Livorno, Losses & Lie-in’s

2-3 September 2017   

The reason for our mad dash across Slovenia – a country we will definitely return to – was a long chat we had at Lake Balaton about “where next”. We had always thought it would be nice to spend October in Sicily, we don’t know why although Danny has always liked The Godfather! We looked at all the places in-between – and took note of those our insurance didn’t cover- and after looking at maps and talking it through we decided to go fully Mediterranean and follow the sun south – Corsica to Sardinia to Sicily. We’ve always liked a boat trip and this meant at least 4. After that – who knows.

We now had a full day to spend near Livorno so decided we would visit a caravan accessory shop, check out overnight parking at the port, get Danny’s birthday present (Kindle Voyage) and replace Kate’s lost sunglasses at Decathlon.

But nothing ever goes quite as we expect it. Fifty minutes into our journey to Caravanbacci Kate realised she had ’done a Danny’ and left her all important bum-bag in a toilet at the site – with passports, cash, credit cards and everything else important. Panic attack. We turned round, called reception and were very, very happy to be told it had been handed in. We picked it up along with the note the finder had left – in a site full of Italian’s it had been found by an Irishman! Danny rang the number on the note and so a proper “Thank You” could be done in person with the finder, who really saved our day, and probably our week!

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Caravanbacci closes for an Italian style long lunch so change of plan and we drove the 40km to Livorno docks to do a recce. We failed to find any proper over-night parking but did ID a couple of fairly unappealing back-up options (dark, deserted dockland side-street and truckers car-park). Next stop Giunti al Punto bookshop for the Kindle. We had thought Livorno had no redeeming features but the route to the bookshop took us to the river and down to the old fort looking out to sea.

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This older part was definitely nicer although it’s never going to be a ‘destination’ except for those who need a ferry.  The shop only had the Kindle Paperwhite so we took the shopkeeper’s advice and headed off to continue the hunt. A couple of wrong turns and a bit of guesswork later we located the right mall – but no Voyage. We gave up for now and drove a couple of km to the Decathon (great store – love it) where we did at least get Kate’s replacement sunglasses.

Now time for Caravanbacci. Out of Livorno the roads were quieter and we started to relax. Our list was toilet roll, new levellers and a Cadac cover that we forgot we had already ordered over the net for delivery to mum. Fortunately they didn’t have the Cadac cover. An hour later Danny had a new toilet bag, a collapsible bowl he can fit both feet in to give them a soak, a new aluminium cycle ramp that will make stacking the garage easier, and a new chair so he doesn’t have to prop his broken one up against the van. He was a very happy boy. Kate had some toilet roll.

It was 6.30pm and we headed back towards the coast not looking forward to parking on the docks. Kate had seen a sosta out at Marina di Pisa where the River Arno runs into the sea – at 21km from the ferry it meant an earlier wake-up but was a nicer location.  We went for it and were very glad we did. The tide was in, the waves white-capped in the wind and the sky ominous – the type of clouds that had people standing around and staring up. Much better than the docks. The gatekeeper, in his 60’s, happily cycled round the sosta collecting cash from the constant stream of customers. As the only English van on the site he quickly whipped out his smartphone and used his translation app to sort us out before wishing us Buon Appetite.

The restaurant over the road had opened its doors so after dinner we walked over to get a drink, watching the lightning forking down in the distance. When we saw the place we really regretted making dinner in the van as it was a nice little seafood restaurant with the day’s catch arrayed on ice and bowls of mussels being ferried to the tables.

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Instead we had some wine, probably more than we should have, watched the customers and had a lovely chat as the storm broke around us and rain lashed the windows. A couple of hours later it subsided and we walked back to the van in a light drizzle and went to bed, carefully setting the alarm for 0500hrs.

Kate woke at 06.10. Oh dear. Mad panic – we should have checked-in at 0600 for our 0700 departure with Corsica Ferries. A mad 21km drive to port with Danny driving the van in the way that Wally Dinn drives a car – terrifying. We made it in 30 minutes, in time to watch our ferry firmly slam its door. Kate, brilliantly and on the hoof ordered the next available ferry over the internet. We located the right terminal and were waved straight on board. Sailing at 8am. What a relief. We found nice seats in the bar, had lots of coffee and lay down for a sleep.

At 1pm we drove off the boat at Bastia and onto Corsica, France. Our fourth country in a week –  time to slow the pace. It was a nice 27℃ and we kept our fingers crossed for sun. We drove out of Bastia and up the east coast towards campsite Domaine La Pietra at Pietracorbara, a 30 minute drive up Cape Corse, the northern tip of the island. The road was narrow and winding, hugging the cliffs with a steep drop down to the sea. In a right hand drive the steep drop was on the driver’s side and with a low wall that was difficult to see it was somewhat unnerving for the driver. All made worse by impatient Corsican drivers & motorcyclists who seemed to have either a lot of Italian blood or a bit of a death wish.

The sea was a beautiful blue and the hillsides above covered in maquis and low shrubs dotted with small pine trees. The old houses along the way were very pretty and tiled with thick stones  the texture of slate but thicker and lighter in colour. Then we drove into an area that had been victim to wildfires this summer – scorched black all the way down into the sea. Then a clear-cut line where it stopped, just before the first house and very close to where we turned left, away from the sea and up to our campsite.

The site is peaceful, set between low hills and we picked a sunny spot in the middle of the free-camping area with a glimpse of the sea between the trees.

Since Poland we have become accustomed to seeing tree-trunk carvings at the side of the road and in gardens – basically a piece of tree trunk stuck in the ground like a totem pole and carved, or sometimes the remnants of a tree carved in situ. Some are very good. At this site, there were a couple just by where we parked up.

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We got the van set up for 3-4 days, then relaxed under the awning reflecting on what a weird day it had been. Home-made chilli for dinner, cooked in the open air and time to chill-out.