The following morning, feeling much regenerated, we set off on the next stage of our journey, by-passing the busy commercial metropolis of Milan, crossing the flat fertile plains of the Po Valley, passing Parma and the university town of Bologna. We pressed on traversing Reggio Emilia and the rugged Upper Appenines, benefiting from the newly constructed sections of tunnel and elevated stretches of motorway that now slice through the mountains.
On into the quintessential landscape of Tuscany, with its stone farmhouses, olives groves, cypress trees, gently rolling hills and lush wild flower meadows.
Soon we saw signs directing us to Florence, a place I had always longed to visit. It had been a pleasantly easy journey down, but once again we it was difficult to locate our campsite, and we found driving through Florence rather un-nerving with the caravan in tow. Eventually a kindly local gave us good concise instructions, and before too long we were installed.
The site was situated on south bank of the River Arno, indeed a very beautiful camping location, and very conveniently placed for walking down into the heart of Florence.
Nearby was Piazzale Michelangelo which provided spectacular panoramic views of the medieval city and the surrounding landscape.
The next day the weather was not too promising, with heavy thundery downpours and a fresh breeze. We set off to do a little site-seeing, and found the city was thronged with groups of tourists from all corners of the globe. There was a long queue to get into the Uffizi Gallery so we headed instead to La Piazza della Signoria. Here we admired at the imposing ramparts of the Palazzo Vecchio and its lofty clock tower, the replica of Michelangelo’s David, the gallery of statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi and the Fontana di Nettuno by Ammannati.
We eagerly continued on our quest to find the magnificent domed Duomo dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore with its intricate green and pink marble façade, and Giotto’s infamous Campanile, and the bronze Gates of Paradise of the nearby Baptistry.
Then to Piazza Santa Croce, with its beautifully frescoed palazzo and to the church itself, which bears the tombs of many famous citizens such as Michelangelo and Galileo.
Lastly we explored the characteristic Ponte Vecchio which spans the Arno with its three wide arches. It is lined with a quaint row of little shops which nowadays house mainly jewellers, artists and antique merchants.
Later we strolled up, once again, to Piazzale Michelangelo and viewed the Florentine skyline by night.
As I took one last look before leaving, I vowed I would return again soon to further explore this truly remarkable city.
Then, the final leg of our long journey – our destination being …..