We’re back in Italy and back at our friend Marks house. A long story, but, having damaged our water tank, the guys at Elddis couriered out a replacement tank and parts and arranged for the team at Caravanbacci to fit the tank and check everything over.

Caravanbacci - home to Elddis' Erwin Hymer Groupsister-brands Laika, Etrusco and Carado

We have a soft spot for Lucca and it was no hardship to stay there whilst Buster was being looked after at Caravanbacci. Until that point the weather really hadn’t been that good, but that Saturday as we drove into town, it held its own and we arrived at the Lucca Aire in sunshine, before reuniting with Mark.

Lovely Lucca, from our bedroom window

Underneath the walls in Lovely Lucca, not so well explored

On the Monday morning as planned, we dragged Mark from his bed - way too early for him - as we picked up a hire-car and he then co-piloted me in Buster to the dealer!

Mark- my co-pilot for the garage trip. Mark was way happier in Buster than in the Fiat!

With a tear in our eyes, we left our lovely motorhome and piled into the Fiat Panda to do a tour of the nearby Chianti wine region, and of course sample a few of the vintages. Everywhere as drove we saw evidence of Chianti’s famed Black Cockerel trademark, before we stopped for our first vineyard tasting.

Chianti and its famous Black Cockerel trademark

Chianti, loving Tuscany

We were lulled into Castello di Gabbiano by its stunning castle and vine terraces tumbling down the hill from it. We were not disappointed and between the three of us purchased enough to forego any tasting fee.

Chianti, a rose between two more roses…

The area is also known for its olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We have much olive oil in the van, but none of it Italian, so David and I purchased a bottle of their finest, while Mark along with his wine, bought some balsamic.

I think I can get through these three

As it was now beginning to get past lunchtime - the Italians aren’t quite as bad as the French for their 12-2pm only eating lunch rule - we headed to Greve for a light repas in the attractive central square.  Mindful of further IT purchases required for Mark’s flat and also a stock up food shop, we headed back to Lucca via Media World and Carrefour.

The next two days were a mini-break for the three of us, as we set off to see – for us - the last two Cinque Terre villages and for Mark, his first two.  We had booked an ‘apartment’ in Riomaggiore for one night, so as to make the most of the villages and area. Riamaggiore, is the easternmost village, the largest of the five and the unofficial HQ, and the tiny harbour at the bottom of the steep ravine is one of the region’s favourite ‘postcard’ views.

Riomaggiore and the postcard view, enhanced by Mark and I

The apartment was smaller than the inside of our van, and without either the clever space or interior design … but never mind, it was only for one night!

We should have left a trail of Breadcrumbs

The next day, we hopped on the train to the next village Manarola, paying our train fares as we went. The whole area is awash with terraced vines and this particular village is known for its sweet Sciacchetra wine.

The famous three again in Cinque Terre

Manarola in all it’s glory

However, we had got there fairly early and having voiced all the appropriate ooh’s and ah’s and being too early to try this wine, we headed back to La Spezia and the car.

The day was thankfully quite lovely and so we decided to head to Port Venere, which is sort of an honorary sixth Terre member. It’s perched on the western promontory of the Gulf of Poets and for Mark it was the winner. It might have had something to do with the fact that the town is not perched on seemingly impregnable cliffsides and is much more open. Some of the drops in the Cinque Terre villages we visited had made Mark’s stomach turn, along with mine, but all three of us had to admit that the trip had been very worthwhile and fun, seeing places that again we are lucky to still be able to visit and enjoy during these Covid times.

Port Venere, the 6th Terre perhaps

Oscar, the dog deciding on his lunch

Port Venere- and the famous friends share a moment

The drive back was nearly as memorable, as Mark decided he would take to the wheel and get some Italian driving experience in, before deciding if he should purchase a car whilst living here.

It’s a First – driving in Italy for Mark

He had, on the way, made us giggle with stories of other car hire holiday tales as we approached the ubiquitous Italian tunnel. The tunnel wasn’t too long, but an eerie silence took over the inside of the car and the chatter suddenly ceased. The car stuttered slowly along, before David said “You only have 300 metres more, Mark”.  Sunlight broke out again as we exited the tunnel and Mark pulled over into a layby, swiftly handing the car keys and steering wheel back to David.  As a girl of many phobia’s and Italian tunnels up there as one of them, I could sympathise with his pain, but given the number of tunnels there are in Italy, we all agreed that trains and buses might be Mark’s best option in Italy. It was a few hours before the p-taking began between the boys over the incident, with Mark leading the charge on it - although he was quite insistent that the event should be mentioned in the blog.

 A tunnel too far for some

On Thursday, we got the welcome call that Buster was ready to be picked up and so we collected our much-missed home. With a few more IT bits to be done for Mark, our decided day to leave was to be Saturday and our route a ferry from Genova to Barcelona, but thanks to Covid that all changed, or rather the route did, with our chosen ferry being cancelled and the next one not till January! We have given much thought as to where to head next, with the weather now turning autumnal. The main choice was either back to Greece or Spain and, as tempting as Greece was, for many reasons we decided to stick with heading to Spain, unvisited on this trip, but much explored and loved in Nikki, our other beloved Elddis Encore back in 2016.

Friday arrived and with it brought David and I a real treat, as we amazingly met up with two more UK motorhomers, who also actually read this blog (who knew?!). We have not seen any family or friends on this trip, and have not really been able to make new friends with other motorhomers on our travels, with everyone doing their best to do what they can to avoid Covid. But like buses, two couples arrived and we met up with each of them on that Friday.

Haircut Covid style

Lucca, and a Florentine Steak- not a cheap date, but delicious

Unfortunately, due to other happenings we could not spend the amount of time we would have liked to with the each of them, swapping motorhome tales, nor did we manage to get to see either of them again on the Saturday at the Aire before we all left, but Grazie Mille to you all for sharing your time and lifting our spirits, reminding us that we’re not the only UK travellers out here!.

Yeah, Gilda and Brian, fellow UK motorhomers and blog readers. Unfortunately, we never got a pic of Patrick and Lesley.

We are now back, 3 weeks later, in one of our favourite places - St Tropez - after driving 250K today in the pouring rain and through many, many of Mark’s nightmare tunnels to continue our journey on to the south of Spain. In some ways it’s quite a blessing to be back in this part of France … as I have drunk all of my Provence rose wines and now perhaps I can throw out David’s golf clubs and re-stock!

Savona- our last Italian sleepover

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and so we are going to do nothing but lie naked on the beach topping up our tans, as you do when in St T.

Grazie Mille to you all and here’s hoping we get into Spain!