Day 12   Tuesday  2nd Oct               Destination La Spezia     Climbing 2838 ft                Distance 24 miles

Setting out from Rappalo, after fighting through the scooter traffic in town I was soon climbing up the coast road and looking back on some stunning views in the morning sun. Dropping again into the next town Chiavari it soon became obvious that the day was going to be quite hard work. A call from David confirmed that the camp site that we had planned to visit was probably closed, also the other camp sites at La Spezia were also likely to be shut, seems that 30th of September was the official end of the Italian camping season! Pushing along a relatively flat shoreline on to the pretty resort of Sestri Levante, lots of fishing boats and a lovely promenade, I am sure it would be heaving in the summer. Leaving the shoreline I began a long climb into the hills, lots of switch backs through empty roads into forested mountains. The wind had risen and was very gusty at times blowing leaves and sticks down the road. Having climbed for an hour in hot sun I wasn’t looking forwards to the day given that I had only done a third of the days climbing and we didn’t have a campsite to stay at in La Spezia arriving late into the evening didn’t seem an appealing option, so when David turned up with the van I decided to bail from cycling for the day and sort out the next few days accommodation and the route plan. I know a bit of a cop out but this was meant to be a holiday not the Trans Continental after all. We drove for a couple of hours through the hilly coast roads to our planned camp site, it was closed fortunately as it looked pretty rough. So we drove down the coast to Massa where there were 5 or 6 camp sites all close together opposite the beach, most were closed. Luckily we stumbled on the only one that was open, the girl in the office said that we were fortunate as they were also closing the following weekend!

Day 13   Wednesday  3rd Oct        Destination - Montopoli                Climbing – 2146  Distance 57 Miles

Leaving the camp site south of La Spezia from Massa, I cycled down the seafront road alongside the promenade; this summer resort is a haven for beach lovers with a myriad of campsites, hotels and restaurant backing onto the beach. The warm morning sun had bought out a number of cyclists as I am overtaken by local, I stepped up the pace to catch up and exchange a nod as he turned off. I was soon at Lido di Camaiore and turned off towards the hills and the walled city of Lucca. A café enticed me in for a custard doughnut and a Café Latte. An old chap arrived on a classic Olympia that looked like it and he had seen better days, he did the Italian thing and downed his espresso.  Heading off up the hill I made the climb for the day and was soon descending towards Lucca, meeting David at the south gate we had a leisurely lunch and a beer, well maybe a shorter day has its benefits! We took a quick photo in the square opposite stunning the Duomo, then onwards to the campsite at Montopoli. A lovely clean camp site with about 3 motorhomes, so not too busy, at supper 4 stray cats dropped in for some tuna.

Day 14 Thursday 4th Oct                 Destination - San Gimignano       Climbing 3235ft Distance 39 miles

Well it’s my birthday so an easy day, well almost. Setting off from Montopoli I was soon on some back roads, actually some of the worst roads so far, another puncture, fortunately fixed by Joes sealant. Riding on the white line alongside the road was the smoothest option. Making good pace I was soon over the first set of hills, turning East on the SP4 I was at the start of the main climb, 14 miles of going up to a peak of about 1400ft, a great little climb and then a roll down to San Gimignano. The camp site was lovely, a wooded glade, restaurant, fab showers and toilet block, just a mile outside of town. A quick shower and off for a birthday lunch on foot. San Gimignano is a hill top town famous for its towers, fabulous square and stunning views of Tuscany, we chose a restaurant at the entrance to the town with great view, and a Tuscan meat feast was downed with a pint of beer then some site seeing around the packed town. Coach tours seemed to turn up every half an hour with American, Japanese and Chinese tourists. Three German cyclist arrived on their classic bikes with gearing that I didn’t fancy in the Tuscan hills, we chatted a bit they had done 35Km so a bit of a warm up really. An American couple having a feature wedding wandered down the main street with their photographer and video man, they had a villa close to the camp site playing loud music throughout the day. Without the crowds it would be great, I guess it’s a bit like the Lake District a victim of its own success. Later in the day  at the camp site a number of cyclists arrived with touring bikes, huge panniers and tents, all seemed a bit like hard work to me carrying all that stuff, must make the hills a real drag.

Day 15 Friday the 5th of Oct          Destination – Pisa Climbing 2638ft Distance 55 miles

The final day of cycling was pretty much downhill with a little bit of up; even the wind blowing in the right direction. After the initial climb coming out of San Gimignano I was on the downhill, lovely winding roads carried me down to the plain across to Pisa, a bit of a nasty cross wind coming into Pisa. I met up with David for lunch at a riverside café, and then pushed on to our Bed and Breakfast for the night, beating David who got stuck in traffic. Our wives joined us having flown in from the UK for the weekend; we did touristy stuff around Lucca and Florence, two lovely places to visit.

Weekend

So the cycling is done the bike left in the bedroom at the B&B and the camper is now our transport to get about. The walled town of Lucca and Florence are both well worth a visit, they are steeped in history with some fabulous architecture, great restaurants and gelateria. A great way to finish the holiday and a chance to relax a bit.