A change of plan

Sadly, Ken and Jacky have made the difficult decision to head for home. Ken’s back is worse, there’s a 45 degree roll to his walk and he does look rather comical. We’ve been very good and not laughed.

Before leaving Sistiana, we spoke to a Scottish couple, Brian and Shirley, who are on the road for 4 months and heading to Croatia. There was a long chat about vignettes in Slovenia (we hadn’t paid!) and the merits of different size motorhomes. The small Rollerteam Rainbow has been by far our best choice but even Kim doesn’t want to own one anymore!

The seaside town of Grado had been recommended to John and was only a 30 minute detour on our way to Lake Garda.

En route, we were distracted by the plant seller at the roadside and Kim couldn’t resist purchasing an Oleander.

She’s researching if it will have to be abandoned before leaving Italy, because it carries a risk of Xyllela pathogen and we’ll have to disinfect the van. It’s currently living in the van’s garage.

The drive into Grado was worth the effort but the walk along the seafront was completely underwhelming.

To recover from our disappointment, we stopped for elevenses in a small bar.

The route out of Grado had us reconsidering our view of the place, the lagoon side was rather nice.

We had a decision to make, should we head for Garda as planned or try and meet up with Ken and Jacky who were going straight to Innsbruck. We checked weather and campsite check in times and crossed Garda off our itinerary! 5 hours across the Dolomites and through the Italian Tyrol it was.

John wanted a more interesting drive so we left the motorway north of Udine and followed the SS52 along the valley of the Tagliomento River. It was raining hard but the villages were pretty. The little Fiat van breathed in as we squeezed round some very narrow roads. Alarm set in when we started to see cars with snow on them.

It got considerably worse, and there was no other way through. Temperatures dropped and rain turned to snow…

We followed a snow plough for miles- John was having the time of his life, wondering if we were allowed to overtake it.

The roads cleared for a while so we thought the van deserved a photo. There wasn’t as much snow on it as we had hoped.

Then we got to the point that a snowplough was behind us, we wished it was in front and even John was becoming alarmed by the conditions and wishing we had snow chains. Kim had been in a state of alarm for at least an hour!

We survived and re joined the motorway just south of the new Brenner Pass and, through heavy rain and snow, made it to Natterer See campsite just after 6.

Beer and chips in the campsite restaurant beckoned as a reward.

The biggest success of the day, apart from not crashing, is the van’s heating system is working. We are tucked up and toasty!

Three countries in one day

A beautifully clear morning greeted us, and we could see the fantastic view from our pitch which had previously been hidden in the haze.

We headed out with a 4 hour/150 mile journey to do and almost immediately left lovely smooth, EU tarmac roads for bumpy narrow Croatian ones!

The van bumped and twisted for the best part of an hour. Roads narrowed and hairpin bends appeared. Luckily, in all that time 3 cars, a coach and one lorry passed on the other side. We were too busy watching the road to take photos but it was lovely. John wants to return in something sensible, like a Porsche or Ferrari.

As we drove around Rijeka, the Adriatic reappeared on our left, it feels a lot longer than two days since our drive along the coast.

Heavy rain and dramatic lightning faced us as our route took us up over the mountains and back inland towards Slovenia.

30 minutes from the border, we joined long queues to enter Slovenia where recent hailstones had been rather ferocious – luckily before we arrived.

Slovenia, not surprisingly, was much like Croatia, with rolling forested hillsides but instead of cheese and honey it was pig roasts which were frequently available at the roadside.

Then we were back in Italy with great views across the Gulf of Trieste.

Our plan was to stop at Castello Di Miramar. As we drove out of Trieste, it appeared in the distance on the headland.

The satnav delivered us to within 100m of the castle, down a very narrow road with parked cars and pedestrians. A parking attendant waved us down and told us to turn around. Scenes reminiscent of last year’s accident came flooding back. We had to turn around in a confined space full of parked cars. Luckily a lovely Italian came to our aid and, with lots of exaggerated gestures described the best way to turn around! There was a queue of cars waiting to follow us out. We’d failed in our attempt to do ‘culture’ and so headed to our overnight stop at Sistiana. The campsite runs alongside the Rilke walking trail and has great views back towards Trieste.

Ken’s back is still bad so John stayed at the campsite, keeping him company with a beer while Kim and Jacky walked the trail out to Duino to see the castle. There are many fortifications along the route created during WW1 and used by the Third Reich in WW2, that have been converted to viewing points across the bay.

Tomorrow were heading to Lazise on Lake Garda.

And the sun came out

We woke to beautiful sunshine on Lake Trasimento so Kim headed down to the shoreline with a book and cuppa.

Our journey to Ancona started with a glorious drive around the South side of the lake before arriving at our first stop.

Cantina Berioli, is a small award winning wine producer in the Umbrian hills near Perugia.

Christina who owns the vineyard with her husband Roberto, panicked at the sight of us. She was flustered that she couldn’t speak English, then made us feel at home with a summary of each wine and presented us with cheese, freshly sliced ham and chocolate to accompany the wines all in very good English!

We tasted four wines, followed by a tour of the vineyard given by Christina’s assistant (who had been summoned in early to deal with us!)

We learned about the reason for planting roses by the vines, do you know?

And the cellar where 40-50,000 bottles of wine are made each year. Most are exported to Germany or China!

We loaded up the vans with cases of wine, Ken and Jacky headed off to Ancona, spurred on by vague promises of a new wing mirrors. We sat and watched them go..

We settled down for lunch al fresco….. this is the life (apart from the flies)

We’d had vague plans to visit a medieval town of Fabriano and Grotte Di Frassasi en route so set off on the 80 mile drive. John says ‘one medieval town looks like another and we’ve done one this year’ so we gave Fabriano a miss. We thought the Grotte was worth a 15 minute detour, mainly because we needed a break and a cuppa. We hadn’t planned on 2 hours for the tour so were on our way without getting further than the car park!

Falconara Marritima, on the coast, didn’t get our custom either…. it looked rather grim and we do shop in Waitrose! As a result, we arrived at Ancona port 3.5 hours before sailing. On a positive note, we successfully managed to fill the van up with fuel, we’re not sure there are petrol stations in Croatia…..

We met up with Ken and Jacky, still with a broken wing mirror, and aimed for the ferry. We were told off for inadvertently trying to queue jump. Us? We’re British and we definitely don’t jump queues, we were mortified and here’s proof that we did queue politely.

It got worse. By now, you know that we’re not naturals in motorhomes. We were told we must reverse onto the ferry into a narrow corridor assisted by men with shrill whistles and determined hand signals. It was very scary but too late to change our minds

We are all safely stowed on the ferry, our cabins are 40 degrees and beer is costing a fortune! Cheers.

And the adventure begins…

Pisa was overcast when we landed which came as a surprise, it’s only ever been sunny on previous visits. In under 15 minutes we were through passport control, luggage collected. Queuing for train tickets took considerably longer

€50 euros for four to Poggibonsi was a bargain compared to a taxi transfer which was nearer €200. The PisaMover shuttle train was well signed and we headed off to Pisa Centrale with confidence.

Today is the last of three Easter festival days and we hadn’t bargained for the trains being so busy. There was only just room for us to manhandle ourselves and our suitcases aboard, it was very cosy, very hot and standing room only.

We changed trains at Empoli with only 4 minutes to meet our connection on a different platform. It was hard work dragging heavy suitcases up and down stairs.

The train to Poggibonsi was marginally better, we had room to sit down in the small lobby between carriages.

It was pouring with rain in Poggibonsi and the train doors took against us. They refused to stay open long enough for us to get off and a sense of panic ensued as we struggled to get out with doors persistently closing on us – they were determined to decapitate! Luckily other passengers were there to help otherwise we would have made national news. Suddenly UK trains seem absolutely wonderful.

Things improved when we found a solitary taxi at the station and we were on our way to the hotel. In view of the weather we decided to eat in the hotel only to be told the restaurant was closed but we could pop across the road to the supermarket.

