Friday, May 22, 2009


Leaning Tower Pisa

Monastry with two Chevrolets near Lago Maggiore

Garlenda welcome

Carabineri stop for a photo near Genoa

Wilmy, Sandro, Lang, Bev at Garlenda dinner.

Garlenda speeches and presentations

Early morning Urbino Tuscany from camp site.

We arrived in Ancona, Italy at 1pm Saturday 16 May after a 21 hour trip in the ferry. We were met at the dock by Herman Pfauter who is travelling to Normandy with us in his 1941 1 ½ ton Chevrolet truck and Andrea a member of the local Military Club who had contacted us by e-mail several months ago.

As it was still early in the day we decided to travel up the coast a little way. Our first choice of camp site was not open until June so we pressed on to Urbino. This was a bonus, not on our itinerary, as it is an ancient walled city with spectacular winding, hilly streets with shops, cafes and spectacular churches. It was used as a university town for foriegners and is still fully occupied and full of life.

From there we had more mountainous roads as we drove to Scarperia where the Italian Military Vehicle people had arranged for all the vehicles to be assembled in the middle of this Tuscany town of the Medicis. We stayed there for several hours inspecting the castle/museum day until most had arrived and then we paraded through the town to our camp site. Later in the evening the local members, led by Fillipo, came with cartons of beer and a even with some language barriers a good time was had by all. We thank all the members for their hospitality.

Leaving early on Monday morning we had some mountainous and incredibly scenic roads, over to Pisa on the western coast. Some of our vehicles elected to travel on the motorways and others on the secondary roads. We are really pleased with our choice of vehicle for the trip as it is handling the mountainous roads well and we are getting a reasonable fuel consumption. Also with our tent our sleeping arrangements are very comfortable.

Some of the group got up early and caught the train to Florence and spent a few hours seeing the sights and came back to their vehicles to catch the rest of the group in Pisa. As we are not moving great distances each day we are allowing people to make side trips if they wish with plenty of time for catching up.

We stayed in a camp site just 1km from the Leaning Tower, so it was an easy walk to go and see the sights. In the morning we all packed up early and, with the vehicles, tried to get the classic photo in front of the tower before anyone was out and about. A police car was parked in front with two attractive police women, and Lang approached them to ask permission for us all to park. I was already taking photos and all the other vehicles were arriving. They said it was not possible, as everyone jumped out clicking madly. Lang made the announcement, very slowly, for everyone to get back in their cars as soon as possible as we were not allowed to be parked there! There was plenty of good humour and Lang delighted in clipping two koalas to the police officers' (well filled) top pockets. Having completed a successful photo shoot, everyone packed up and headed for our next destination of Garlenda via Genoa and 123 tunnels.

We advised the group to stay on the motorway as we had a fair distance around the Gulf of Genoa and the Italian Riveria to Galenda, which wasn't even on any of our maps. Two year ago this had been our destination in the Fiat 500 for the 50th anniversay of the Bambino, and the wonderful reception we had from the local people was fondly remembered.

Once again Sandro Scarpa offered to look after our camping arrangements and organise a dinner for the group. Little did we realise what an unforgettable experience we were about to have.

We arrived in town to a banner across the street welcoming the ANZAC group, and down the road at the Fiat museum there was another banner welcoming Lang and Bev back after two years. This set the scene for more to come. At 6pm we all assembled at the camping site and the local brass band then led a parade of the smaller vehicles, with everyone piled in and hanging off the sides, up into town and to the Fiat 500 museum. The President of the club (of 20,000 members) who had come from Genoa and the deputy mayor of Galenda were there to greet us and show us through the impressive musem. Also present was Domenico Romano who was the founding member of the Fiat 500 Club and began the club's association with Garlenda 26 years ago which made this tiny village headquarters of the largest motor club in the world.

We then went the short distance to the tennis club where we were entertained by more more music from the band while we had cocktails in the sunshine. We then went inside to beautifully laid tables where we started our meal with cold meats, then a dish of pasta followed by veal and potato crouquettes and finally a delicious dessert and coffee. We also had as much wine as we desired.

Sandro is very involved with the Slow Food Movement, which encourages the use of seasonal local produce and the menu he had chosen reflected this.

We spent the night as guests of Wilmy and Sandro and again thank them for their hospitality, and the very memorable visit to a place that may not be on a map but we will all remember with a great deal of fondness.

Back on the road we travelled next day to Torino. We camped not far from the city centre which enabled the people from the group to see this lovely Northern Italian town.

We are now further north on the shores of Lake Maggiore where we are spending two nights and giving everyone time to catch up on their domestic chores and some vehicle maintenance.

We have had a few minor break downs in various vehicles, but nothing that has held anyone up for too long and hopefully we are all geared for the Swiss Alps in the next few days.