Day 18 - 24 / When every day becomes even more beautiful than the one before

Aktualisiert: 1. Nov. 2020

Dear All,

"If every day is even more beautiful than the one before" - that's a description of my last days in Italy. Thank you Italy, for this wonderful time. Deutscher Text hier.

First of all again my learnings of the last days (I know you love them):

- Trust Google Maps rather than Bertha - unless you want to end up in nowhere, then trust Bertha!

- I prefer travelling alone rather than with "what could have been" travellers.

- My inner 10-20% tolerance rule for speed limits does not work in Italy. Either I raise it to min.100 % or I get run over by a truck. Okay, then just 100 in the 30 zone, the possible speeding ticket is worth my life.

- I love the touch of Woodstock in Tuscany.

- I prefer heartburn to the feeling of being a turtle.

- The natural thermal springs were an absolute highlight for me - rather less so for my jewellery, which became my nostalgic souvenir after a bath in sulphur water.

In the last blog I already told you about Florence and Lucca. Today some more highlights of Tuscany will follow. By the way, 09.18 a.m. is the arrival time on my parking ticket - just for questions that might come up when looking at the photos of the landmarks of Pisa without people. Pisa is for me much more than the cathedral and the leaning tower, it is also worth to stroll through the old town and to visit for example the Piazza Dei Cavalieri. On the day of my visit there was a small artists' flea market in the side street, which I was also allowed to visit almost alone. If you follow the streets of the city centre you inevitably end up at the river Arno and see the colourful facet of the city. The gothic church Santa Maria della Spina also stands out - it looks really impressive.

After my stop in Pisa I went to the sea for the first time on this trip. I love the mountains, but I also love the rough sea! Lara had given me a great tip - the beach Vada near Rosignana Marittimo. The wide sandy beach is especially well known by the locals - and after having spent about 20160 minutes in Italy, I can almost count myself among them. What makes this beach so special? Now it's time to be strong for everyone in rainy Germany: it's Italy's Caribbean, the sand is so bright and the turquoise water so clear. Unfortunately, the reason for this is not an environmental protection programme (sorry to destroy this romance - but something similar - or rather not), but a former soda factory that has been discharging its waste water (including mercury) into the sea for over 20 years. The mercury has bleached the sand of Vada and thus provides Caribbean flair in Tuscany. But since it is impossible to say how dangerous the toxins are still, I decided not to jump into the cool water and enjoyed the beautiful view between the dunes. What could be more beautiful than the sound of the waves, sand under your feet and the reflecting sun on the sea. Balsam for the soul.

From the beach I made my way to Volterra. And it felt to me like "the way is the goal". The journey over the numerous hills of Tuscany, which seemed to be covered softly with different carpets of green, brown and yellow tones, was breathtaking. The combination with the bright blue sky and the sun, which made the colours of the landscape shine all the stronger, made it clear to me once again that nature is the greatest artist. And you can enjoy this wonderful view from Volterra too. The town is famous for its magnificent views, its art, history and craftsmanship.

One thing I couldn't miss during my visits to Tuscany: San Gimignano - the favourite city of many of you! I received this tip several times and I was very curious what to expect.

San Gimignano is an Italian hill town in Tuscany and is surrounded by walls from the 13th century. In the centre of the old town is the Piazza della Cisterna, a triangular square lined with medieval houses. The skyline of the city is dominated by medieval towers, including the stone tower Torre Grossa - and as I learned from Walter in the last article, this is also called the Manhattan of Tuscany! Unfortunately I read his tip about the ice cream too late. Because the "Gelateria di Piazza" (Piazza della Cisterna 4) in San Gimignano, was twice already world champion of ice cream makers. Shame on me and as I am currently working on my everyday ice cream challenge! But in Volterra I had very good figs and salted caramel ice cream!

I especially remember the beautiful sunset here, which was accompanied by three fantastic street musicians with double bass, guitar and trumpet. While most of the people passed the musicians, I joined those who were looking for a nice place to listen to the trio. That I love live music is no secret with my professional background, but in everyday life one pays far too little attention to these moments. And so once again I realise how beautiful the little things in life are - and San Gimignano will continue to sound in my memories - even without world champion ice cream 😊

A small but quite astonishing fright was given to me by my bagpack in the evening, or rather the contents of it. Either the weight increases, which I estimate to 150 kg without having more luggage than at the beginning of my journey, or my strength decreases. Probably the latter - as I noticed when I dropped off at the hotel. Anyway, fate decided to show me on this trip how grateful one can be for a life without pain. For one evening I was allowed to feel immobilized - to illustrate, I felt like a turtle that had landed on its shell and was now helplessly "hanging in the air".

