Tuscany: after a week of walking

I need to wrap up a few things about the trip. 

Highlights: the leaning tower of Pisa! On my short list of better-than-the-postcard along with Taj Mahal, Mach Picchu, Angkor Wat and not much else…


Other highlights: the walking, the bush tracks, the rocky terrain in parts, the huge old deciduous trees, the open and exposed mountain ridges, Angela’s pasta, caffe lattes in local cafes/restaurants, narrow and curved streets in small old towns we walked through, Italian salads! I’ve no doubt missed a few things but I’ve really enjoyed those items I’ve listed. Really enjoyed them. 

Back to more prosaic matters:

Tipping: I didn’t. I wasn’t especially impressed with the guide, C. I was very confident in her knowledge of the region but she just didn’t compare to my favourite guides, ZawZaw in Myanmar and Disnada in Peru or the different ones on bike trips. C had to repeat information multiple times because of the way she gave it initially. While a sweetie with a nice sense of humour she misses some of the qualities that makes some guides really good. 

Enjoy a week of walking hills in Tuscany: yes I did.

Like walking group members: yes.  I really liked some of my Tuscany walking group in the end and like to think I grew on them as they learnt to translate my english!

The group

Way back I said to remember British reticence and Camp Granada, a song in which a person’s view of a situation changes? Still holds true of the group for me.

By the end of our shared week members of the group were mixing well, only a few small fractures evident. Yes, perceived class and educational level remained the main differentiators. A week isn’t long enough for deep enmities, thankfully as I suspect a couple could have developed in a little more time together. And now, afterwards, emails I get are interesting for who is and who isn’t copied in by whom!
As the loud Australian (one said I was but her ex-partner of 30 years was a kiwi so I smelt a bias!), I made sure I enjoyed the company of almost all, even the ones I found so rude on the first night when I was seated on an end of the table. That night the one beside me turned her back to me brooking no interruptions as she pursued an existing friendship on the other side and the person opposite who pointedly would not engage, preferring instead to talk to the guide who sat to her side! So yes, dear reader, I read my iPhone during the later stages of dinner as i was appalled by the rudeness of those two, and the limited social skills of the guide who could have helped. 

I managed as I am neither shy nor retiring and had nothing to lose. Making interactions work was essential with a week together, and joining in the jokes about my accent and lack of knowledge of current daily life in the UK was amusing. 

After Pisa I may see the economics prof when she next comes to Aus. Another, my neighbour in the singles alley, SL, offered me accommodation if I’m in the UK. I liked her and it was very nice of her to ask. A couple of them were lots of fun and a pleasure to be around. And, SL fixed my facebook settings so I’ll no longer get strange information such as I did about the two guys purportedly going on my trip. She was, however, upset each time I murdered a scorpion🦂. She caught and released the only one she found! It hadn’t made its way to my little slice of scorpion 🦂paradise by the time we left 🦂. Phew.

The walking was good. I was one of the three faster walkers and the walking, even the hills, wasn’t hard despite my having been sick for a few of the preceding weeks. We started at 09:15 each day and ended between 15:30 and 17:30, usually at a cafe drinking coffee. My idea of essential and it’s very easy in Tuscany with its numerous small, and close, villages. 

Future

Walking in Tuscany again? Doing the Via Francigenia through Italy to Rome? No, to both. I don’t intend to return to this area. It is also unlikely that I’ll walk with this company again unless I do a UK walk which is not on my priority list at present. Hmm, I’ve long wanted to walk Hadrian’s Wall so I may recant. 

I need a little time before I could enjoy another period of British parochialism. For one week it was worth it but a group of all Brits except me? Hmmm, not yet!

Support agriturismo again? Not if it’s like this was, a bit rundown. Great food, thanks to Angela but….. The owners are splitting up, dividing the property in the strangest way. Hard to see how either will make a sufficient income here in a divided future, her a local girl and him a Brit.

Time to get up soon. Heater is on, my washing nearly fully dried, packing almost completed. 

End of Tuscany walking trip

Breakfast at 0800, as usual. We left for the airport at 09:30. One left at 06:00 and the others fly out at various times. Me? I was catching the bus from the airport into town then the train to Florence. 

Pisa and return to Florence

The good news? Our bus dropped me off at the Pisa station on the way to the airport. My farewells were very hasty as we parked in a no parking zone. I’d been told a train station drop off was unlikely. Bought a train ticket, paid the €1 for the loo and raced to platform 8 with the train due in 10 minutes. 

Getting on the train required both elbows against the shorter but solid Asian guy who tried to push me aside from behind! Honestly. Bad move on his part. I was larger, taller and shocked! Yes, i therefore made very sure I won and got a window, facing forwards this trip. 😁🎉

 Florence

Beam me out Scotty! The crowds outside the Duomo were 3 hours plus long. Around one corner and along a few straights. I think it becomes a de facto social activity for some, perhaps almost a badge of determined tourism.



And yes, the centre is touristy. I have more proof.


And no, with the lines around the Duomo, let me surprise you – I didn’t join, preferring to walk the streets, visit the central market and my favourite coffee shop. It has wifi I believe to be secure, unlike that in the hotel. I look forward to being back on my Spanish sim with some security.

I found yet another church with beautiful carvings on the door panels.


And I like some of the statuary, soaring high above us mortals.


I found people in Florence as nice as anywhere else. For me it was not


And this was despite my successfully avoiding every opportunity to learn or use Italian, not wanting it to displace my precarious, and little, knowledge of the Spanish language.

Food here is really nice. Really nice. Salads especially. Commercial pasta can be a bit ordinary but not the salads. Clean, fresh and they seem healthy. Not cheap but definitely worth it. This one, in central tourist Florence, with a coffee and some bread was €17.50, or thereabouts. 


Madrid

So, fly to Madrid on Tuesday. Two nights there and then a train to Malaga. A few nights there and then I plan to walk north, along a section of the Camino Mozárabe. 

Getting accomodation in Malaga! I was knocked back on my chosen dates by 4 places that had looked to be available. So I’m staying in a booking.com apartment for just 2 nights, walking out on Saturday to Almogia. 

The sun rises in Spain at about 08:00 at present. That will take a mind shift to get used to and I’m hoping it’s actually light enough to walk a lot earlier. 

Wish me luck.

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