After three Italian cities we are really in need of some laid-back time! We pick up our rental car at the airport of Pisa and drive off to discover the Tuscan hinterland.

First stop is the little village Peccioli. We leave the car just outside the center and find some nice spots to admire the surroundings. Finally some tranquility! And we find more of that in Lajatico, the birth place of the opera singer Andrea Bocelli. We came here to enjoy the sounds in the Teatro dei Silenzi. And that is just nature! Other than the frogs giving there all, we here nothing … Once a year the silence is broken by the master himself.

Teatro dei silenzi #italy #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

26895394725_8b1e8a3074_oAfter lunch and a walk around we head to Volterra. We must say we never experienced such a welcome at a hotel or B&B (Rifugio Dei Sogni)! We reconcile with our Belgian host and feel a bit more like home. We make good use of the tips of Patricia (you must know where the free parking is). Volterra has a little but important alabaster industry, which looks like marble but the material is more like limestone. Like anywhere in Italy, some archeological sites are on display, showing the remains of the rich Roman times – and even some Etruscan remains (they founded this town). The views from the city walls are also nice!
The next day we check out a smaller (but very busy) town: San Gimignano. The Etruscans are also supposed to have build this little place, but today it is famous for its towers, 14 are left of the once 72. All built by important families, whom all thought they where the most important family. The higher the tower, the more importance and influence. The frescos at the Palazzo del Popolo are well worth a stop, just as the Sant Agostino church: small but with beautiful frescos dating back to the 13th Century! And be sure to have a gelato from the world champion ice cream maker (Gelateria Dondoli)! From our B&B (Podere Bellaviste) we had a lovely view over the city skyline, it is definitely worthwhile to check it out!

27810550725_1f20c68d06_zThe most relaxed city of our trip was Lucca. And that’s mostly because we were able to take a bike to town. The inner town is only accessible by car for citizens, and that makes a great difference! The most remarkable monument is definitely the tower with the trees on top: the Torre Guinigi. The reason why there are trees on top? Because that makes the tower higher (see San Gimignano) than the actual highest tower – the Torre delle Ore. We buy a ticket to visit both (€ 6 per person). We’ve seen enough churches for sure, and Lucca has some more to offer. We really enjoy the city, and with our bikes we are able to see all the highlights in half a day, including the Piazza Anfiteatro. The square actually is an amphitheater, surrounded by houses and cafés. We go up the wall, which is nice to see Lucca from another perspective. And you don’t have to pay to have a look at the garden of Palazzo Pfanner! We found some nice places to eat as well: Soup in Town is the first vegetarian place we find, the pasta and risotto at Ghinkgo Tea was delicious and the gelato at Gelateria Veneto was lovely!

Lucca rooftops #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

26904660676_aaa4040732_oWhat a difference with our adventure the next day … We drive further north, to La Spezia (this is in Liguria). We want to enjoy some more of the landscapes here and highways usually don’t offer beautiful vistas. Well … That was the most stressful drive we ever took! Italians are not exactly the best drivers in the world, and have a very distinctive idea about going from place A to B by car. Never again! La Spezia is not the most beautiful town you can find in Italy, but it is an ideal hub to discover the Cinque Terre, the reason we came this far. 5 villages, build on the edges of cliffs, facing the Mediterranean Sea.
Unfortunately, we arrived a bit late, and the ticket prices are a lot higher than mentioned on the website. It includes the train (which takes 10 minutes to the first town), the walkways of the national park, and free use of public toilets (really!). But we only have an afternoon left, and paying € 16 per person is just not worth it. So we decide to see the supposedly most beautiful of five: Vernazza. From the train we get an idea of the first two villages, and from the fortress in Vernazza, we get to see the other two as well. So yes, technically we saw Cinque Terre! And we even got up the walking path (till the point where you have to show your ticket). We find some spots in the narrow streets without people and enjoy our little city trip. It is beautiful indeed, but we completely understand why the government plans to set a cap on tourists visiting!

#360view #italy #coastline #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

We head back to Pisa using the highway (from La Spezia this costs €8,3 toll), leave our car at the airport, and have some time left to walk to the city center. Hello Leaning Tower again! The sun is hidden behind the clouds, so we get a free ticket to enter the Basilica. Check! Time to go home 🙂

see the album on flickr scalled and on google streetview IMG_0280 IMG_0281 IMG_0282

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