Yes, a pinched nerve can be really annoying. It's good to have great friends like Lisa from Berlin who are pharmaceutical experts. Actually, I avoid painkillers as much as I can, but in this case I had no choice. "I hope you had something to eat before" Lisa said. "Does ice cream count?" I countered. "It gives you heartburn," Lisa warned me. "Never mind, I'll take anything, as long as I can lift my arms and turn my head again," I hoped. And lo and behold: the next morning I woke up at 5.30 am after a painful night like newborns, was only minimally restricted thanks to a proper dose of Ibu and was only allowed to enjoy heartburn for two more days - but what is that in comparison to the pain before.

I took the chance of the newly won freedom at 05.30 a.m. directly to celebrate the sunrise in Tuscany - if you wake up this early voluntarily, you should use the time. And here I let the pictures speak for themselves! The photos were taken in the Val D'Orcia valley, the enchanting landscape that stretches between the hills of Tuscany was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Gentle hills, covered by a rich vegetation like vines, olive groves, cypresses, beeches and chestnut trees. But see for yourself.

While taking these photos, I thought I had grown - internally determined, externally, the growth appeared as 20 cm mud platform heel of my shoes. A touch of Woodstock in Tuscany - what do you want more, fantastic.

By the way, my personal favourite in places in Tuscany is Siena. I had no great expectations and it is as often - most of the time you get a special surprise. Siena, like so many other places, is situated on a hill in Tuscany. It seemed as if my cardiovascular system and my calves were being put to the test again today. So I followed the signs to the centre and had to smile when all of a sudden seven escalators were waiting for me. In the course of this I sent my best regards to Schindler and our former boss Sonja. I used the escalator s without regret, because the number of steps I take here throws my fitness app out of balance. It's a good thing that I, or rather the Schindler escalators, could now relieve the poor thing of a few hundred steps counting.

In Siena, I so much felt the Italian life. The schoolchildren were running through the alleys, the cafes that filled with Italians at lunchtime, the weekly market and a few travellers. Yes, we have become a rare species and so it is always nice to meet travellers like me. In Siena I talked to Noah. Noah comes from Paris and has been travelling in Europe since April. The first question one asks oneself as a traveller in these times is "and where would you actually have just travelled to? I always have to laugh when the question comes up, but somehow it's also sad. Because up to now I have only met people who have not consciously decided for Europe. And as you can see, Europe is beautiful. I also had my concerns about the season. "Europe is made in summer", many people said. Certainly it has some advantages in the summer concerning the weather (although I can't complain about the two rainy days so far, but I wouldn't be angry about a few degrees more of temperature at night with the often quite simply insulated houses) but I find the colourful landscape so enchanting and always come to the conclusion that everything is so great. But back to Noah, who would actually have travelled in Asia and now crosses Italy on foot: "It's pretty lonely, you don't meet many people", he also says. "How long do you travel", I asked him. "I don't know, let's see, as long as I feel like it, but I don't feel like it anymore," Noah replied. He's been travelling since December and is still starting quite light-heartedly in Asia until he had to stop. Just like Sina and Mike, whom I met, who had to return from Bolivia. Or Arne the Finn, who wanted to be in Australia just like me. None of the four seems really happy with the trip at the moment. They all talk more about what they could have had. That irritates me. Of course, I also think about Australia from time to time. But if we get stuck too much in "what could have been", we miss the adventure we are experiencing. Of course, I don't always succeed, but at this moment I am grateful that I can still appreciate this journey. And Australia will not run away from me!

Speaking of running away, in Siena a little creature on a leash surprised me especially. No dog, but see for yourself on the photos😊

And I will not forget another animal experience that day. In the evening I walked across the fields behind the hotel and saw a little tomcat among the cypresses - just at that moment a free-running dog ran towards his living toy full of anticipation. "Okay shit, I'm about to witness an animal slaughter", I thought and looked angrily at the dog's owner, who was watching the dog's run-up in a relaxed manner. And my gaze wandered just as angrily to the cat, I didn't understand why the stupid thing didn't flee. Only a few more metres and then he has him...3...2.... 1.... oops - and there they were licking and cuddling. How? The owner of the dog noticed my look and explained to me in Italian (which of course I didn't understand) and with hands and feet that the two animals belong to him and that they always go for walks together. A real dog - cat friendship. And so I watched how dog and cat continued to run next to each other towards the sunset. Pretty corny but damned true. I didn't have my camera with me at that moment, but I'm sure you can imagine it visually and you don't always need a photo to remember. So sometimes things are different than they seem at first sight.

The hot natural springs at Bagni San Filippo were also unforgettable. In the middle of the forest you could already see the water steaming - the turquoise spring pools surrounded by red and yellow Trees in combination with the blue sky - once again amazing. And for me absolutely perfect with 38° water temperature.

The natural thermal springs were an highlight for me - rather less so for my jewellery, which became my nostalgic souvenir after a bath in the sulphur water.

I have also visited the thermal baths of Saturnia twice (without jewellery, I am able to learn), also a great natural spring, which is absolutely worth a visit, especially in the morning when the fog is rising at sunrise (see photos)! Nevertheless I liked the spring in the forest a bit more.

Both springs are free of charge. And you should not stay in the water for more than 15 minutes, not that you suddenly look 20 years younger!

Quite old made me look Bertha again this week (if you wonder who Bertha is, you can read my last blog post). Everything has a reason, I really try to see it always positive - but for this odyssey I cant find anyone: Rather trust "google Maps" than Bertha I learned. In the morning I checked in my Airbnb (by the way, such a beautiful old typical Tuscan farmhouse) near Saturnia, but in the evening being back there was my biggest challenge. As it is well known that I don't like to use the same ways and always want to see something new, I am dependent on the help of Bertha, without my navigation system I am simply stuck. So I entered the address of the Airbnb and was told I would reach my destination in about 20 minutes. "Yes, should be fine - Get there", I thought to myself, and a drive on roads whose condition was much worse than in Vietnam (and that means something, as Lorena can confirm) was waiting for me. Pretty reassuring that there was a slope of several hundred metres to the right and left of the huge potholes - if you're in free fall, you're in good hands here. But good, some adrenalin is part of travelling. Do you know that moment, when you are waiting to finally perceive something familiar in the surroundings to get back the feeling of having the steering wheel in your own hands? Bertha did not want to give up the wheel. Until 30 seconds before arrival I wait for this "aha" effect - in vain. "You have reached your destination" said she and I looked stunned from the hill and although I didn't know where I was, I knew I definitely didn't check in here in the morning. "Bertha this seems to be a nice Airbnb too, but it's not mine," I said to her while still firmly convinced that I had entered the wrong address. But no. Address correct. As the question marks grew, so did the flock of chickens around my car - where did I end up? (Anita and Vanessa, this reminded me of the situation in Dublin where our car was surrounded by dogs :)) The sun was slowly setting and the hills were bathed in an orange sea of lights again. I had little love for this romance at the time as the idea of driving back the same way made me scared. I really felt more than stupid and seriously doubted my sanity. Until I read a useful tip in the Airbnb description (fortunately the internet didn't let me down): "Please use Google maps only, other navigation devices lead to an address in nowhere". Correct, absolutely correct, I now know this nowhere too! So I switched on Google Maps and another 30 minutes later, shortly before complete darkness, I reached my Airbnb - and never before on this journey have I been so glad to have finally arrived. Thanks Bertha, for nothing.

The corona situation in Italy is becoming worse, as it is everywhere else in the world. The restaurants all close at 6pm, so I usually eat lunch and take a snack for the evening or book only Airbnbs with kitchen. The riots in Naples and in the south of Italy due to the Corona measures have led me to the conclusion to take the wonderful memories of Italy with me and not to travel further south. Also a doctor from Milan, whom I met at the springs (about taking pictures one gets involved in conversations from time to time) recommended me to travel rather north, because the health system would be better positioned there. Fate knocked at the door again and just at that moment Switzerland announced that I could enter again from Italy.

Perfect, Switzerland's call became louder and was heard by me: and so I write to you today: Grüezi from Switzerland!

But before I went to Switzerland I stopped in Cinque Terre - Cinque Terre is the name for 5 neighbouring communities on the rugged Italian Riviera. The centuries-old coastal villages are famous for their colourful houses and the terraced vineyards on the steep slopes. Fishing boats are anchored in the harbours and the villages are easy to visit by train. If you wonder how crowded it was here (which you can probably guess) here is a picture from the train:

And here too I would like to let the photos speak for themselves. I hope I can give you a moment of holiday and send some sun to Germany. I continue to enjoy every day and I'm already in Switzerland since the day before yesterday - I love it (but unfortunately my credit card doesn`t), you can be curious about the next article!

You had sent me a few questions, which I promised to answer in the blog post. I'll do that next week - if there are more, keep them coming!

And now one more question for you - a little treasure game. Whoever is closest can look forward to a surprise: How many KM do you think I have already covered by car? Your suggestions are welcome as comments or messages to me!

Thank you very much for your support and that all of you hope that my adventure can continue for some more weeks!

I will continue to take care of myself and you please take care of yourself, big hug to you and I look forward to reading from you,


Laura (+ Bertha)

PS. By the way, the gallery is a preview option, so don't be surprised about the parts of the photos, if you click on the picture, you will see it completely :) Thanks for the hint Nico!

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