|The return ferry ride from Elba to the mainland was smooth as silk and as soon as we disembarked we headed for the hills. Those hills being any around the Pisa area with old hilltop towns and there were plenty.
Volterra was one of the big ones but by accident we came across Massa Marittima and it was fantastic. They all have fascinating similarities but some have something special, MM was one of those. So we lingered longer, and had a coffee, or two.
We decided to base ourselves for a few days in an area dating back to the 1st Century and away from the hustle and bustle of big towns. San Giuliano Terme was a great location and our unit up in the hills, although a complete change from the seaside one on Elba, was just as perfect for the areas we explored.
Being part of a 500 year old villa on a working winery it had some great history to it.
The wine was good too …. and we scored a free bottle for our stock.
Of course we had to make a return visit to see if the Tower at Pisa was still on a lean, and it was. Tourism would die in this area should that gorgeous pillar ever do a complete tumble.
It was good to visit Pisa's old town areas not just the tourist spots and we were quite surprised to see many similarities to Florence. Not as pretty but with its own charm.
A good drive around the province of Pisa produced some interesting results. There were many hill-side villas dating back to the 15th Century and they were huge. The upkeep would have been, and certainly must still be, massive. Some have now incorporated restaurants and units to offset costs.
Pisa and its historic enemy Lucca have had many 'wars' over the centuries more often relating to control of the nearby river. All seemed calm now so we made a visit to the 'enemy'.
The Romans had a connection with Lucca since 180 BD so it certainly has some history. Its a big old walled town with some incredible buildings which we likened to Pisa and Florence. As in most historic places there is much renovating underway no doubt taking advantage of the 'off-season'.
The area around San G.Terme is dotted with mineral springs, some with baths dating back to the Roman period. The sheer number of abandoned villas and castle ruins around the place is amazing.
Our stay in this part of Italy was great and being able to take a little time to visit places off the tourist path was very rewarding.
But now we were off to Corsica, an island Gill has patiently looked forward to visiting for many years. Neither bad weather nor time was going to stop her on this occasion.
With our spritely Punto loaded we were off to Livorno to meet our ferry for the four hour cruise to the small French region out in the Mediterranean and birthplace of Napoleon.