We got a bit lost on the way to the campsite 15minutes away from Pisa as Tammy our Tom Tom gets a bit confused sometimes which is not great when you are on an Autostrada and can’t get off! We call our navigator devices names as we do talk to them and swear at them occasionally when they do get it very wrong.

Gary google however came into his own and found the way to the Agriturismo Camp “Lago le Tamerici”, a lovely spot and family run which makes such a difference. We bought fresh free range eggs and set up for the night. It poured all night and didn’t auger well for our trip into Pisa the next morning. We left early to avoid the city traffic and got a prime parking spot just outside the city walls of Pisa. It rained a little but then out came the sun and we had a good half day walking around the city monuments and back streets.

I had always only thought of Pisa as the place of the Leaning Tower but it is so much more and such an interesting city with a very large outer wall,lovely buildings, large and small squares and is divided by the river Arno.

We had to obtain a ticket (which was free) to go into the church but even though we arrived at 9am we had to wait an hour for our allotted time so we went over to a museum and saw a fascinating documentary which showed the lengths to which the scientists went into stabilising and tilting the leaning tower back by half a degree! This started in 1993 and went for nearly ten years. I took a picture of the steel girdle which holds near the base of the tower together. Everything else is underground and cannot be seen.

We went into the church which has the round baptistry on one side and the bell tower (leaning) on the other. I noticed some volunteer guides and asked one if she could tell us something about the church in English. Fabiola was a French language graduate from Sicily who now lived in Pisa and she gave us a really informative and enthusiastic account of the churche’s history. She was also interested to go to Australia so we had a good chat in between her explanations.

She referred us to a good Neapolitan pizzeria and after walking for about an hour we found it closed but we found a good replacement pizzeria on the way back to the car. By the time we left there were thousands of people in what they call “the square of miracles” so we were glad had got our sightseeing in early.

We made good use of the long evening and made our way to the base of Lake Garda where we camped for the night after a three hour drive to Peschiera sul Lago. It was a beautiful spot but unfortunately the European soccer was in full force on the Saturday night with a roudy crowd and was followed by music until after midnight.
It was the noisiest campsite in which we had stayed so we moved on the next day towards Parma and Cremona past huge grain growing fertile plains and then driving up the east side of Lake Garda. We specially chose the east side so as to take some photos with the sun behind us,however there was no sun that day just a very heavy grey sky.

When I mentioned to a schoolfriend of mine, Liana that we were touring that way she said that we should go to a mountain town called Cimego from where her mother came and her cousin had a hotel/restaurant there. It was a three hour drive up lake Garda, across the top and a further hour into the mountains where it rained heavily again. We found the hotel and her cousin who recommended we eat specialties of the region – polenta (maize)with wild Radicchio and homemade ravioli with ricotta and endive (a tasting plate of each). This was followed by grilled lake fish and vegetables and a homemade apple cake – all delicious. It was tempting to take to the bed in the van for a snooze but we had an hour’s drive back to the campsite so we did that instead along the very winding roads.

The “Camping Azzurro” at Lago di Ledro was a great find – great facilities and a quiet location with not many tourists on a beautiful lake. The wifi was good and only 3euros for three days – a real bargain after the five and eight euros we had been charged in Sardinia and Corsica. We had a peaceful night. We awoke to more cloud for our day trip to the town of Gandino/Barzizza, another three hour journey past Lake Iseo and then along winding roads up into the high mountains and through a most spectacular pass called “Croce Domini” at 1900metres. We were glad that there was no traffic on the way up (we only saw one car) as the roads in many places were very narrow with countless hairpin bends. The temperature varied from 10degrees through the mountains to a lovely 30degrees in Gandino.

There is something special about the serene and wide Alpine meadows surrounded by high peaks. It was one of the best journeys we had ever had and the day turned into a beautifully sunny and warm one. Vince a friend from Perth was born in Gandino and recommended we see the museum at Gandino and the church but by the time we arrived both were closed but we spent some time walking around the lovely town with it’s interesting architecture and modern cafes.

We took a much shorter way back to Pieve al Lago via the Autostrada bypassing Bergamo and Brescia and then up the entire west side of Lake Garda and through scores of tunnels. The lake and mountains looked much more appealing with a blue sky above us for our last evening by the lake where we ate pizza outside a very German looking restaurant. I did ask a waiter why he spoke to us in German and he told us that ninety percent of their tourists were German. Oh to be generalised!

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