Compass Avantgarde on the Borghi roadside

I lost count of the fairy-tale like Borghi visited over the past month of vanlife, in Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio (Italy). I warn you this post contains an overload of love for, and images of incredible Italian old villages (Borghi), scattered around breath-taking and peaceful sceneries.

Borghi scenary

Driving through this stunning part of the world, from one Borgo to the next, felt like dancing in a beautiful hall. Despite my lack of ballroom dancing skills, I found myself swinging around tight bends and waltzing along narrow roads with ease and enjoyment, holding on tight to the steering hands (wheel) of Peter Van. Well, it was more of a freestyling boogie, tbh. A freedom dance!

TheGr8Fool in the Compass Avantgarde

You’d think that after 2 or 3 Borghi, you’ve seen them all – enough. But no, each stop brought new surprises, encounters and emotions. I’ve associated a key word to each place.

LAJATICO (TUSCANY): Connection

Lajatico is where my sister and her family live. It is also the hometown of Andrea Bocelli and it hosts an annual summer concert at the Teatro del Silenzio: an open-air amphitheatre in a gorgeous spot among the Tuscan hills. http://www.lajatico.info/TeatrodelSilenzio.htm

Compass Avantgarde with Borghi in the backgroundTheGr8Fool next to a sculpture

I’ve been coming to this piece of heaven on Earth for years, but this time I was alone. A wonderful opportunity for extra special sister-love and quality time with my niece and nephew. I also gave presentations to three classes at the Secondary School, which is always an enjoyable and rewarding experience!

TheGr8Fool in a secondary school

SAN GIMIGNANO (TUSCANY): Sweetness

One can never get bored of gorgeous San Gimignano and I could come back here again and again. I returned with Peter Van, my sister and my niece to enjoy a relaxing stroll together and a yummy ice-cream from the World’s best!

http://www.gelateriadondoli.com/home-uk.html

TheGr8Fool eating ice cream with her sistersTheGr8Fool walking down a street in San GimignanoTown square in San Gimignano

Here I also spotted a sweet little art-shop with loads of colourful drawings of hot air balloons, my symbol for this year 2019! I bought one that is now travelling with me, hanging in on the fridge door of Peter Van.

(LEONARDO DA) VINCI (TUSCANY): Inspirational

To mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, I took a day trip to Vinci. What an inspiration to visit the adorable birthtown of one of the cleverest and most talented human beings ever lived. https://www.tripsavvy.com/visiting-vinci-1548068

Here I learnt more about what we know of the Master’s early family history, I visited a dedicated museum, the church that houses his christening basin and the home where he grew up, further up the hills packed with olive trees, overlooking a breath-taking panorama of the surrounding valleys.

Vinci countrysideTheGr8Fool outside a vinci restaurantTheGr8Fool walking in the Vinci countryside

POPULONIA (Tuscany): Thankful

I almost missed Populonia old town, when I drove to the Gulf of Baratti to spend a day on the beach. Thankfully, the lovely guy at the only beach-hut café recommended I drive further up the hill to see it.

Beach hut cafe at the Gulf of BarattiSea view from the beach hut cafe

https://www.enjoymaremma.it/en/villages-towns/populonia-livorno/

I discovered this tiny walled Etruscan place, surrounded by archaeological sites dating back to the iron age and extensive views of the azure Mediterranean Sea; on a clear day you can see as far as Corsica.

Compass Avantgarde parked outside a fortressCobbled streets of Populonia

BOLGHERI (TUSCANY): Poetic

Apparently, Sarah Ferguson lives in this area or is a huge fan of pretty Bolgheri and its local wine. Two facts I am unable to verify. https://www.discovertuscany.com/the-etruscan-coast/bolgheri.html

Restaurant at Bolgheri

An iconic feature of Tuscany are the Cypress-lined roads and drives up to hilltop villas or agriturismi. After a lunch of seafood spaghetti and a glass of red, I drove along the Cypress avenue that runs from the Bolgheri Castle for circa 5km straight. This road is well known also because it was famously cited in a poem by Giosue’ Carducci in Davanti San Guido.

RADICOFANI (TUSCANY): Special

Thank you Universe (and Google Maps!) for directing me to a simple Camper Carpark, right at the foot of this special little gem. https://www.e-borghi.com/en/village/154/Siena/radicofani

Compass Avantgarde parked up under a castle keep

After a wonder around the medieval streets and treating myself to local biscuits from a small bakery, I hiked up to the Fortress. I took the road route up and came back down through the forest path. I had the whole site to myself which was incredible. Special VIP treatment! http://www.fortezzadiradicofani.it/

Cobbled path in the Radicofani fortressView of the Radicofani fortress from the villageView from the top of the Radicofani fortressTheGr8Fool sitting on a bench outside the Radicofani fortress

PIENZA (TUSCANY): Adorable

Pienza felt so homely and the views from it are jaw-dropping.

Compass Avantgarde driving through Pienza

Its energy and the people are met here are warm and friendly. The curator of the main Duomo turned all the lights on just for me, as I walked in only a few minutes before closing. And I met a creative photographer while dining alone in one of the delicious restaurants in town. He took a couple of shots of me, immersed in my notes at my table (with retrospective permission!).

TheGr8Fool making notes in a restaurant

http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/pienza-the-ideal-city.html

Pienza is known as the “Ideal City of the Renaissance”, as imagined by Pope Pius II in the 1460s. Basically, a dream come true! It’s no surprise it features adorable street names like Love, Fortune and Kiss!

Street name in Pienza

MONTEPULCIANO (TUSCANY): Mindfulness

Montepulciano was on my route from Pienza to Assisi. I didn’t make it to the main centre on this visit and instead I opted to give my full attention to one of its beautiful sites: the majestic Temple San Biagio that stands beautifully at the foot of the village (https://www.tempiosanbiagio.it/)

Temple San Biagio in MontepulcianoOutside the Temple San Biagio in MontepulcianoInside the Temple San Biagio

I took my time to relax and take in all the details of its history, architecture and interior, listening attentively to the guided tour from my headphones.

ASSISI (UMBRIA): Energy

Assisi deserves an entire blog or even book! So much to say about my experience of this place. https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/umbria/visit-assisi-italy-attractions

Church in AssisiChurch in AssisiWater Feature in Assisi

There is such a powerful energy here and this kind of energy attracts amazing people. I stayed 2 nights at a gorgeous B&B run by lovely Sara (http://www.acasalelagerlaassisi.onweb.it) to use up an expiring Airbnb credit. I had the most amazing views from my bedroom!

View of Assisi countryside from Airbnb windowSunset in Assisi

Sara recommended a restaurant that hosts regular book launches and whose owner takes guests on a weekly night-walk! I made both events and met the talent author and tattooist, Tommaso Buglioni, and loved the Assisi by night. The food was delicious too (il Baccanale).  Then at the campsite, I met a lovely Finish lady who taught for years at the University of Helsinki and travels the world teaching the power of nature’s energy and eco-therapy!

TheGr8Fool and Tommaso BuglioniStreet in Assisi

There was also a cool event on that weekend, with music and exhibitions taking place on the streets. But I was told the most striking event is the medieval-themed festival called Calendimaggio held in May.

Calendimaggio medieval festival in Assisi

ORVIETO (UMBRIA): Synchronicities

As I’m travelling through central Italy, I soon realise I can’t see everything. You could easily spend a year in this area alone; it’s packed with striking destinations, only a few miles from each other. As I reached the foot of Orvieto, I realised I couldn’t drive up very easily so I opted to admire it from afar, a nearby panoramic spot.

Oriveto countryside

Within minutes, two fun visitors from Israel arrived and it didn’t take long to chat and accept their invitation to join them to town centre in their smaller vehicle. www.bellaumbria.net/en/orvieto/

We parked right outside the Cathedral that has one of the most beautiful mosaiced facades ever. The inside is just as jaw-dropping and we walked right into a mesmerising girl choir.

TheGr8Fool with the Oriveto countryside in the background

BOLSENA (LAZIO): Miraculous

I love being near the water so whenever possible I target seaside, lakes and rivers. Lake Bolsena has crystal clear water and a walk along the shores always brings me calmness and inspiration.

Swans in Lake Bolsena

While in Bolsena, I ventured up and down the old Borgo area, visited the castle and its museum, chatted to the fish at the lake-life aquarium before visiting the basilica church of Saint Christina.

A curator offered to talk me through the history of the different architectural styles, the underground tombs dug in the rocks and the Eucharistic miracle of 1263, which was painted also by Raphael in his The Mass at Bolsena (in the Vatican palace). I also learnt of the torturous life of poor little Saint Christina.

https://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/lake-bolsena-volcanic-miracle

View of Bolsena from the castle

CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO (LAZIO): Awe

O.M.G., Civita is such a spectacular place. As I approached the beginning of the walking bridge that takes you to this “dying city” I got my first glimpse of Civita, isolated on the only rocks remaining in the vast, surrounding valley. It took me a while to grasp that this place was real.

But I wasn’t dreaming… I could still see it the next day from nearby Lubriano. Civita is said to be founded by the Etruscan 2500 years ago and more recently it turned into a “island” due to erosions and landslides. I visited it at sun set, which created an extra sense of wonder. https://civitavecchia.portmobility.it/en/civita-di-bagnoregio

Civita

I can’t get enough of Borghi. They are all so charming and each triggered unique experiences and feelings. It’s a shame I had to miss a few on this journey and I wish I could have stayed longer in some places; but I feel so privileged to have enjoyed so many.

You could spend a lifetime of vanlife to “dance” from one to the next and truly savour them all!