We did just that, then sat at a discreet table in the hotel bar and proceeded to picnic. Luckily Jacky had packed plastic plates and cutlery and Ken had a bottle opener.

Lake Garda to Natter See (Innsbruck for those less well travelled than us!)

150 miles for us today. The aim is to meet up with Jane and David who are re-joining us for the rest of the trip.

Kim took a final walk down to the lake and the view was less hazy

John was a man on a mission, we were packed up and out by just after 9. The aim was to drive along Lake Garda as far as we could before joining the motorway for the rest of the journey.

We stopped for a cuppa and a photo opportunity. JustGo run a competition for the best photograph which could win a free trip next year. John is hating the thought of another trip but is also a man who likes to win

How could we fail to win? Snow, mountains, Lake Garda, trees and a JustGo van!!

We headed for the motorway and were making good time when Kim’s phone gave us an option! We could take a route over the top of the Dolomites’, rather than around, and it would only take an extra 38 minutes. We checked it on Colin’s special motorhome satnav and a good old fashioned map. It was a ‘main road’, what could possibly go wrong?

As an aside, Ken and Jacky are en route to join us, woohoo!

We left the motorway at Bolzano, and headed up towards Pennes Pass. We were cutting a chunk off the journey and amazing views beckoned. We weren’t disappointed and more competition photos presented.

An hour after leaving the motorway, this was what we saw

The blooming Pass was closed! We like to think we missed a sign further down but we did drive past one in disbelief! We had snow chains so debated whether or not to give it a go but common sense prevailed and we could at least turn around!

It was painful, but we re-traced our steps back to exactly the same place we’d left the motorway. Two hours lost and now it was a race against time to get to the campsite before Reception closed at 5.

It was embarrassing, everyone else had started behind us and arrived before us. John hates to finish last.

The site is amazing

And we’re all safely back together. Cheers!

Venice to Lake Garda

We woke up to the fact that John and Ken are both mosquito magnets. It was a glorious sunny morning John was dressed in jeans, long sleeved shirt and a hat pulled down over his ears. Rather than being pleased when Kim found mozzie repellant in the site shop, all he could do was grumble that it cost more than a decent bottle of wine!

Ken and Jacky were towed away by their new friend Lucca, we callously headed up to Lake Garda with a fridge full of their food and beer.

It’s been a short journey, only 80 easy miles, in the hope they will join us here later. It does appear that Ken has settled nicely into the Fiat showroom.

We only had to turn round once on our journey to Lazise and all local cars and buildings remained intact!

Entry to Camping La Quercia was interesting. We were met at the barrier by a uniformed member of staff who radioed our arrival to Reception. At Reception we were put in a golf buggy and taken to choose our pitch before being allowed to register. The van was photographed, I’m not sure if Interpol are on our trail following Thursday’s accident..

The van has been tagged, as have we…

We’ve also been given a lovely set of recycling bags, sustainability is taken very seriously here.

We get to keep these lovely bags but have to return our wristbands on departure!

It’s been glorious here, the afternoon has been spent reading by the van. We did venture down to the beach but, without our partners in crime, weren’t inclined to explore very far. The views across Lake Garda are beautiful.

The campsite makes it very clear that strangers are not welcome, thank goodness we have been tagged.

Ken and Jacky didn’t make it, Fiat want to do more tests on their van before they’ll release it. Apparently all the local hotels are full so they are spending the night in it. We have their wine, beer and, most importantly, their mattress topper. We’d offer to drop it all back but we’ve opened a bottle of wine.

We have everything crossed that they’ll join us at Natter See tomorrow. Please can you cross your fingers and toes too?

