On the Tuscan Run – Evicted Twice in Two Days!

Piedmont into Liguria was the exact opposite of the previous day’s pancake-flat jaunt across the Italian plain.

The Autoroute Azzura, through the Appenine mountains and Genoa, presented us with a hair-raising few hours of tunnels and vertiginous viaducts. Impatient truckers, who objected to our top speed of 45 mph (70 kph), added an extra frisson of fear to what was already a white-knuckle ride. I should explain that, besides being our top speed, 45 mph was also the velocity known in those parts as The Speed Limit.

‘Outraged of Orvietto’ even made me jump out of my seat by hooting his air horns at our audacity. Imagine! Observing the law!

Autoroute Azzura presented a challenge. Note the no overtaking by trucks signs!

At least Orvietto obeyed the ‘no overtaking by trucks’ rule. I can’t say that applied to all those at the wheel of a forty-tonne pantechnicon. As huge rigs thundered past with inches to spare, my elevated position in the cab gave me an additional four vertical metres from which to admire the dizzying abyss just the other side of the rather low and fragile-looking safety barriers.

The constant overpasses, bridges and tunnels meant nowhere to stop, so we couldn’t check whether our brakes were overheating on the long descents.

Our first view of the Med, but there was nowhere to stop and check our brakes…

After hours of tunnels and flyovers, the biggest surprise was the €16.50 toll.

“I though it would be at least three times that!” I said to Mark, recalling the Aosta valley. “Mind you, with the hills, bays and tiny winding lanes, the autoroute is the only sensible way to bypass Genoa. If you did it on A-roads, you could be stuck there for days…!”

Sunset over the Mediterranean, Lavagna

From our park up in Lavagna, just beyond the Ligurian capital, we could see the Med from our bed. And we had a gun-wielding visitor inside The Beast!

It was a local policeman. I think he mostly wanted a look around the truck, although he did ask how long we were staying.

“Overnight is fine if you leave tomorrow morning. You are big and the car park will be busy for Easter weekend.”

It was the nicest eviction notice we’d ever been issued. We assured him we intended to move on. I didn’t wish to push my luck, so I didn’t ask to photograph his weapon, in a brown leather holster at his side.

I differ from my husband, who has pursued a lifelong quest to engage the most humourless officials in levity. Officers of the law; customs personnel; he’s not picky. He once danced sideways past three armed guards outside a military barracks in the Philippines, waving his hands in the air.

“Don’t shoot!” he laughed at the decidedly sour-faced sentries.

It was his first time in Southeast Asia. I grabbed his arm, marched him away and hissed,

“Don’t ever do that again!”

In my experience, guards toting machine guns, particularly in countries where there are significant terrorist threats, are not renowned for their easy-going tolerance and ready sense of humour. I didn’t want my beloved to test their vigour with regard to the principle of ‘shoot first and ask questions later’.

An underpass beneath the road and railway line connected us to the dog-friendly part of the beach. The pebbles made us appreciate our home town, Bournemouth’s, miles of golden sand, although in general, Bournemouth can’t lay claim to 27°C at 8 p.m. on a mid-April evening!

We appreciated Bournemouths miles of golden sand, but its not usually 27°C at 8 p.m. on a mid-April evening!

Our drive the following day transported us into one of those classic tourist paintings of Tuscany. We were engulfed by waves of parrot green hills, topped with dark stands of needle-sharp cypress trees, each with a peachy-coloured stone farmhouse nestled within. Like rows of flying saucers, umbrella pines lined the winding earthen driveways up to the villas, while in places, the hillsides were criss-crossed with vines, or polka dotted with silvery-grey olive groves.

Cypress and umbrella pines are Toscana‘s two most emblematic trees. They are planted for shade, to create wind breaks, or simply to add architectural magnificence to the landscape. The umbrella pine, or stone pine, is one of the main sources of edible pine nuts, or pinoli. Its wood built the Roman fleet, and it is still used in carpentry and construction today.

On the other hand, early humans credited the Tuscan cypress with supernatural powers. It came to symbolise immortality, because it remains evergreen in winter, and can live for more than 2,000 years. Rich in essential oils, its resinous perfume was believed to ward off evil spirits. Throughout Turkey and the Mediterranean, cypress was often planted around burial grounds, and it’s fragrant wood was used to make coffins. Legend has it that Noah’s ark and the crossbar of Jesus’ cross were both crafted from cypress.

Umbrella pines and cypress: the most emblematic trees of Tuscany

Our newly fitted LPG fill nozzle worked perfectly, and for 70c per litre – about half the price we’d paid in the UK – it restored our fortunes on the cooking and water heating fronts.  

Misdirection necessitated a U-turn on the large forecourt of a stall selling vegetables. Although we had just stocked up at a supermarket, I felt obliged to make a purchase. For the rest of the journey, I contemplated what I might cook with a kilogram of plum tomatoes and a lemon. Yet a plenitude of tommies was worth it for the magnificent still life photo I took of Our Beast looking all Tuscan, with the stall’s fluttering Italian tricolore flag, and majestic umbrella pine.

Still life with Beast, tricolore, and umbrella pine!

It was Easter Friday on the Mediterranean, and our sosta in Puntone was just fifty metres from the ocean. There was only one other motorhome there. A little further along the coast, we’d read that another park up was within walking distance of Cala Violina, which claims to be the most beautiful cove in Italy.

We walked to the beach through a forest of the flying-saucer pines. The shady tree-lined coastline with the sun-bleached ocean beyond reminded me of Kanaha on Maui, where Mark took me for my 50th birthday treat.

Umbrella pines lining the beach at Puntone di Scarlino

Less like Maui was the derelict building that fringed the waterfront. With a tower at each end, its peeling yellow stucco and long porticoed frontage exuded a past filled with lost grandeur. Further along, the ragged collection of tumbledown beach shacks were more akin to what you’d expect to find in the Caribbean, not the Med.

The beach huts with the derelict building in the distance, Puntone di Scarlino

We planned to stay for a couple of days. When we checked the pine trees, there were no processionary caterpillar nests, which had been such a worry at Savines-le-Lac. The only downside was the amount of garbage scattered around the car park. Judging by the quantity of loo paper, the surrounding forest also served as the local public convenience. Mark and the German lady from our neighbouring moho did a litter pick, and filled two bin bags each. Since we park for free, we always like to ‘give back’ by leaving places tidier than we find them.

It was such a shame about the garbage, although it was unsurprising, since there were no bins or toilet facilities either on the beach or in the car park. One Italian man told me,

“The authorities don’t provide public toilets, because they think people will go into a café or bar and buy a coffee.”

Clearly, it saves taxpayers’ money, but it doesn’t work. The litter is bad enough, but human waste is one of the more revolting aspects of lay-bys on the roadsides of Italy.

We drifted off to sleep to the sound of birdsong. We weren’t sure of the species, but the intermittent, “Pooo. Pooo.” reminded me of the sonar on a submarine!

The following morning, when our German neighbours left, we made a terrible mistake.

The Fab Four on the beach at Lavagna, from where we were evicted politely!

It was so quiet, we broke an unwritten rule. If we dried it discreetly in the sunshine behind The Beast, we thought we could get away with doing our laundry. Just as we’d pegged out our last pair of undies, we received a visitation from a dark-liveried Fiat Uno and two female Italian Jobsworths.

Good Cop was wan, slim and pretty, with a thin curtain of anaemic blond hair around her face. She said nothing: her role was to simper and smile apologetically in the background. Bad Cop was short, dark, and sweating profusely in her black uniform. The gods of good looks had forsaken her, and she had obviously worked tirelessly to achieve a position from which she could exact her revenge upon the world.

“This is no good!” she said, jabbing her finger towards the two black bin bags at the rear end of The Beast.

“That’s not our trash. It’s litter I picked up from the car park.,” Mark said, but his philanthropic pleas were as pearls before swine. Bad Cop was had already settled in to her fault-finding stride and was giving The Beast a full inspection.

“This is no good!” she said, throwing her whole arm out to gesture towards our waste water tank. “Black water. No good.”

“It’s not black water,” Mark replied. “It’s grey water…” She cut him off before he had a chance to explain we had a toilet inside. He was wise enough not to opine about the soiled loo roll festooned like bunting around the car park; she’d probably blame us for that too. However, Bad Cop had already loaded her gun and prepared to deliver the coup d’état.

She’d caught us with our pants hung up.

“No kemping!” she barked when she spotted our laundry. “Only parking. You will leave in Alf an ‘our.”

“We can’t pack up in half an hour,” Mark pleaded. Her eyes met his with a look of pure malevolence. Then she out-Arnie’d Schwarzenegger with,

“I’ll be back.”

Good Cop melted into a colourless smile, and trickled back into the passenger seat.

“‘Alf an ‘our,” came the parting shot from the driver’s seat.

Our Golden Girl Ruby in the Golden Hour at Lavagna. She is a mistress of disguise!

Although their beach car park was empty on Good Friday, Puntone clearly had no need of our tourist dollars. We knew Bad Cop would undoubtedly scour the area like a blood hound to catch us out again, so we decided to clear the region. In a camouflage-green behemoth with a top speed of 45 mph, we went on the Tuscan Run.

Our park up at Puntone. Mistress of disguise Ruby gave us advice on doing a runner in a camouflage-green behemoth with a top speed of 45 mph

With our living space filled with soaking wet laundry, Mark and I reached a turning point in our travels.

“Shall we miss out Rome?” Mark asked.

“I’m so glad you said that!” I replied. “I know you want to show me Rome, and I do want to see it, but I am really not sure about driving into a major metropolis in an enormous truck with four dogs. We’re not city people – and it will be there for another day!”

Unlike the cops, the many visitors who took photos of The Beast and came inside to look didn’t seem to have any objection to us parking in Puntone. A couple from Leipzig had given us a recommendation that sounded out of this world.

On a promise of Etruscan ruins and natural hot springs, we set a course for Saturnia.  

Join us next time for cheese, wine and wild asparagus.

Follow Us And Get Our Next Adventure Delivered Straight Into Your Inbox!

If you want to know more about how we gave up work to travel full time, our previous adventures are now available in print or as ebooks on Amazon.

Published by WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before" - & believe me, we have! BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

2 thoughts on “On the Tuscan Run – Evicted Twice in Two Days!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: