We spent a few days more in Italy than originally planned. After hearing my sister talk about Siena and the interior, we cancelled the plan to ride down the Adriatic, right to Brindisi, where we would then hop on the ferry to Greece. Since Jan wanted to see Lake Como, we mozied our way down the west end of it.
A number of very luxurious homes crowd the landscape and share the shoreline with plenty of restaurants and other outfits catering to tourists.
We stayed at a very nice campsite close to Lake Como for one night and then made our way into the interior, direction La Spezia and Portovenere. The latter was a recommendation from Dieter. Portovenere looked like a very nice place, but unfortunately we arrived way too late to enjoy it. It's a cozy port town, catering to the well off. As we quickly found out, there was not a campsite for miles around, although we were directed to a "camp" that housed mushroom growers, way up a mountain in what clearly was a purely agricultural area. Misguided, we ended up in a sleepy town which dead-ended into a field. Tired and at this time not very happy, we decided to eat at the first place we could find retracing our steps and sleep in the first hotel we encountered. The former was challenging, as most places were closed. We ended up getting directed back to La Spezia, where we enjoyed a great pizza. There we asked for a place to stay and ended up in Hotel Corallo, an expensive defeat at a 100 Euros for the night.
the ride to our expensive linen, we did go through what up to now was the
prettiest scenery. Without a GPS, it would be impractical or impossible to
navigate the small roads swirling through the countryside. The roads were very
good, but the many twists and turns made for slow going, hence our late arrival
in Porto Venere.
Leaving La Spezia, we headed to Siena, where we ended up staying for an extra day. On the way, we tackled Pisa, diving into the crowded inner city traffic and lane splitting like the locals, with a few pedestrian-only areas thrown in for good measure. It was a hot day, and arriving at the ultimate architectural phallic failure, I decided to stay in the shade while Jan hiked through the heat in full gear to take the picture below.
Siena has a very decent campsite in close proximity to the city, and we quickly pitched our tent well in time to enjoy the evening, having learnt our lesson from the night before.
After a few tries, I managed to capture this evening picture of the cathedral.
Siena is a maze of small streets with hundreds of places to eat and drink. The atmosphere is very relaxed and until late at night, people are lingering in every corner of the city. We parked our bikes one street off the main square, but were kindly directed by the local police to park them away from the center. A hundred yards further, we found a motorcycle parking spot.
Although the pictures above are not the sharpest, they give a good impression and "feel" what it is like right in the center after midnight.
The next day, we ended up outside of the touristy area and captured the pictures above. They provide a more realistic view of the life and the obvious lack of haste of the indigenous population.
Next we were off to Assisi, which I found much more enjoyable than Siena. It's a bit like comparing a really old city turned museum (Siena or Brugge, BE), to one where the daily life is still much more prevalent (Gent, BE) and the tourists are a happy and lucrative afterthought.
The approach to Assisi is spectacular and I made a huge wall-sized picture with the stitch function on my camera, to be printed at a later date. The pictures below give you an idea of what Assisi is like.
After Assisi we headed through more fantastic countryside and ended up in Ancona, with about 30 minutes to spare for the 5 pm ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece. It was very hot at this point and sitting around waiting to be allowed on board between numerous idling trucks and other traffic was unpleasant.
Bike insurance: Yes
Intl. drivers license: No
Entry point: Splugenpass
Exit point: Ancona