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Toscane by Van

This was a little springtime trip in 2019. Through a random combination of events, I could combine a job of driving a special 4×4 van to Edelweiss’ HQ in Tirol. Edelweiss found this rare van in Belgium, close to where I live, and I helped arrange the sale and transport for their new world-travelling support vehicle.

That meant me and Jolien drove the whole way to Tirol in separate vehicles. I had to drive the newer, red one for insurance reasons, and it made me realize all the quiet, smooth technology I was missing out in a 10 years older vehicle…

It took us two days, we slept near Wilgartwiesen and did a nice morning walk to a castle ruin on a hill. Lenka went totally bonkers running up and down the (really high) stairs to the ruin at least three times. Must have been all that energy she saved from sitting in the car the entire day before. We dropped the red van off at Edelweiss HQ by noon, and took of heading South again.

We drove op the SP230 in the mountains near lake Garda, but were told by another van the road was blocked by snow. We just stopped for the night there. Our naughty dog gave us a big scare, running off after a dear that was right near the car when we got out. We started getting ready with flashlight and dogfood to try and get her back, when she turned up again, happy as ever.

From Garda we drove quite a bit towards Florence, until we got sick of driving and stopped at farm-stay camping for the rest of the day, somewhere in the real, rolling Tuscan hills.

The next day we did Firenze. What was really nice, is that we drove down to Firenze through the hills in Setttignano, passing by the hotel from my favorite tour in Italy. The photo is from back in 2016. I wouldn’t have taken my big van down this road if I had known, but that’s how the GPS sent me. Thanks for the great memories, Garmin GPS!

Firenze was quite interesting, I’d never been on foot. Jolien really liked visitng the Ponte Vecchio, but after a while the business of a city gets tiring. Going back took ages, as we had a very strict busdriver insisting we muzzle Lenka. We didn’t even have a muzzle, so had to wait another half hour for the next, less strict bus. In the evening we went to Greve in Chianti, as I had some great memories of the place, but it was extremely busy due to an antiques festival, and it rained quite a bit in the afternoon.

After Greve it was time for Siena, another classic to visit in Tuscany, and my third time there. It was a grey day, we had fun, but I didn’t take many pictures.

We ended up in Abadia a Isola for the night, an ancient abbey on the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route slightly less famous then it’s Spanish sibling.

Isola is close to Monteriggioni, a nice little hilltop fortress village that we hiked to. It was a really nice varied walk, between fields, in ancient paths in the forest, and with icecream in Monteriggioni.

From Tuscany we started going North again, ending up in another great little farmstay called Agricampeggio Yuptala, run by a young italian guy. We were the only ones there so early in the year. Definitely one of my favorite campings.

After all the classic Tuscan sights I didn’t take many pictures as we drove for ages on tiny, winding mountain roads with cloudy skies, but when we ended up by the river Serchio the skies cleared up.

After another day with small roads, we did a walk around the Pietra di Bismatova, on a very windy day.

Here’s the castle at Torrechiara, where we slept a the parking lot. We bought some amazing Parmeggiano cheese and sparkling red (!) wine from the gentleman sweeping. Italy really is a culinary heaven, we did a crazy shopping trip that day, to an Italian supermarket to buy all kinds of delicacies to take home.

Further on, I don’t remember the name of this place exactly anymore, but what looked like a large but inconspicuous, abandoned farm, had an impressive entryway with colorful frescos. Italy really has some special places like this, but they’re not easy to find.

We chose to do a bigger detour to Turin, after we had some disappointing abandoned locations that turned out inaccessible. This palace overlooking Turin turned out amazing. Jolien still thinks this is one of her favorite abandoned locations ever.

Those painted, flaking ceilings really were quite something. They’d done some heavy landscaping in the garden, so I’m assuming this place won’t stay abandoned for long.

We ran into some Italian photographers there that gave us some vague instructions for other good spots nearby. We drove around a bit but didn’t find much. Finally the tiny Italian roads caught up to me. When turning in front of a church on the hills outside of Turin, I miscalculated a turn, and got stuck. Even though all wheels were on the ground, that stretch wheel just spun freely and my van has no locking differential to fix that.

All we could do was call a tow truck on Sunday, in Italy (not easy!). And wait, with a nice view on Turin. The tow truck came and got us out easily. How embarrassing, and with a spicy bill on top.

After Turin we drove on towards the Aoste valley, where we had a relaxed day without any big sights. Next we stopped near Chamonix in France, to visit Anais, whom we had hung out with the year before in Slovenia. From there it was just straight home on French motorways.

The map is not very exact, but it gives a rough idea of where we went. I didn’t clean up my pins, so it has a lot of pins we never visited, but might do on another trip in the future.

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