We woke up with this as our view after our first night on Elba.The island of Elba is one of the loveliest places you can go in Italy, a myriad of beautiful beaches to suit all tastes - sandy, pebbly and all types in between! The main town of Portoferraio has a luminosity about it with a wonderful fortress, Martello tower and a lovely port.

The countryside around is majestic and the roads were great fun to get around in NiKi, our Elddis Encore.

Napoleon was imprisoned here, but as a ruler reformed everything. Improving sanitation, roads, improving agriculture. In just 300 days he changed the island completely, and in just three we were able to get a true flavour of it.

We had researched where to stay as we took a late ferry over and in pitch darkness, only to find the site closed - so we parked on the beach for the night. The next day we found there is only one option in winter: Orti del Mare, a small campsite that offers inexpensive motorhome stops, and one with ‘full fat’ luxury facilities. As this was a break, we chose the latter and had an extraordinary view over the sea.

Motorhome heaven on the island of Elba

 

We would recommend it, and the island highly. At the recommendation of the lady at the tourist office we had a lunch treat at Teatro Bistro in Portoferraio, really fantastic local food run by a young couple, upholding traditional cuisine.

The menu at Teatro, all good.

 

Elba has just stunning views.

 

'No, you are not allowed in NiKi! Lovely cat trying to find a new home after her owner had passed away.

 

Karen is tempted ... 'Ah go on, take me with you!'

 

Elba: clear blue sky and clear blue water, with the boy in blue.

 

Another glorious view of Elba

 

Elba: it can get warm in March!

 

Elba: the capital Portoferraio, very relaxed.

 

Fortified by our lunch, we were back on the ferry to the mainland heading to Siena - one of the many jewels in Tuscany’s crown. The core of the town is fully medieval and the Piazza del Campo did not disappoint. It is full of grandeur and with the sun shining, a perfect place to have a picnic or gelato. Just sit down and watch the world go by.

Our budget is stretched a bit in Italy but Siena allows for this, great sandwich shops that sell pizza slices to full pasta heaven for a just a few Euro. We found Consorzio Agrario Di Siena on Via Pianigiani offered the best. Grom on Via Banchi di Sopra was the gelato of choice! On top of that just walking around soaking up the atmosphere was enough for us here.

 

Siena: The Piazza del Campo, you have to keep coming back.

 

Siena Cathedral

 

Siena: a museum we did not enter, but the ceiling was wonderful.

 

Walking the streets of Siena

 

Siena and yet another of the Piazza del Campo

 

The had very famous cyclists at Greve in Chianti

 

We had booked another treat lunch at a famous Chianti winery the next day so in the late evening headed off to a cute town nearby called Greve in Chianti and visited the largest wine tasting Enoteca (shop) in Italy (so we were told!) We were able to taste many different wines and wander around the town that is considered to be the heart of the Chianti region.

 

Wine tasting heaven

 

The Vineyard at Antinori nel Chianti Classico is all very James Bond!

 

We stopped at one of the largest vineyards for our St. Patrick’s day lunch. Parked beside the Maseratis, Porsches, and other magnificent cars, NiKi felt perfectly at home. Antinori del Chianti Classico is an imposing place - all steel and modern architecture. The food and service are old school Italian, perfect. Not cheap, but an affordable as a treat and if you are near here we would recommend it.

 

Karen walking on top of vineyard complex.

 

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I have to drink wine?!...

 

Fully fed, we set off for the magic that is Florence. We are under some pressure to move on, as we really must go home and get jobs again so our deadline is the first week of June and we want to relax a bit in Croatia!

Elddis have set us a little task of visiting as many UNESCO world heritage sites as we can en-route with the motorhome - and with Florence, we will have visited fourteen with one more to come before we take the ferry to our 16th!

We were a little UNESCOed out so our visit to Elba was a way of relaxing. But Florence ticks all the boxes for a visit and though we rationed ourselves to one full day it was a dream place to visit, the heart and soul of the renaissance and rebirth of European culture.

We chose to visit one museum, the Uffizi, we queued for an hour to get in and at €8 it was a steal - stupendous art, beautifully presented and well explained. UNESCO heaven, then a stroll around to the Cathedral - amazing a bit like a classic wedding cake crossed with the Taj Mahal! Very, very beautiful, the interior was much starker and nearly menacing but enjoyable and religious in feel.

The Ponte Vecchio is very alluring with the river flowing under all that gold! Again, a whistle stop tour but after 10 hours ambling around we had gained a feel for that great city. Yes David’s gelato challenge was added to here, with a visit to Vivoli on Via dell’Isola delle Stinche being our choice here. Gorm, in Siena we felt was better and they have a branch in Florence as well.

 

On our way into Florence

 

Crossing the river Arno, the Gappers take a selfie of the Ponte Vecchio

 

Ponte Vecchio: gold everywhere and very expensive gold too. Sorry, Karen!

 

Karen and the Ponte Vecchio ... gold forgotten for now!

 

Galleria Degli Uffizi: Portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca

 

Uffizi Gallery: one of the many versions of the Annunciation.

 

Uffizi Gallery: Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

 

Uffizi Gallery: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

 

Uffizi Gallery: Caravaggio's Medusa

 

Florence Cathedral

 

Florence Cathedral - a different view

 

The interior of the Cupola of Florence Cathedral

 

Drumming and flag throwing Florence style

 

David - Renaissance style!

 

The other David playing with the wild boar for luck

 

Back to NiKI and the next morning we left Florence to visit Arezzo. Not on everyone’s tour, but we had seen La Vita è Bella (Life Is Beautiful (1997) - Roberto Benigni’s tragic comedy set in the town and wanted to visit. If you can do, visit this magnificent little town, the heart is there, and it has a real feel of what Italy is really about. The piazza is sort of a miniature Siena with better food! There is lots to see and do and it is very accessible. Oh by the way, do watch the film if you get the chance - it is superb, although a real tearjerker.

 

Arezzo: as you walk through the bronze sheep just graze

 

Arezzo: the Piazza Grande

 

Arezzo: a montage of coats of arms

 

We are still in a sort of rush to make Ancona, to catch Tuesday's ferry, so we left Arezzo and have parked up beside Italy’s fourth largest lake at a lovely Aire in Castiglione del Lago. We are parked less than 100 yards from the lake with a great view.

We mix and match where we stay from Campsites to Freedom / Wild camping. Life in a motorhome gives you flexibility to explore see places you would never go to on a two-week break. We recommend taking a look at all options at where to stay. Tonight we are guests of the town on their Sosta, as they call them here. They charge just €12 and for that you get a place to park, electricity, water and waste disposal ... all with a view of the lake!

On our Blog we have reviewed every place we have stayed at in Spain and the Long Way Home. If you want to take look click on the 'red words' and you will see the Google map and all those lovely spots for you to enjoy, too.

So, having started in Italy a tad annoyed we would have to conclude that, like everywhere, it has its good and its bad. But all in all, as the director said: ‘La Vita è Bella’ ... live life and enjoy it!

Until next week and Croatia…

 

Our route this week: