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) and Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra).
Like the fauna, the flora offers a lot. Around 5.500 of plants, of which I have no special preferences.

DIARY
26/4. I arrival in the early morning from Monaco, and head straight for Ventimiglia and its Giardini Botanici Hanbury; a botanical garden. Well, I have to go around 15 kilometres through France, but then I'm at the border - which is symbolic. It is a murky day, and I get a bit of a drizzle from time to time. The road passes through forest covered mountains and a lot of settlement.

When I finally reach the botanical garden, it is closed for at least two more hours. From what I can see from outside through the fences, it might not open! I am not going to wait two hours here in the drizzle to pay 9 to see more like that.

The next stop is at Portofino, which should be a little harbour town, where the rich play: I want to join. I get to, already on the way to there; the 200 kilometre toll road cost me 21, and the parking anywhere in town is 5,50 for each started hour.

Despite the murky weather, it is a nice drive through the limestone mountains. Most are overgrown with forest, but here are strangely enough houses everywhere. One tree is flowering white everywhere. I have forgotten its name, but I think it have a fault sent, and it is strong in some areas.

The autopista follow the sea pretty close - although I rarely see it. It is mountains, and here are an pearl string of tunnels. At one point, I can see through the next three, from the one I'm in. Others are several kilometres long, and bends.

I pass the big town of Geneva, but I have not found a reason to leave the autopista. When I do, it is because the minor coastal road starts. It leads though several rather rich towns, with a lot of marina life and nice buildings. I do a few breath stops, but the last on in line should be the best, and I save my breath.

Portofino is real cosy town, founded around a natural harbour, on the steep mountain sides. All the houses are nicely painted, and with lots of decorations. And it is pretty crowded with tourists; I even hear Danish and Swedish spoken.

I walk around the harbour, and passes a strange museum. Outside, a rhino in natural size is hanging, while a line of pink Suricatas in oversize is watching the harbour. I don't dear (or bother) to have a look inside. As usually, the major part of business is restaurants.

As the sun breaks through, it all get even better. Ten o'clock, I realises; there is something odd with the shadows. It turns out the walls are flat, and all the decorations are painted on! They have really done a great job with the entire town, and it does not really spoil the atmosphere.

On the way back along the coast, I stop a few times to capture some of the views and buildings. One is on an isthmus, and look so great. Now I see the buildings in the other beach towns also are painted.
Not everything is limestone. Some look like beach gravel, glued together. Guess it is kind of natural mortar from the limestone debris.

I pass an old bridge again. It is slender, but easily span the double road. It look great from the other side, but on the sunny side, flowering Wisteria adds.
I head a bit inland through the endless forests, to get to a real twisted road through Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. Here are still a few mountain villages, but fewer than before.

I stop several times to botanise, and enjoy the magnificent sea views. Small villages sit high over the sea, but right at it. The inland is worked into terraces, and I guess vine is the major crop.
Here are only a few roads, but the one I have chosen end at a concrete block. Guess not only one, but both lanes have gone in a landslide.

My GPS want to go a huge detour, as it lack around 100 meters of road in one place. I go there anyway, and her is a nice road like the rest. Then I'm back at the most coastal road and some real great nature.
I stop in Vernazza; one of the idyllic villages along the coast. Here are a lot of tourists, but also some nice buildings and some great surroundings.

Due to the mountains, I am kind of on a peninsula, and have to head a bit back north. That mean I can spend the night in Riomaggiore. Instead of taking the same coastal road back, I head inland through the forest covered mountains. Quite a detour, but here are so nice with all the small, light green leaves on the trees. 

The camp is fare the most expensive so far, and nothing special. If this keep up, Italy will be expensive with roads and camps. But is have proven interesting and beautiful so far.

27/4. I try to get an early start, but I couldn't pay yesterday, and now only after 8;15  despite they are here. Then I finally able to drive out through the mountains, and into an area which produces huge blocks of perfect white marble. Then I reach the coast again, and the flat areas are totally farmed. Mainly wheat, but also some olives and vine.