Venezia and trouble free (almost)

We waved bye bye to a rainy Florence, without needing a tractor to pull Ken and Jacky out (very disappointed!) The 180 miles to Camping Fusina, Venice were negotiated without detour, deviation or collision! John and I stocked up on supplies at a local Lidl and were booked into the campsite with minimal fuss. Camping Fusina is lovely (despite the unexpected mosquitos), van is on a flat pitch and we have views across the lagoon to Venice

Ken and Jacky arrived ahead of us, in limp home mode! Ken has renamed the site ‘Mozzie Central’ and they are waiting to hear whether their Motorhome can be fixed or the rest of their trip is done in a hire car and hotels. John is beside himself with jealousy. He’d done his best to wreck the van on Day 1 yet Ken managed it without trying.

After a variety of calls to JustGo and Fiat Assist, we took the local ferry into Venice for the afternoon and saw all we wanted in 2 1/2 hours! As you’d expect Venice is a very popular destination and very busy – we can’t imagine what it would be like during the summer.

Apologies to everyone who is horrified by that and here as some photos to try and redeem ourselves!

The ferry raced this gondola across the lagoon

Our first stop was Piazza San Marco

We were distracted by the competing live music from the restaurants around the square.

The prices were rather steep and we moved hastily on to the Bridge of Sighs which is famous for being the last sight of Venice that convicts had before leaving the city. Our source of this information was John who was last here 50 years ago

Our final ‘must see’ sight was Ponti di Rialto, another bridge with shops on! What we did like was the view down Canal Grande

Our walk back to the ferry was far quieter and we found a leaning tower. Sorry, too tired to investigate what it is!

Our final stop was a restorative beer in a quiet street near the ferry terminal.

We wandered back to the ferry terminal and the light went out as a massive cruise ship headed out to sea

I’m sure we could have had a fantastic meal in Venice but the campsite pizzeria had plenty of atmosphere and a jolly good pizza!

We wait to hear Jen and Jacky’s fate in the morning and it’s likely we’ll head up to Lake Garda (With or without them) rather than have a second night here. Will Fiat Assist live up to it’s name?

‘Whoops’ – A poem from Dot and Stan Bray

Oh Dear or dear what have you done?

And you thought going to Italy was fun.

You appear to have trouble finding you way

, whatever you do don’t extend your stay.

Get out quick,

In case you end up in the nick.

Remember to drive on the right,

If  not you might get another fright.

We hope no further trouble you will find,

That will give us peace of mind.

Lets hope the rest of the trip goes well,

and when you get back you will have a tale to tell.


We caught the bus into Florence and, with true pioneer spirit, got off earlier than advised when a local market caught our attention.

Next stop Duomo, it took us all of 20 minutes to walk around it, we admired the architecture before moving on.

Uffizi Gallery and Da Vinci’s Statue of David, tick., all done and dusted in 20 minutes.

David is photographed from the waist up to prevent embarrassment….As you can tell, we don’t really do culture so observing from the street suited us fine!

Ponte Vecchio, tick, an old bridge with shops on it like many in Italy. There was a minor delay as the sparkling jewellery shop windows caught Kim’s attention.

Our final destination was the Boboli Gardens. The gardens date back to the mid 16th century and are laid out behind the Pallazo Pritti, the main home to the Medici family in Florence. It was a hot day but the walk to the top of the garden was amazing – we could see across the city, all the way to snowy mountain tops.

Continuing our reptile theme, we found an obelisk similar to Cleopatras Needle resting on four tortoises. If anyone knows the history of this, please let us know

Exhausted, we caught the bus back to the campsite and treated ourselves to a visit to the local wine shop on our way past. We thought it might help us get up the hill to the van!

We’re off to Venice tomorrow which is just as well. The campsite is filling up with healthy looking people who are for the Florence half marathon

Our ‘Durrell’ moment

Breakfast in glorious sunshine, amongst the olive trees (and electricity pylons) and we have company……

This takes Kim right back to being 4 years old – you’re likely to have heard this before! On holiday in Switzerland her Dad taught her how to pick lizards up properly, by the tail! Cue lots of screaming as the lizard escaped and she was left with a wriggling tail in her hand, convinced she had just murdered it. Re-telling the story never failed to make Ken laugh and bizarrely installed a lifelong love of reptiles in Kim.

Day 2 – San Gimignano to Firenze

Leisurely start and the sun is shining, the views from the campsite are stunning.

San Gimignano was this morning’s destination.

We managed to remove the motor homes from the campsite without incident and caught the bus into town. We shall never know how the bus driver didn’t knock anyone over as he made his way round narrow streets not designed for vehicles.

San Gimignano is a medieval city of towers. At its peak, in the 14th/15th century, there were over 70 towers which were built as fortresses and signs of wealth and power.

The town is beautiful and it’s amazing to think it’s survived intact.

Kim and Jacky splashed out 5€ to go up into the Sylvestus Tower which has been converted into a very stylish, modern apartment. At no point we’re the rooms larger than 9ft square. It’s amazing what you can achieve over 11 floors.

The view from the terrace at the top was rather lovely.

Today’s attractions included a display of firefighting equipment, including a very ‘Dad’s Army’ Landrover lookalike (Fiat!)

We also found a novel use of an old pallet

After lunch, Jane and David headed for Siena while we aimed for Florence……. and we arrived safely with only one minor detour. Quite a success, we think!

The campsite is tired (as are we), but the sun shone and we explored the area. Not much to say about that, a 10 minute walk had us on a main road with not a bar or restaurant in sight. On top of that, Ken and Jacky’s van is stuck on their pitch. It’s been raining a lot here and the site is very soft and muddy. It looks like a tractor may be needed to pull them out on Sunday which would be fun. We’re feeling a little smug, we got stuck on a pitch but managed to get out (without damaging anything). We’re now parked between two electricity pylons but you can’t have everything in life.

Our day ended with a proper camping meal, cooked on minuscule gas stoves and eaten at a picnic table

Night night, we’re catching a bus into Florence in the morning.

The Italian Job 2018 – day 1

Where to start, we have had a whole adventure in one day!

The day started brilliantly. We left home at 04:45, arrived at Heathrow just after 6 and flew into sunshine at Pisa.

Despite the taxi driver getting lost and needing to use Kim’s phone for directions, we were introduced to our new homes and left the factory about 3. Plenty of time for shopping at the supermarket and getting to our campsite by 5pm!

A leisurely evening in Sam Gimignano was within reach and then the adventure started (or it all went horribly wrong, depending on your view of life!)

We took a wrong turn, leaving the supermarket, the satnav recalculated and within 20 minutes this is what we saw…..

By the time we had turned the van around,here is a sample of the damage we had done. It was just awful.

A very helpful Italian detangled us from the mess, JustGo advised on leaving a note for them to deal with insurance claims and the local pharmacy lent pen and paper for writing a note. Kim used a mixture of mime and pidgin English to acquire said pen and paper, it was very stressful.

Our lovely, supportive friends had abandoned us and headed towards the Sosta at San Gimignano so we played catch up. It would be lovely to have a photo of the beautiful Tuscan hills we drove round but the reality was that we were lost, despite the satnav! Phone calls from Jane and Jacky followed, they were lost too. 5 minutes later we passed them, going in the opposite direction, there has to be a cheesy comedy film in there somewhere…..

Anyway, we all ended up at the planned Sosta, and it was revolting. Showers were shut, electricity was off and waste bins overflowing – could our day get any worse?

Thank goodness for Facebook, 5 minutes later we were all booked into Camping Boscetto Di Piemma with showers, a restaurant and trees.

Good food and wine and the stresses of the day are starting to fade, cheers….. hic

Final thoughts from Italy…and into Switzerland 

We left Levanto this morning with a lemon tree for Jacky and and Olive tree for Kim. Interestingly they were 25% cheaper than yesterday. It might have something to do with the smart, elderly lady leaving the lovely elderly man in charge.

Here’s a list of the things we will miss:

Gelato (apart from licorice)

Little three-wheeled trucks, in fact there’s a strong chance that Kim and Jacky have squirrelled a couple away in the vans!

Fiat Panda police cars, great for catching the mafiosa. We set Stan the challenge to repurpose his.

We’re heading north out of Italy, skirting Milan and Monza. We believe we’ve been past Como but it was hiding shyly in the fog. We came across the Swiss border rather suddenly, with Kim worried she could be illegally importing an Olive but, after paying €40 for the privilege of driving in Switzerland, we sailed through.

Lake Lugano looks fantastic, if only the fog would lift. John was last here in the late 1960s so he’s the expert!

This is what it could look like….

This is what the view does look like….. We realise that we’d been very lucky with the weather so far on our trip.

And this is the van with the new olive tree, see if you can spot the tree

It’s pizza in the site restaurant tonight before heading off to Freiburg in the morning. We now have a day in hand and it’s unlikely to be spent here!

Cinque Terre, Lemon and Olive trees

Off to Cinque Terre National Park for the day but not before Kim and Jacky explored the garden centre for Lemon and Olive trees. The plan is to bring them back in the vans’ showers.

The National Park runs along the coast for 25 miles and only accessible by train or walking. We opted to take the train which was covered in graffiti and interesting decor. The backs of all seats were peppered with bullet holes. We wondered if this is where Sicilian trains retire.

We took the train to the first Cinque Terre  village, Monterosso, and decided to walk to the next one, Vernazza. How difficult could it be? We were warned of ‘many steps’.

The walk was about 3.5 miles and one of the hardest we’ve ever done. We went up about 180 metres, along  very narrow paths through vineyards and citrus trees. Then we went up some more before descending back to sea level. There were many, many steps!
Along the way we were entertained by Ken singing songs from his youth, much to the amusement of the Americans and Portuguese that we kept meeting along the way.

We discovered a hillside sanctuary for feral cats. There are shelters and bins of food with a request for walkers to put some food out for them, mornings only.

Lunch was overlooking the harbour at Vernazzo where we relaxed with the local aperitif, Aperol Spritz, a mixture of Aperol and Prosecco

After lunch, we hopped back on the train to the last of the Cinque Terre towns, Romaggiore, where we stopped for a welcome cuppa.

John and I headed back to Levanto for a wander round the town and a final Gelato. John chose licorice which was not a good flavour! We were all so weary from the walk that our final Italian meal was in the newly opened pizzeria on the campsite.

An early night for us all, hoping that the clock chiming every 15 minutes wouldn’t keep us awake again!

Latest update from Matt is that he’s snowboarding in the Alps listening to ‘Days like these’  from The Italian Job by Matt Monroe


Finally, we’re by the seaside. Levanto is very pretty and this is the first place we’ve stopped that Kim has wanted to live

Debate of the day has been which is best – Ice cream or Italian Gelato. They both taste great but apparently Gelato wins – technically its creamier, smoother, lower in both fat and calories. We’ll have to try a few more samples just to make sure we agree.

There are toads the size of dinner plates mating in the river just outside the campsite. Kim is fascinated by them. Jacky can’t stop shuddering at the thought of them and the noise they’re making which is competing with the chiming of the church bell every 15 minutes all through the night.

However, the most unusual wildlife award goes to the seafaring mallards. We didn’t know you could could get salt water ducks!

The latest addition to our motorhome knowledge relates to red and green stickers on the wing mirrors. Apparently Ken was fed some line that you use them to help position the van on the road. Our friend Colin says it’s just so the factory know which way to put the glass in…….we tend to believe Colin

Latest from Matt: snow is harder than it looks!

Day 4 – Levanto and Cinque Terre

We had a surprisingly good night in the car park but we’re disappointed to learn that we’d completely missed the annual antiques fair in Lucca. A fellow JustGo motorhomer had picked this trip, and specified the biggest van, just so he could fill it up with Italian antique bargains.

It’s bye bye Tuscany, hello Liguria.

We were heading to Deiva Marina but a recommendation on Facebook for the site at Levanto caused a change of plan. It was just over an hours drive from Lucca, using the motorway, before the hairpin bends down into town. The campsite is busy, the facilities are lovely and we’re parked between olive trees. Alarmingly, we’re starting to spec our own motorhome!

