Italy on to France
The drive from Florence to La Spezia, our next stop, was only a couple of hours so we took it slow, stopping a couple times along the way. Our first break was in Pisa where we walked around the Leaning Tower, took pics, and marveled at how the building could remain upright being at such a tilted angle. Although the waiting line wasn’t very long to go up into the tower, we opted to just enjoy it from down below. Also, the heavily armed guards around the entrance were a bit intimidating.
Our next stop was a beautiful walled city called Lucca – a small village and ancestral home of our friend Michael’s family. This adorable town, like so many we’ve seen in Europe had a carousel in the central square – a common theme we’ve found throughout several countries. We found an open grassy area & kicked the soccer ball around for awhile before driving the last stint on to our rented apartment in La Spezia.
The next morning, we drove about 8 kilometers to Riomaggiore – the first fishing village in the 5-village cluster of the charming Cinque Terre area. Here we spent our last afternoon in Italy exploring these colorful cliff villages along the Italian coast overlooking the Ligurian Sea. There are footpaths (no car-worthy roads) connecting the five villages. The paths wind up the cliffs high above the towns so we had amazing views of the settlements – all with such colorful houses and buildings. Although we could’ve used a lot more time hiking around this area of northern Italy, it was time to move on.
We had booked our next Airbnb in Nice, France so we headed north up the coast. Along the way the vistas of the sea and the hilly villages were gorgeous but the many, many tunnels kept interrupting our view. This is something we’ve experienced quite a bit in Europe – tunnels bore right through the mountains. This is very different from driving around New Zealand where the roads wind up and around but not through the mountains. The tunnels are not as scenic but they certainly save time.
On our way, we passed through Monaco, the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican. It’s so small, in fact, that we completely missed any exits from the highway. We wanted to at least stop and buy a pack of gum – something we’ve been doing in each country we’ve visited. We then convert the price from the local currency to USD and compare the pricing/value to other countries. The kids like to chew the gum too, of course, but Jon has temporarily banned it in the car due to an incident when the gum didn’t stay in Frankie’s mouth!
In Nice, after dropping our bags off, we headed out to find the local supermarket. One of the first things we do at each stop is get basic groceries – milk, eggs, bread, apples. Jon & Wesley also got haircuts and we caught up on laundry since this place had a washing machine. We’ve used a clothes dryer once since we left the US – it seems that a lot of the world simply hangs their clothing to dry. We stayed in Nice for three nights, which the kids were happy about. They prefer to settle in for 2-4 days at a time rather than moving too much. They have a chance then to catch up on their travel journals and travel collage books. We also spent a leisurely day hanging out at a large grassy park in the middle of the Nice – reading & playing soccer & throwing the baseball around. The kids loved the balcony at our apartment, too, and spent hours out there whittling sticks while Jon & I enjoyed the view of the Mediterranean. With red wine, of course.