Dave the motorhome has all four of his wheels on tarmac, which is quite an achievement in the mud-strewn car park he’s in. We’re back in Tuscany and just outside the small town of Sorano with evidence of the recent flooding all around us (N42.68086 E11.71085).
Phil, Katherine and Lennox (their boxer dog) met us at the sosta we were in last night, on their way back from Rome. They’re touring Europe for a few months in a motorhome for their honeymoon – their van was bought with the money they received as wedding gifts, a genius idea. We met them on the top of a pass in Switzerland about a month ago and since then they’ve braved snowy and misty mountains, driven down Croatia to Dubrovnik and had some great adventures. As we chatted late into the night Charlie and Lennox both curled up in their own corners of Dave and quietly tried to out-snore each other, as Dave’s table slowly disappeared under empty beer bottles and wine cartons.
This morning we all had thick heads, so slowly surfaced and then walked up to the bio-market that provides the sosta and bought a few tasty treats, only fair as they don’t charge for the sosta and provide electricity. We bid them a sad farewell to them before they set off heading north at lightning speed – Siena next stop – and we carried on dawdling around this fabulous area.
Just under 50km, and some amazing views, later we crossed back into Tuscany and arrived at Sorano. We picked it because there is a free place to park and it’s about half way to the free thermal spa (which gets busy with the locals so we thought it would be quieter on a Monday). Parking up it really didn’t look much so I turned over the page on our map to see how much further it was to the spa place. Jay’s handwriting was next to a circle around the place and his code told me that this place is mentioned in the book he’s recently been reading, Under The Tuscan Sun. Digging out the book I had a read of the page in which the author describes Sorano as ‘not having any new houses built since Columbus discovered America’ – it suddenly sounded a bit more promising, so we Googled it too.
Jay cooked us up a treat of fancy thick spaghetti stuff (which will have one of seemingly hundreds of names that there are for pasta here) along with some dried vegetables he bought in the bio-market which in their packet mostly resembled pot-puri. The end result was really tasty though – these Italians know their stuff. After lunch we donned our coats as the sky turned grey and headed into town. The images we’d seen of the place on google showed a red/brown miss-match of square houses clinging to the side of the cliff over a narrow gorge, but we were on the town side, so had to imagine the view from across the valley.
We wandered around the narrow alleyways, under arches cut out of the volcanic rock that the place sits on. Jay likened it to something you’d see in a Robin Hood film, only parts of it were quite run down – or literally falling down. It’s a very strange place, anywhere else in the world and it would be preserved to within an inch of it’s life, probably UNESCOed at least having a couple of tourist offices and coach park. Here in Italy, it’s one of many, so time is taking it’s toll as there are others winning the tourist euro. As we walked around it’s clear people still very much live here, even if the odd external staircase has fallen, and a house that sat on the walls is now not much more than a corner of two walls with a big crack down it.
We loved it. Climbing around the alleyways we looked down to see more signs of the recent floods. The river below had obviously burst it’s banks, no immediate threat to the town standing high above, it had swept up trees, taken out a footpath bridge, destroyed stone banks and left a wide brown scar of silt along the valley floor.
We made our way down for a closer look and soon the danger to the town became evident, as sections of land had slid away, sending mud and rubbish down the path. Crossing onto the other side of the river bank the view wasn’t quite what we’d seen on google, but the town loomed above us as if to remind us that it had been there for hundreds of years, and would be there for hundreds more.
Back in Dave we found a comment on the parking database we use suggesting a quieter place to stay for the night. The sun had given us another brilliant show of reds as it set, and it was now dark. Checking on google earth we suss out where the other car park is and head off (we try not to drive at night if we can help it). Pulling into the car park a hazard sign is across the entrance, the red and white stripped tape that previously closed it now wrapped around the sign, warned us of the mud before we saw it. The car park is cut into a steep bank, some of the upper part of which had also fallen victim to the rain and deposited itself across the expanse of tarmac. Slipping around on the mud Dave was eased into the only Dave sized space left that wasn’t covered in the thick wet brown stuff, so we know we’ll be able to get out in the morning. It looks like we’ll be in for a quiet night as no one in their right mind would have a reason to be here!!