Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Italy Day 8 - 3rd September 2009

Day 8 in Italy saw us leaving the west coast resort of Viareggio behind and setting out on the long 200 mile drive north to Lake Como. I say 'long' because I'd planned a route that would mostly take us away from main roads and motorways so that we could enjoy the scenery over the various mountain passes that lay between us and the Italian lake district.

Of course this trip became even longer as this was the day we had the tyre blowout that thankfully only cost us time and inconvenience and not our lives. I wrote a detailed blog post about it at the time and so will try to avoid going over it all again here.

We hugged the coast road north for several miles before switching to the SS62 for the start of the climb north east towards Piacenza. The scenery was everything we'd hoped for and we made slow progress as we were stopping every few miles to get out of the car to take photos. Small hill towns abounded and made for spectacular images, set as they were on the.....hills. D'uh. Expressions like "room with a view" and "high rise apartment" sprang to mind.

It was lovely to be out in the countryside of rural Italy after the sightseeing days around Rome and then visiting crowded towns like Siena and Pisa. This was what I really wanted to experience and I can highly recommend SS62 if you want sights like the one above and this one of the typical countryside just north of the vineyards of Tuscany, at Cavazzola.

As you can see, we were heading for the mountains and roads that became switchbacks as they gained altitude. Then, around noon, SS62 finally brought us back 'into civilisation' and to a T junction with the main A1 autoroute - left towards Piacenza and Milan and right towards Parma and Bologna.

We turned left and at this point, we were able to make up time as we could go at 130kph.

And we did.

A short time later, on the outskirts of Piacenza, we had the blowout which totally shredded both the right rear tyre and our nerves at the same time. I put up a few photos of it all on that previously mentioned post but here is one taken by Stephen of Daphne and myself trying to be safe while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. Those concrete barriers were a Godsend.

Well actually she is the one trying to be safe. I'm the one posing in my florescent jacket and as you can see, we made sure we had the essentials out of the car - the phone, the GPS, a can of pop and......Daphne's sack, otherwise known as her handbag.

There were a few funny moments during this ordeal and a couple came about because it seems that in Italy, you stay inside your car when it's on the back of a rescue vehicle being driven to a garage. This is a bizarre enough experience for a passenger but even more so for a driver as the temptation is to want to turn the steering wheel at every corner ! And Stephen did.

Here is a photo of Stephen trying to start the engine of our car despite the fact that it's 5 ft off the ground and locked onto a tow truck that is about to set off.

I can skim over the next few hours as they too were detailed on that post I wrote back at the time. I can give an update however and it's a good news update. You see we finally did get a replacement car but as Budget had us get it from a different rental company in Piacenza, we were worried that Budget would charge us something for the tyre blowout damage (the lovely lady we phoned for help from the autoroute kept saying we'd have to pay for a new tyre) and that the new rental company would charge us something for the new agreement we'd taken out with them for the rest of the trip.

As it turned out, a week later we handed over the new car at the airport before our flight home, paid nothing more and have heard nothing since. Result.

Later that evening as we dined in a restaurant in Piacenza and looked back on a long, tiring day, we couldn't help but be glad that we were safe and sound and still able to think about the second half of the holiday. Como, Bellagio, Venice, Rimini, San Marino and Assisi all lay ahead but stories about those destinations are for another day.

Despite our close call, it had been a wonderful day and the memories of the scenery from Viareggio to Piacenza will live long in the memory.

Yes even mine !


Daphne said...

I'm so glad you reminded me about the stunning countryside - those memories were in danger of being overshadowed by the horrible blowout. I am very, very glad that there are no photos of me being helped to climb over the barrier in my long floaty skirt.
So good to have it all written down - thank you!

rhymeswithplague said...

I never knew Italy was so beautiful! Thanks for the travelogue, and I'm looking forward to more.

jay said...

Wow, that second photo is a true classic, isn't it? Just beautiful.. .We really MUST get over there this year! I can practice my extremely limited Italian.

Viz: 'Ciao, signor Scarafaggio! C'e una scorciatoia?'

See? I'm ready! LOL!

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