Back in Alba we had made contact with a few Warm Showers hosts in Bologna to see if they had room for us to stay for a few days while were were trying to arrange the delivery of our new sleeping mats. One of these hosts, Kersten, responded that she had moved to a small town called Sassoleone in the hills north of Florence. After leaving the Po River valley and still with no campsites (or showers) in sight we decided to head towards Sassoleone for a few days with Kersten.
Looking at our map the most direct route to Sassoleone was to travel south east from Canossa hugging the mountains and returning to our familiar routine of mountain pass climbing and river valley descents. Besides the hilly route along the way we also visited a vintage car and motorbike show with ancient Bianchi bikes in Montese, found our second ever campsite in Italy at Rioveggio, photographed vivid green countryside after thunderstorm outside Loiano and passed the 4000km mark outside Bisano.
Arriving at Sassoleone with only an address we realised the house number we had didn’t seem to exist in the tiny main street. After circling the block a few times attracting more and more curious attention from the local people we asked for help and were swiftly guided to the address outside town by following a driver in his car. We felt like we were in a parade as the driver flashed his lights and drove slowly ahead of us.
Kersten’s house was called Casa Nova and was one building in what would have historically been a shared farm property. The owner of the property Georgio still farmed the surrounding land with cherry and peach trees, bee hives, chickens, a truffle dog and enough farm equipment to keep his grandkids entertained. Within minutes of our arrival we were sitting in a sun drenched field with Kersten and her daughters Jora and Lori eating fresh delicious cherries as fast as Georgio could cut the branches from his trees.
Over the next few days we helped pick more cherries for Georgio’s daughter to make into jam, played endless games with Jora and Lori, amazed some local people with our journey to date, declined an invite for an 80km morning ride from a local cyclist (aged 60+) and talked with Kersten long into each night about her way of life at Casa Nova and past travelling adventures.
Our route to Florence from Casa Nova had been the subject of much discussion with Georgio as to the least hilly, most scenic and best roads to follow. The recommended route followed an undulating ridge to Passo della Raticosa competing only with the odd motorcycle for space. We then sailed downhill almost all the way Florence with traffic building up around us, stopping for a packed lunch Kersten had made us in some welcome shade. We finally made our way to Camping Michelangelo to collect our new sleeping mats and have a quick dinner before taking in the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo and heading into central Florence to enjoy a late evening gelato while taking in the Saturday night atmosphere.