THE STORY SO FAR.....
Jean and Nick have set off on their adventures by motorcycle and so far have discovered Chinon.
Flushed with the success of their trip to Belgium and France in the spring, they decide to go even further in the summer - to Italy.
In the 1980's I had had a fairly intense love affair with Italy and for 7 years on the trot camped for 3 weeks each summer near Siena. The campsite was brilliant - dappled shade under the trees to keep the fierce sun off the tents, a beautiful swimming pool with bar and restaurant on site, and breathtaking views over the Tuscan landscape.
In 1994 I persuaded Nick that we should go to Siena on our bikes so he could see for himself what a wonderful place it was.
The trip down through France was great and we camped at Chalons en Champagne, St Amour, and Corps in the Alps, the little town where pommes dauphinois were invented. As we went over the top to the Italian side, the road deteriorated dramatically with potholes and gravel adding to the difficulty of the hairpin bends. I was terrified, always a sheer drop to one side of me and having to avoid huge tractors and lorries chugging up the hairpins and hogging all the road. My little Virago 535 was not the best motorcycle for such terrain - the handling was dreadful and the brakes not very effective.
We camped near Genoa on a dirty, overcrowded site with dire facilities. We had a very nervous and uncomfortable night with the tent pitched on a minute patch of ground on a precarious slope. Worst of all, we could not get the bikes near enough to the tent to keep an eye on them and the Italians were not at all sympathetic.
Glad to get away from the place, we set off next morning to continue our adventures but all in all we had a rough time in Italy. Nick was not impressed.
All motorcyclists know that it is difficult to look well-groomed when all you have is a small tent and a few clean but crumpled t-shirts in your paniers. This was not good enough for the Italians. We struggled to get served in shops and restaurants. Also, riding on Italian roads was just sheer hell. We had more near-misses in 2 days than in whole year at home. We did make it to Siena but by then we'd had enough so we decided to pack up early the next day and head back to France where we felt both safe and welcome.
We ended up at Forcalquier.