French/Italian Border – Tunnel de Tende – ITALY – Asti – Cremona – Lago d’Idro – Lago Garda – Verona 26th April – 30th April 2017

Despite the rain we had a pretty good breakfast stop looking out to sea and planning what roads to take through Italy! Went through the border and drove just past Ventimiglia before taking the E74; an amazing road through the mountains, if you are ever near you should definitely take a drive! What made the drive so awesome was the mist rising from the mountains and the winding roads whilst the rain poured down.

Steep climbs and hairpins meant that we created a rather impressive queue behind us (!) and one lane being closed in the ‘Tunnel de Tende’ also didn’t help the situation; we queued on a hill for ages (praying we wouldn’t overheat…!) whilst traffic from the other direction passed. The tunnel itself was pretty impressive – felt like it went on for ages! We finally saw the light and were met with more hairpin bends;downhill this time, lots of fun in the pouring rain!

Carried on driving along the E74 and had a quick check-over by the French police before crossing back into Italy (think they were just trying to have a nose in the van!). Drove through Limone Piemonte; one of the oldest ski-villages in Italy , admiring the picturesque, almost Swiss-like chalets before making our way towards Asti on the 237. Filled up with petrol to discover that the prices were the most expensive so far  – €1.50 was around the average price (however when you think it covers our travel and accommodation it’s not that bad!). Found a huge car park in the middle of the city; highlighted as a camperstop on our app. Pulled in to find a market was on in addition to many car park spaces cordoned off with tape and signs explaining why; only problem was that our Italian wasn’t good enough to work it out! We found a spot that wasn’t taped up near another motorhome and had a quick walk round the market; unfortunately most of it was tacky bits and the food stalls had already packed up. Returning to the van we soon realised that the carpark was soon to become a fairground (hence the tape and signs!) – loads of lorries were arriving with all sorts of rides being towed behind them! We moved the van to the outskirts of the carpark and were soon followed by the other motorhomes! Rain didn’t stop all afternoon/evening so we spent our time eating, drinking and playing some card games.

We set our alarm early to avoid any hassle in the morning… 8:30am clearly wasn’t early enough because we opened our blinds to find we’d nearly been barricaded in by people who were off to work! Luckily we managed to weave our way out (or else we would’ve been there ’til their leave off time!). Decided to make our way towards Piacenza on the SR10; stopped briefly, then moved on towards Cremona. Fynn and Caro gave us a call asking about our plans,told us they were making their way towards Italy and we agreed on trying to meet up again and said we’d be in contact. After arriving in Cremona and eventually finding the camperstop; another large carpark within walking distance to the town. After having some lunch the rain decided to die down so chucked on a raincoat and went to explore the centre.

Lovely little place with cobbled streets, boutiques and an impressive Cathedral. We also discovered that Cremona was home to many violin shops and turns out it is one of the most important towns in Italy for music.

Fynn and Caro must have got a move on (!) as they met us early evening and parked next to us in the carpark. Made dinner together and caught up over a few drinks on what we’d all been up to over the past couple of weeks. Us two woke up early to the sound of a market being set up…luckily this time we weren’t in the way of anyone!

Done a few checks on the van and took a walk round the market before having some breakfast with Fynn and Caro. Decided it’d be cool to spend some more time together and visit Lake Garda, Verona and Venice; we made a (very) rough plan of the route and headed on the SS45bis to Brescia where we topped up on food and fuel before being caught out in a pretty big storm! Checked out the app to find a suitable camperstop in the direction of Garda and saw one in a place called Lodrino. Turned out to be a tiny village with some interesting steep hills and bends with no camperstop to be found… Did stop down a lane to get a great view though!

We carried on the SP345 and eventually found a great little spot off the main road next to ‘Lago d’Idro’. Beautiful little lake with a mountain backdrop where we spent the night playing guitar and having dinner.

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Left midday and took a tiny, amazing road (14% hills and hairpins included!) which took us right to Lake Garda.

We had our first glimpse high above the water, allowed us to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the place.

We ended up doing almost a lap of the Lake – pretty cool claim! Many pull offs already had been claimed by other campers or cars and the addition of a big cycle race didn’t help in our mission to find a space to park! Luckily we found a spot and took a walk by the lake, admiring the view and watching the windsurfers. We were even lucky enough to spot a few ducklings!

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With Verona next on the agenda, we made our way in that direction with no real plan of where to stay. We eventually found somewhere we thought was suitable in the countryside next to a train track and cycle path. Ideal as it was only a 15 minute drive from Verona too. Caro cooked up a huuuuge portion of spaghetti bolognese for dinner and somehow we managed to eat all of it along with some beer and wine!

Arrived in Verona and found a camperstop – really good value at €10 for 24 hours! (GPS: 45°26’00.7″N 10°58’43.6″E) Only took a few minutes to walk to the centre; passed through a small garden with sculptures before arriving in the famous Piazza Bra. Numerous restaurants, cafes lined the square along with beautiful old buildings, but the most impressive sight was the Verona Arena. Originally an Ampitheatre that hosted gladiator battles (now famous for opera and other music performances) over 2000 years old, it was clear to see why the Piazza was packed full of awe-struck tourists!

IMG_8876Verona is also known for being the setting of three of Shakespeare’s plays – ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and most famously ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Therefore we had to go and visit ‘Casi di Giulietta’ – a 14th century house which claims to be the ‘Capulets’. The entrance walls are adorned with hearts and names drawn in every colour imaginable and the gate is covered in locks with lovers names on. ‘Juliets balcony’ can be viewed in addition to a courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet too.

 

After making our way through the huge crowds away from everything ‘star-crossed lover’ related, we carried on through the market square ‘Piazza della Erbe’ before coming across the  Cattedrale Santa Maria Matricolare – Verona’s Cathedral (Duomo).

We then discovered the ‘Castelvecchio’ (Old Castle) where a market was taking place on the bridge – smelt incredible! Bought some olives and sat in the sun sharing them before walking back to the van.

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We were greeted by a woman from Zurich who loved our van and was really enthusiastic about all our travels and wanted to know all about it! Both of us after dinner fancied seeing the city at night so left Fynn and Caro to jam with their guitar whilst we went to see Verona all lit up. After having another wander round the beautiful city we treated ourselves to an ice cream – tasted so so good. According to the guy who served us they’d been busy all day, 10kg of one flavour alone had been sold! We ate them whilst watching the world go by in ‘Piazza della Erbe’ and we were in fits over an amazing dancing waiter who basically used his dance moves to entice people to sit at his restaurant..!

We got back to the van just after midnight and agreed we would definitely visit Verona again. Next on the list… Venice!

 

 

 

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