(Written by Dave)
Very quiet overnight in the Campeggio Italia – we were so far out the back of the campground that no one would have known if we were even there. As a matter of fact, this morning when we left, I tracked the mileage and noted it was 650 metres from our site to the front gate. And every bit of that 650 metres was covered with a permanent camper trailer. Not what you would call wilderness camping but we didn’t have much choice. Nancy only got lost a couple times going to/from the facilities – it was a ten minute walk and all the trailer-lined roads looked exactly the same.
We had 45k to ride to reach Pisa. The first 25k were along the coast. Or I should say I think that they were along the coast. The coast here is a place that really makes us appreciate the laws in our home state of Oregon – no one can own the water/beachfront. Here it is clearly owned and you aren’t getting near it unless you have the right membership status. When we weren’t passing private clubs, we were passing drinking establishments with the ubiquitous names like Blue Jamaica or Tequila Sunrise. It is nice to know that you can get a Heineken beer anywhere in the world but seeing a wee bit of the nice blue Mediterranean Sea would be nice also.
We left the “shoreline” at Viareggio and followed the only road on our map (and in google maps) that lead into Pisa. I’m sure that we must have missed something because highway SS1 was nearly a motorway – doublewide, massive guardrails and no shoulder. Luckily, there was limited traffic and we were able to power through the flat terrain in good time. Most of the cars and trucks gave us a wide berth so it at least appears that drivers here are bicycle aware.
We eventually rode into Pisa and with no difficulty found the Duomo and leaning Tower of Pisa. Wow, what a sight to see for the first time. Both the main church building and the tower are visible from quite a distance. And you can really see the lean. It leans so much that you can imagine that it will fall at any minute – and yet they have people climbing it (we could see them on the top). The whole area was quite crowded but it was a nice sunny day so we decided to find some sandwiches and grab a piece of marble to sit on. We ended up with our old standard parma and cheese and sat right at the foot of what was probably a famous statue of some sort. (don’t worry, lots of folks were sitting there – and I don’t think we were breaking any laws). We had a nice break, watched all the tourists and enjoyed the moment.
After lunch we had another 28k to ride out to a highly recommended campground (Tuscana Village) in Montopoli in Val d’Arno. We’d read another cycling web blogger that noted that the roads here were quite scenic. Well, after the morning’s roads, pretty much anything would have gotten good marks. It turned out that roads were ok, a little bumpy and narrow, but at least not as bad as the morning and again most of the car drivers were kind.
It ended up being a longish day, with a late-ish start and all the time spent at the tower. So, by the time we were getting close the campground, we were thinking of getting a room somewhere. We decided to look at the campground first. So far, it’s the best camping we’ve had in Italy. It is still very empty but the folks are really nice (they loaned us a power plug so we could use camp power), there are lots of nice camp sites and the sunset view was great.
I’ve already gotten in a little trouble over the forecasted low temps for the night and been advised that one of the little onsite cabins would have been a better option. But that’s how it goes when I’m the person who goes into the office to checking on camping. We’ve had this ongoing debate all trip of who gets to make the office visit when we show up at a campsite or hotel. We are both usually pretty tired at this point so we have a good round of “no, it’s your turn”, before one of us eventually gives in. In my mind at least, the person going in has first choice. I played that card today and am now hoping that it doesn’t get too cold overnight. It already says 5 degrees on my bike computer and there is no cloud cover. We’ll see how it plays out…
Tomorrow we are heading to Florence where we will take a day off. We are going to play tourists for a day to check out the sights.