We plan to head into Levanto this afternoon and take the train into Cinque Terre tomorrow.

Day 3 part 2 – Lucca

Proper motorhoming starts here. We are parked in a Sosta in Lucca. Not the nice one with hedges and electricity but the one that’s a car park by a busy road!

We had a lovely drive from Pisa over the Tuscan Appennines (sadly no pictures until O2 unlock Jacky’s phone and allows her to use it abroad). Extensive research had identified a nice Sosta, with shower facilities, open all year. Of course it was closed when we arrived. After hauling the RCV’s around the tight streets of Lucca we eventually arrived at our current stop.

The van gave us a fright when we parked…..no electricity from the leisure battery (hark at us with our terminology!). Luckily, Ken and Jacky had picked up a couple of seasoned motorhomers who removed a few bits and knew where to find our master switch. We now have lights and water, woohoo!

We wandered into the walled town of Lucca, just as it started to get dark, and collapsed in a cafe for beer and a sandwich for tea-too tired for photos tonight.

We’ve decided we’ll head to Deiva Marina tomorrow, a day early, because we can’t bear the thought of having to rely on the van’s facilities. There is a row brewing over who will empty the toilet!!

Finally, Matt has safely arrived in France for snowboarding. He’s sent some photos which we’ll try and share when we have wifi. In the meantime, this is the best photo of  our van …..

So, the van 7m long x 3.2m high x 2.5 wide. The height has already caused us problems in car parks. It has a 2.2l Fiat Diesel engine giving us a magnificent 22 miles to the gallon. We didn’t know it was possible for a Diesel engine to be so inefficient. It also has the most appalling automatic gearbox. It has a reversing camera, supplemented by Kim standing behind the van shouting. It comes complete with bike racks which are great for drying towels.

Internally, we have a fixed rear bed, designed for short, thin people, a bed that lowers from the ceiling which we are too scared to use. It also took us 24 hours to find it! There is a bathroom with a twisty toilet and shower. The kitchen has a three ring gas burner, great for boiling a kettle, and an oven that is designed to drive us bonkers with its rattling. The sink is smaller than a dinner plate and the fridge gets hysterical every time the power source changes. On the plus side, we have more led lights than B&Q and beautiful blue mood lighting across the floor. The dining area converts to a bed and we cannot comprehend how 6 people could happily live in this space.

Day 3, part 1: Pisa

We left the luxury of the site in Siena this morning, heading into the unknown and Pisa. We don’t have a campsite booked for tonight so we shall be trying an Italian Sosta. These sites don’t have toilets or showers and could be described as car parks, other than there should be electricity.

It took just under 2 hours, trouble free to get to Pisa, through beautiful Tuscan countryside. We think it had something to do with Kim labelling her hands

There was a slight language problem when we parked the van and Kim had to gesture her way out of paying for the night rather than short term parking. We’re aiming to get to Lucca before dark!

We had a brisk walk into Pisa with the sole purpose of seeing the Tower…

Now we’ve ticked that box, we’re shamelessly taking advantage of our first free wi-fi to post this before heading back to the van, Carrefour for provisions and Lucca.

Day 2 – Siena 

Well, we survived the night! The van was very cold this morning so Kim was up at 7 working out how to turn the gas on for hot water and heating. 10 minutes later she turned it off, worried that the gas bottle wouldn’t last until it could be filled!

Breakfast was in last night’s bar, €8 for four breakfasts – we might have to move here.

The day was spent exploring Siena. We walked from the campsite, leaving the monster van behind.

The weather was fantastic and we had a lovely day wandering around the city. We found it via the longest escalator which saved us a long walk up a hill.

Siena is a fantastic mediaval city with pedestrianised, narrow roads. It has the feel of Nice or Girona. Once you’ve seen one Mediterranean mediaval city you’ve seen them all other than there is pizza on every corner. Lunch was overlooking Piazza del Campo before hunting down the best gelateria in Siena ( Thanks to Gillian for the newspaper supplement recommending it!

Next stop was the Duomo and we toured the cathedral and the panorama across the city