We left Cinque Terre at about 4:30pm to give us some time to reach Tuscany via Pisa before sunset (around 9:30pm).
I’ve never been a fan of Pisa – it’s a good stop for a cheesy photo with the several hundred other travellers. I’d done this before and I had remembered the gardens plus the disappointment of the Leaning Tower’s size – a similar feeling to seeing the Mona Lisa, but I’ve got to say, I didn’t remember walking through the the cobble stones and the restaurant vibe outside the gardens and away from the selfie sticks and innocuous poses. That was impressive.
For me, I was excited about what was to come – escaping to the country side covered in grapevines and driving through the winding roads and hills in Tuscany was perhaps the reason I really wanted to explore Italy by car.
Dan and I had also hit the region as the sun was going down, making for an impressive backdrop.
Once again getting to our hostel (Ostello del Chianti) at around 9pm left us limited choices for food. However, a tip from the hostel’s reception was that there was a local festival in a park down the road (Parco del Mocale) where there would be food and entertainment. It had been running for a week, and was in some celebration of wild boar – supposedly that was in their dishes!
There was a marquee set up, where there was a live band, and food costed a modest €5 for a plate of pasta or a pizza, with beers and wine even cheaper!
The word also got out that we were Australians (maybe the accents were a giveaway) and we’d made new friends, despite the very obvious communication barriers. They were happy to share their liqueurs and were perhaps laughing at our expense (I don’t know that much Italian).
We had come across a real community event – a jive and a singalong made for a memorable night off the beaten track of travelling, perhaps the most authentic night I’ve encountered in my travels. We wrapped up the night shortly after midnight despite the party continuing.
DAY 5: Tuscany to Solerno
The next morning we enquired from the hostel for the best route through the hills as we headed south. Being a Sunday, I was weary of how much would be open, particularly in smaller towns but we were advised to head down to Poggibonsi then to Volterra as must visit places in Tuscany.
Driving in that direction did not disappoint and as Volterra is the highest point of the region, it gave a great view of the hills. The city was also busy with traffic as locals and visitors were on their day out.
We wanted to get to Naples that night. We did a bit better – Solerno.
Our hostel was definitely the roughest place I’d ever stayed in both surrounding area and accommodation standards. A 10 bed mixed dorm was a very basic set up, and the communal showers were just that – without dividers or a curtain around them. At €13 a night, it was one to laugh at later.
We were both happy to move on early the next day… and besides we had finally got close to the Amalfi Coast!