Then I reach Lucca, a huge, old and walled city. I pay for two hours of parking, and start walking around. I have nothing particular to see, and that is good, as it is impossible to find one way around. Here are a lot of fine old houses along real narrow streets. It is almost impossible to capture the nice buildings, except on the few squares.

I stumble over a large, oval square (can you say that?), which have a flower market. I even find a shop with around twelve different caudiciforms! After several loops in this maze, and when I thought I had seen it all, I stumble over a big canal. And then I find back to my car, parked right outside the endless wall.

Into the small mountains and then a huge valley. Here, Pisa is located. They have harvested the first hay outside the wall, and here smell of summer - and feel that way too. I park outside the wall, right on the other side of the famous tower, which is located in a corner of the round town (-if you can say that?).

Next to the tower is a marble church, and when I try to get that along in the frame, the tower end op straight! It is a matter about getting it in the right side of the fame. I head into the old city, and here are the expected nice, old buildings and squares, although not as many as I had expected.

While I wander around aimless, I stumble over a small botanical garden - or park. Then a large canal and where the horse wagons park. Another tour around the nicely green lanes with the tower and church, along with a little fat tower, which I easily get to lean!

Both inside, but especially outside one of the gate, endless variations over leaning tower can be bought. I head back to the car, which have a secret life of it own, it seem. Several times when I have returned to it, it have gotten "love-bites"!

More country life and endless wheat fields, and I get to Massa Marittima, located on a hilltop. The town is not really it self, as some movie is recorded. It take place in present days, but the scene is at a historical play. The hero is a photographer, the valiant a girl, who escapes on a motorcycle. I shoot a few movies, but have a hard time getting some undisturbed photos of the town.

I try some of the back alleys and find the remains of their fortress. Then it is back to the car and up to their Coop Supermacado to find some fresh vegetables.

The next camp is through some real nice farmland, and I reach it early. Unfortunately, the receptionist would fit better in with Marx Brothers, Chaplin of Stanley & Oliver. Finally, I get booked in, and even get a coin for the washing machine and another for the dryer. I'm not in need as such, but dryers are rare on campsites, and the towels I have borrowed, are a bit mouldy. Double annoying, when you dry them in the car!

Lucca, Pisa and Massa Maritti (75)

28/4. I start the day early, and save a bit of time, as the showers are cold. I set the GPS for Rome, and it leads me straight into a gravel road. Well, "all roads lead to Rome", and this eventually does too, although by sealed roads too. It is through the slightly hilly and very beautiful Toscana, and really a tour I enjoy.

Here are endless wheat fields, green vine fields, some bluish olive plantations and not much traffic. Then I reach Rome, and more cars. I find a free parking lot - in the middle of a road, but some locals say it is OK. I'm a few metres from the Vatican wall, but need to find a hole.

An Indian guy approaches me, and it turns out he work for a company who give guided tours. I'm not interested, but after seeing the endless queue for the tickets to the museum, and another for the Basilica - which is said to be two hours right now, I am all ears. He will sell me a ticket for 35 (against normal 17), but I get to go in by my self right now.

I had thought of the the St. Peter's Basilica and Sistine Chapel, but the entrance fee are steep (it is Catholic after all), and the Garden take a month to get to see. Well, I get in to the Vatican Read about is in its own diary.

After seeing everything but the Pope, I am back in Rome. I do a shout round to find some food, and then I return to the car, which seem to be all right. No wheel locks, no notes and no love-bites. It is 300 north-west to the next camp, mainly through Toscana.

This part is even more hilly, but still as fertile. I stop at a gas station to make a cup of tea. The local Ferrari club have stopped here as well, but I only get one photo, as I hate to leave the car with fire in. "But I'll get some more, when I pass them later on the Autopista". Well, they must have turned off, as I don't see them...

I reach the camp right outside San Gimignano, which I will see in the morning. But the camp is abandon by the owners. Here are no power and water, but quite some campers. They have their own water and toilet, but I would appreciate some, especially after two cold baths!  The GPS know another camp 30 kilometres away.

