We have now been on the road for two weeks and I have only posted a brief introduction to this years’ road trip with Caroline, my first ever passenger. Knowing a friend for many years is not the same as travelling together for 24/7 for weeks on end and so we have been on a learning curve. I have to say, she has been very tolerant and we are settling in to each-others ways and no blood spilt so far.
So far we have travelled just under two thousand miles, from the UK to Andorra on the first leg, and from Andorra to our current location in Piedamonte San Germano, Nr Cassino in the Lazio region.
The visit to Andorra was a first for us and was in fact, Bridgets’ 63 unique country with me. Andorra is an independent sovereign principality, established by Charlemange in the 8th century. The present principality was formed by agreement between the Catalonian of Spain and the French, reputedly to help prevent the Moors travelling north.
We stayed in Andorra la Velle, the capital, with some interesting Romanesque buildings. During our stay they were celebrating a local festival with lots of fireworks for twenty four hours and some local dance troupes and bands performing in the square.
From Andorra we moved on to Cannes, via Montpelier, in France. A fascinating stay-over, Montpelier is a university city, as witnessed by a large gathering of students, who being penniless individuals studying hard day and night, were all eating and drinking together at many of the vast number of local restaurants and bars. The food and atmosphere is first rate!
Arriving at Cannes Tuesday afternoon we set about discovering if the city was just about films, filmstars, and the nouveau riche. It is a pleasant enough beach resort emphasising the promotion of the annual film festival and all the past stars that have been associated with Cannes. Regarding the wealthy, I got the distinct impression that many were rejects that failed to pass muster to get residency in Monaco. Possibly a little unfair, but we will never know.
We did visit Monaco whilst in the area and did the classic tourist bit, gawping at the Casino, The Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo and what can be established of the Monaco F1 track.
Sunday 1st July we crossed the border from France into Italy. With temperatures in the low to mid centigrade, it was a long hot drive before we arrived in the city of Lucca. I love Lucca and walking the Renaissance city walls in the sunshine is very peaceful. The whole city is full of historic buildings including the essential Cathedral and the 150 foot tall Guinigi Tower. It was also the birthplace of one of my favourite composers, Giacomo Puccini. By pure coincidence the Lucca Festival 2023 was on whilst we were there and Simply Red was this weeks ‘headliner’. I wasn’t aware of this particular festival which is held every summer and has a track record of many of the great musical stars from all periods. Unfortunately, all tickets for this week had already gone, so we had to settle for a good restaurant instead. I would not normally remark on the food in any Italian locations, as it is always good, in my opinion, but for those not fortunate enough to have visited Italy, let me say that it would be far harder to find a restaurant serving poor food than one that is good.
Day 2, and we caught one of Mussolini’s trains, an adventure in itself for me, and were taken to Florence. Unfortunately, many things have changed since I was last in this part of Italy and things have changed dramatically. The cathedral part of the Duomo is closed on a Sunday, and every tourist site now charges entry fees. They all used to be free! The Roman Catholic church used to say everyone was welcome in ‘God’s House’, but now they say someone has to pay for their upkeep. Perhaps they should raid one of their very over-filled bank accounts!
Driving back to the coastal area and heading for Livorno, we stopped for the morning at Pisa. Being Caroline’s first visit to the area she understandably wanted to see the Tower. I think she was suitably impressed.
Back on the road and we made a stop-over at Civitavecchia, where not only did we take the opportunity to laze in the sun for a few hours, but we caught a beautiful sunset. We took the coast road from Civitavecchia to Piedmonte San Germano which has some astonishing coastal scenery and in the morning we are going to visit Monte Cassino.