Day 3…Saturday 11th June
After getting a few hours kip in the sauna, we packed the car up and continued our journey. Day three (if you include our drive day to Newhaven) and the itinerary had already gone out the window. So had the fact “no lie ins,” as I set the alarm for seven instead of six giving us an extra hour in bed!! We showered quickly and set off in the direction of Monaco only half an hour behind schedule as instead of using a hairdryer, I hung my head out of the window allowing the wind to naturally dry my tangled mess of hair.It didn’t take us long to get to Monaco, I’d probably say an hour or so and as we approached the Marina, we drove round several times before locating a car park underground. It was a beautiful morning for a stroll round this magnificent country. Monte Carlo, famous for its massive boats and the Grand Prix, and it didn’t disappoint.We walked round the marina looking at all the boats admiring the names and where they were from, a few from back home in Southampton too! They were certainly impressive!The Grand Prix has just taken place and they were still clearing away the stands etc so we took it upon ourselves to try and walk the Grand Prix route. It was rather hilly. You’d think a Grand Prix route would be quite flat! The walk was amazing with so many stunning buildings including the casino with some gorgeous looking and sounding cars!
As we were walking back to the marina we saw Pippa Middleton and her husband jogging! Only “famous” person I have ever seen. I’ve never even seen anyone famous in London the dozens of times I’ve been there!
We got back to the car after looking for somewhere to eat and continuing to walk due to the prices and proceeded to drive out of Monte Carlo and onwards towards Pisa in Italy. It would have been rude to leave though without driving the Grand Prix route. So that’s what we did.Even as you drive out and up a windy incline, there is a viewpoint at the top which has the most stunning views back down onto Monte Carlo. Considering we hadn’t planned on stopping in Monaco, it was certainly a fantastic place to visit!We were now only about an hour and a half to two hours behind schedule. Toll roads weren’t helping our cause either. Some were so close together we really didn’t understand why! One set us back thirty five euros too!!! Crazy! We had to get some change too because some were coin bins, some took notes, some took card and some were manned. It was just the luck of the draw which one we happened upon.
Pisa. Famous for of course the leaning tower. Parking in Italy. Not easy. Not only did we struggle to find somewhere to park but we also found one way streets and streets we weren’t actually allowed to drive down and for some fingers wagged at us as we drove the cobbled street right by the tower. Eventually we settled for parking in a gas station and paying two euros for an hour.
Then we walked about twenty minutes or so to visit the leaning tower of Pisa. It’s strange isn’t it when you see something in photos and then in real life. Some things appear better in photos, some photos don’t do it justice. The weird thing about the leaning tower of Pisa was that in photos it seemed to lean more. Yep to us, it actually didn’t appear to be leaning as much as it ‘should?’Nevertheless it was very impressive! The grass was covered with people taking photos in all different poses, most commonly seen was people trying to ‘push’ the tower back upright.🤷🏽♀️Satisfied we had taken in this structure, we walked back to the car and this time it was me in the driving seat. Worst. Decision. Ever. We were only driving for about an hour but oh my god it was horrendous. Destination? Florence. Somewhere I had been so excited to visit.
Parking and driving in Pisa in hindsight seemed a doddle compared to this. I was getting myself so stressed out that I actually cried. Yep. I’ll admit it. Congestion was horrendous (we didn’t even arrive at rush hour), there were congestion charges in places which we wanted to avoid, one way streets galore and poorly sign-posted parking garages. Parking on the roads was either prohibited or meant parallel parking on a main road which with me behind the wheel was never going to happen. Any crashes I’ve had have been due to parking and I wasn’t going to crash Nathan’s car in Italy.
Eventually after driving round for an hour (yes I’m not kidding that’s how crap I am in cities, excluding London, at driving/parking), I pulled over on the way out of Florence (not that we actually got into the city) and let Nathan drive. We had decided to go onto Verona.That turned out to be a great decision. I fell in love instantly. It very much reminded me of Rome and was just beautiful everywhere you looked. We parked on the outskirts and walked into Piazza Bra.The piazza was bustling with cute restaurants and cafes as well as the Arena di Verona at the center. We stopped for some dinner at one of the restaurants where I had lasagne and two cheeky glasses of wine whilst Nathan had a delicious looking pizza. Satisfied our stomachs were full, we set about exploring this wonderful city.First stop was the Arena di Verona, which did look a lot like the Colosseum in Rome except more fully built if that makes sense. Built in the first century, it is still in use today, mainly for opera performances. It was beautiful to look at. From here we started to get lost down quaint little alleyways as we stared in awe at the architecture around us. Well, I did anyway. Nathan was on the look out for gelato.
One of the main reasons for wanting to visit Verona was to see the ‘Casa di Giulietta,’ the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.It’s quite an easy place to miss, we walked past it a few times. The walls are covered in graffiti and love notes just like in the Amanda Seyfried film ‘Letters to Juliet.’ At the end of the walkway is a bronze statue of Juliet with the balcony above her. It was very pretty in its own arty way. We got to the house too late so we had to settle for the views through the gate. Then it was on to Torre dei Lamberti, a medieval bell tower.Built in 1448 after originally getting struck by lightning, this tower offers panoramic views of the city below, however, we arrived too late in order to climb to the top. Nevertheless, the Piazza delle Erbe where we found ourselves next was again bustling with restaurants, cafes and stunning architecture. I mean, you find that everywhere you go in Italy so it wasn’t a surprise.Despite the fact that pretty much everywhere was shut, even some of the restaurants and cafes, the streets were still full of people aimlessly wandering around, enjoying the sites, or sat talking to one another on a bench eating a tasty gelato. I actually think I could live in Italy. I have been lucky enough to visit Rome twice as well as Venice and now Pisa and Verona and they are places that I could return to again and again and never get bored. The people are so friendly and accommodating, the prices are cheap, the sites are mesmerizing. Everything about Italy I just fall in love with. On our way to Castelvecchio, we walked along the river, past Ponte della Vittoria meaning ‘Bridge of Victory,’ and continued until we came upon another bridge. There are always locks on bridges where people put their names or initials or a message, mostly declaring their undying love for each other. We still hadn’t yet arrived at Castelvecchio, instead stumbled across Arco de Gavi, which is a monument that was destroyed by the French and had to be rebuilt in 1932. Sort of a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe is what it reminded me of.
We eventually reached Castelvecchio. Inside the castle is a museum which houses sculptures, paintings and historic artefacts. Outside the castle is the Castlevecchio bridge which spans the Adige River we had walked alongside. It was originally built in the 1350s but was destroyed during WWII, only to be reconstructed afterwards. It was a beautiful bridge set against the blue sky as a backdrop. We began to make our way back towards the car but not before stopping for that all important gelato.
I had truly fallen in love with everything about Verona and hope to return again some day. For now, it was time to head to our hotel for the night, Locanda Bepa Ostiglia. I mean, we are all for getting off the beaten track and all that but what we didn’t anticipate was an incredibly cute farmhouse-esque building quite literally in the middle of nowhere in a place called Ostiglia.
It was beautiful inside and outside. The best part was that there was no phone signal or wifi or 3G so we had a night of complete tranquility, much needed after all the exploring we had done on day 3!
Until next time…