A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving Italy


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After arriving back from Blighty we stayed a couple of nights at the lake to do boring cleaning and washing then headed to the mountains for a route toward Monaco, Jacqui has a dress to wear! Most of the drive was through a very rural area which was harvesting a crop I couldn't fathom, penny dropped, it was rice. The harvest is later than the other cereals and they have rice festivals in November serving sausages with rice, haute cuisine!!
We stopped at a city called Cuneo which turned out to be pretty, big piazzas and arcades. We were looking for a fuse for the van and we were walking along a pavement when a cyclist caught one of my rucksack straps and crashed into the road. Thankfully she was OK but no helmet, lots of people stopped to help and we exchanged numbers to check on her.
The terrain became more interesting on the way to the campsite and colder; nice site though and more rubbish WiFi, I had to sit out in the cold to download a French map.
The drive south towards the coast was reminiscent of our first long trip in the van when we drove the other side of these foothills from France to Italy. Fantastic windy rocky roads through tunnels and slowing down all the traffic, tough! The Col de Tende, which is in France as we switched into and out again, was especially high and twisty. The Tende tunnel was built in 1882 and being made bigger for larger vehicles, so 30 minutes wait at road works, some engineering feat though then.
We had tried to get into Monaco on that first big motorhome trip but traffic stopped us so we headed for Ventimiglia on the Ligurian coast and bought rail tickets for the Saturday, on the day the train was nearly an hour late. We bought palace tickets on line only to find that Monaco was not at all crowded and in fact the whole feel of the place was very relaxed.
The palace was lovely and although it was highly decorated in server all styles, it did not overwhelm but felt intimate. Such a lot had gone on here with the Grimaldi family and France.
Jacqui was obviously so interested in the Grace Kelly story and was surprised that she was not featured more in the tour of the palace, I thought it was because she only had a short time in the principality's long history.
We also visited the Prince's personal car collection, a sign told us "this is not a museum". I am not a car nut but this collection is lovely, cars from 1890 to modern day F1. It was surprising that there weren't more people looking around but good for us. We had a great day out!
Back on an on time train and pizza for tea on our last night in Italy for a while, St Tropez tomorrow.

Posted by cjpolley 11:09 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Other lakes with friends


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I suppose officially we hadn't got to Lake Como yet because every time a lake goes in and out a bit on the map it has another name, Lago di Garlate and where we stayed overnight Lago di Olignate. The village had done a really good job on the sosta/market place with power and water for €10 and we were the only settlers that night. It even had a chilled water dispenser which was very well used by the locals, in fact a very hosiptable one legged lady gave us a litre of her water that she had paid for.
In the morning it was chucking it down so driving everywhere looked like the UK, Jacqui noticed it first. We headed still westwards and stopped at a smallish lake called Lago di Varese again in a nice sosta and watched it rain a bit more.
We did get a bit of a walk in around the lake and found the European training centre of the Australian Sports Institute but Jacqui wouldn't let me pop in and tell them they had been doing things wrong for the past couple of years.
Weather improving we moved onto Lake Maggiore where we intended to stay for a couple of weeks so friends could visit. Derek and Lorna were coming out in a couple of days and we hadn't nailed down a camp site, fortunately our first attempt found a small friendly site with a little beaches right on the lake.
One of the important reasons to meet in this area is the location of a wine growing area called Gattinara around a village of the same name. We had met whilst skiing and in our second season had discovered this great wine in a weird shaped bottle so had to find the source. Derek had to drive but the wine tasting at Travaglini was wonderful, turns out to be a small producer in a select area we were so fortunate to find it in the first place.
Weather was not on our side when we tried to get in a cable car to view the lakes but the small villages that dot the lakes shore were well worth a tour for the collection of old fashion hotels and of course ice cream!
The campsite restaurant served pretty good food so we shared some pleasant meals together and breakfasted on the veranda of their accommodation on the same site, no snow this time!
We had planned to leave the van here when we flew back to the UK for a wedding, Jacqui is in charge of that blog and we got a call from Cathy and Richard to say they were coming out for a few days including her birthday.
Cue more wine tasting at an even smaller winery that the campsite owner knew and asked us to bring back a case of red for him. Paride Chiovini, the name of the winery and the really nice chap who showed us around, is in a tiny village and less than a tenth the size of Travaglini, but the wine was great. So good in fact that he had sold out of white to taste, his rosé and red offering were very tasty.
Decent weather arrived with our latest guests and we managed to get up the cable car and combine it with a boat around part of the lake. I also remembered to look up largest lakes in Europe, maggiore was 62 and of UK lakes Loch Neahy was in the top 100 but nothing in the Lake District.
Cathy and Rich drove us to the airport as well so happy days!