The drive is a great evening tour - as it is getting rather late. Despite that, I have to stop several times to photo the landscape. The photos turn out great, looking like golden-age paintings! Here are rather crowded, but the receptionist (speaking perfectly English), tell me it is a five day spring brake for all Italians. If I can find a place to squeeze the car in to, I'm welcome. Sure I can! Work to way after midnight. Toscana and Rome

29/4. I have to stop and see San Gimignano. Besides from being an nice old town, it have several real tall towers, just as old. It is, of cause, walled, and as I'm here quite early, rather empty.

I do several loops, one around the remains of the ancient fortress. From here, there are great views to the countryside and several villages. When I head back towards the car, the masses of tourists meets me.

From here, I head towards San Marino. I choose the scenic road, and it is great! It leads through more of the lovely Toscana, and despite the lack of sun, I enjoy the tour. Then I meet some low mountains, and here are more forest. After the second pass, it turns into beech forest, which is nicely light green.

In one place, there are so many dark purple orchids, and I fail to get one good picture! I have more luck with the lowlands and the flowerbeds on the farmers grass lands. The landscape changes again, this time to slate mountains with scatted pines and other trees.

The dark skies will not vanish, but they offers some great motives. Some photos again look like paintings, both the landscape and the skies. I pass yet some more small villages, build by the local rocks. In one of them, the road lead right through a house!

Way later than I have thought, I reach the nearly invisible border to San Marino - and crosses it.

30/4. Back from San Marino in the early morning, as I have a long drive to Switzerland. I even skip the included breakfast to gain one hour. Then, around Bologna, I somehow get aware: I do not have my driving license!!!! 50 kilometres to the next service area, and I get to think several scenarios over. First: Where is the license? Pretty sure I handed it in, the evening after the Vatican. But what was the camp? The one I had planned was closed, and the one I used, was the GPS's idea. But the city, the name of the camp? I find a camp in the right distance, and Volterra does ring a bell. 200 kilometres straight west, but what else to do? Get them to send it - but to where??? It turns out to cost me half a day, 20 in toll roads and 20 in diesel. Last time I let them have it, or my passport!

At least, it is mainly through the awesome Toscana, and especially the last bit between San Gimignano and Voltera is great! Now, the sun is the other way, and I have to make a few stops to capture the landscape.

I find the camp at eleven, and hoped for lunch. Well, I get a cappuccino and a bagel. And internet, so I can re-plan my route and camp for the night. At least, the girl does seem to be sorry that she forgot to give it to me.
Instead of driving up the centre Italy, I head back to the west coast to Genova, and then north to Aosta, and beyond.

The last part is with clear view to the Italian Alps, and strangely enough through a completely flat area. They actually grow rice here, on huge fields. Almost all day, I have had this amassing sky with deep blue, dotted with bright white clouds. It make every photo great, and I tend to have more sky than motive. And the Alps is no exception.

Here are bright green grass patches, black rock, white snow and small villages. I reach my camp, but it is apparently winter-closed. I had seen a few more around here, and head a bit further into the Alps. The next is open, but it does get a bit cold during the evening.
 More Toscana and a bit of the Alps

1/5. I get an early start - until I try to get out of the camp. Gate closed to eight-ish. Then I head further into the beautiful Alps - in a light drizzle and a rather dark weather in general. The sceneries are fantastic, but my cameras ability to capture them is quite restricted.

I have chosen the old mountain road in contrast to the St Bernard Tunnel. But they have not cleared it yet, I find out way in. Well, it was a nice drive. Well, eventually I do get into Switzerland. Photos: Getting into Switzerland - or not

Italy have been fantastic, and I would like to return one day. Towns like Rome and Venice is best enjoyed in good company, I think.
I have only spend 5 days in Italy this time, but I have driven 2784 kilometres, taken 1136 photos and spend 371. The transport taking its toe: Diesel 137 and parking and toll roads; 149.

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary