Dave the motorhome is braced, the clear skies above him mean it’ll be a cold night here at the car park just outside the walls of Monteriggioni (N43.38913 E11.22630), a hill-top fortress of a town, 20 km north of Sienna.
Last night Charlie woke us both at 1am growling and barking at Jay’s boots. They were in his way and he wanted out. Outside, I looked up at the sky which was awash with stars, while Charlie munched on as much grass as he could get his mouth around – clearly his tummy wasn’t well. Climbing back into bed, in the pitch black, odd scratching noises followed by licking came from where the little fella sleeps, then a very odd smell – a cross between burning rubber and dog poo. It seems Charlie had gotten himself a little snack earlier in the evening when no one was looking, and now that poo had come back up to haunt him. By the time I realised what was going on he’d happily licked most of his stomach contents back down again and was settled back in his bed. Fearing a repeat performance, after I’d removed and attempted a clean of the sofa cover, I joined him on the sofa for the night. I really didn’t get much sleep as every time I dropped off, the furry pooch moved and I was wide awake again checking he wasn’t about to hack up all over my sleeping bag. By 4am I figured he was going to be OK, and I was cold so I headed back to bed – the alarm barely penetrated my brain when it went off this morning.
Luckily we had a slow day planned as my brain was struggling to compute. We said farewell to our new friend San Gimignano and made our way back to Poggibonsi (home of Lidl) as our database told us there was a sosta there with electricity. All along the road groups of people with ladders, little rakes and miles of netting collected up the olive harvest. Some had machines which resembled a giants pasta fork – spinning around shifting the branches enough to release their fruit, but most worked by hand, raking and pruning the branches from on top of a ladder.
Dave’s leisure battery is suffering from lack of sunshine and over use of laptop. We pulled into the sosta and plugged in, it only took two attempts to find a socket that worked. We thought we’d get an hour of power for our euro – it’s was still going strong when we left three hours later. Sitting in the sosta with everything plugged in charging, I gazed out of the window at the nothingness going on outside, until a screech of brakes and blaring horns signalled I was about to witness my first Italian car accident.
I’m very surprised it hasn’t happened sooner to be honest. Italian’s views of where it is acceptable to overtake (and undertake); over double white lines, around blind corners, on single lane motorway slip roads – I could do on, meant I was bound to see one sooner or later. Today two cars were heading for each other, one going very fast towards one that was overtaking. I don’t know who was at fault, but one got away scot free, the other went through a hedge and into a road sign (fortunately it was one of the confusing road signs – a circle with nothing in it, some sort of driving restriction underneath in Italian, we don’t understand them, so one less by the roadside is a blessing for us).
Emerging from his car, on his mobile, the unaffected driver hadn’t even got chance to pull in before arms were waving in his direction. Jay ran over to make sure no one was injured, then backed off as a couple of fellas near us had also seen what happened, and spoke the language. The arm waving went on for about an hour, from both sides. Even the police joined in for a while. Two cars worth of officers arrived (six of them at one count), those with nothing to do proceeded to pull over passing traffic for spot checks. About two hours after the fairly minor shunt more police officers arrived with tape measures to measure the road (not the skid marks!) and a recovery truck picked up the stricken car. With that our entertainment ended, so we unplugged our charged gadgets and Dave and set off to Monteriggioni (the setting for Assassin’s Creed II for all you gamers out there).
The town is perched on top of an olive tree covered hill, its defensive walls and 14 towers sit around it like a crown. We parked in the huge, empty car park and tried to pay for the four hours which would take us to 8pm (free time). The machine would only let you pay for either an hour or a day. Putting in €4 spat out a 1 hour/€1 ticket which states your incompetence by showing you’d paid €4 for it. It doesn’t really matter no one had been to check.
Walking around the town we could see why there was the strange parking system. You would be here either for an hour or a day. Tourists can walk through and around the entire place in less than an hour, workers would need to be here all day to serve the tourists – there isn’t really any inbetween.
The pretty, tiny town had a smattering of souvenir shops, a couple of restaurants and at least three ice cream shops, none of which drew us in. The sun was setting quickly, so after a walk through the deserted square we wandered around the outside on a path running two olive trees distance below the walls.
A sliver of a moon came into view as the sun finally vanished over vineyard lined hills and we pulled Dave’s curtains shut and turned on the heating. While Jay cooked up a lovely dish of pasta and Tuscan sausages, I had a piping hot shower and put on my pyjamas. It may only be 6pm, but I’m ready for a sleep!
A couple more motorhomes have arrived under the cover of darkness, I suspect they might not be paying! Strength in numbers means we’re now both on the vino – a cheeky litre and a half carton of rosato from Lidl, tasty.