Posted by cjpolley 08:34 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

The start of the lakes


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Lake Garda is a wonderful sight from the southern end, looking across the lake to the mountains over the other side. The town we came to first, Peschiera del Garda, had the feel of another Sandbanks, lots of big cars and boats. A busy place with bars, restaurants and more ice cream shops. There was also no room at the campsite, it was too posh for us anyway.
So off to Sirmione which had a fortified ice cream island and really posh shops and we found a nice family run campsite and rode our bikes a bit. The holiday makers had thinned even more and on the Monday the campsite was deserted.
The lakes are numerous and vary greatly in size so we drove toward Lake Como and tried a little planning, we settled on a place called Lecco as we could catch a train to Milano and see a bit of the countryside as well.. Lecco is situated on the lower right hand fork of the lake and is quite industrial, as we travel around some of the lakes we are finding a mix of things including theme parks and big shopping centres so much like everywhere else really. The smaller lakes are pretty and I think we will return to the northern shores of the lakes next time.
So we travelled into Milano on a train that took 75 minutes and cost us €9.60 return, bargain. We had only planned this visit a couple of days before so couldn't book the Last Supper but I would have had the Month Python version going on in my head all the time so that was probably a good thing.
We did visit the Brera gallery where Jacqui pronounced she was bored of seeing little willies, I think she meant the statues! Then she got to window shop in the Galleria V E, the galleria itself is stunning, shame it begat the shopping mall.
Next was the Duomo, by far the most attractive and intricate exterior of any such edifice we had seen on this trip. Then more wandering, passing shops as they slid down the scale from the galleria, completely missing the church the Last Supper is housed in.
Then another fantastic example of power and wealth, the extremely well preserved Castello Sforzesco Fontana, so good to be able to roam about in here without having to keep paying.
Standards have to be maintained so we partook of prosecco and Montepulciano then ice cream and back on our bargain train, well not quite, got on the wrong one and had to jump on another, one stop out of Lecco, never mind it was a good day followed by a favourite dinner of bangers, mash and beans; Italian cuisine, eat your heart out! That's a funny phrase?
More lakes tomorrow

Posted by cjpolley 08:54 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Wonderful Verona


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Leaving Cinque Terreble we used the tolls roads for a change to head towards the lakes, cost us €20 but we got to Cremona in a few hours. Parked in a car park sosta and waited until the heat of the afternoon had abated and walked into town, just heading for the cathedral really. Outside the centre was a bit boring but the Piazza del Commune was interesting and bustling with bars and early evening crowds. We of course had to join in and the picture of the apertivo with our drinks shows it was well worth the stop.
Having a quick look in the Duomo on the way out we were amazed how large it was inside, outside showed lots of brick extensions, probably build by successive powerful families in the city. The painting of the ceilings was nowhere near as good as Firenze but the columns that held it all up were massive, over 4m circumference I guess.
Our car park sosta gave us and the other 10 or so vans a quiet night and then we were off to Verona, this was a stop thrown into the lakes itinerary at the last minute. Good job we did!
Verona is a beautiful city from start to finish, we missed the opera which according to Harry is fantastic, but everything else we saw pushed Verona straight to top 5.
The arena is older than the coliseum in Rome and is now used as a large outdoor venue, with reconstructed seating I have no doubt. The city on a Saturday morning was thronged with people looking for a lunchtime restaurant or walking through the fortified bridge or just wandering. Every corner you turned revealed a a different arch or aspect and we only viewed the other Roman theatre from across the river as it was so hot that afternoon.
This is on our go back to list.
Then we headed towards the lakes and spent a couple of sunny days at Garda, but more of that later.

Posted by cjpolley 01:25 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Underwhelmed in Cinque Terre


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We have been to some pretty and or spectacular places, the Cinque Terre villages fit neither of these descriptions. It is expensive and a tourist trap and with the amount of money spent here, you'd have thought they could have afforded a can of paint or two.
The traditional pastel colours were peeling and faded and we had seen better kept villages in Sicily.
If you want to see pretty seaside towns then try Port Issac, Rovinj, Colliore or Taormina to mention four.
The local Tourist Board has done a great marketing job here with the most doctored images since the Beijing Olympics.
The national park and the coastal path is used by loads of walkers and thus looks good. Manarola was by far the prettiest and much more as you would expect to see. There are a couple of photos I have put on the blog to show the difference..
The saving grace and we always find one, was the cone of fried anchovies for lunch and a €4 beer.

Posted by cjpolley 09:51 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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