Italian Toll Roads!

Sunday 15th April 2018

Dave posting,

Light rain woke us this morning, it’s 8am, the kettle is on for the first cuppa of the day. We are thinking about Venice and going there, so a small amount of research in to places to park and visit, we use numerous resources, A Life In The Slow Lane, Our Bumble, Our Tour, Charlie the Chucklebus.

Time is creeping up on us and now we have to get ready to move off before 11.30am (Camping Sirmione) as is the sites rule, the bill for 3 nights on the superior pitch was €96.60, although expensive it’s definitely worth the money in our opinion, it was like a mini holiday in the tour.

We drove towards Pescheria and spotted a LIDL, in we go and buy groceries. We stay put and switch the wifi/mifi on, more Venice researching over crackers and humous. We don’t want to get a train or bus in to Venice, we want to “arrive” in a water bus, vapourette, so we decide on a plan. The plan involves stopping in the NE area of Venice and catching a water bus, but we need a cheap overnight stop tonight.

Using Search for Sites we found a free Sosta at Treviso, a quick read of the Sosta reviews in Search For Sites and we are heading there now. The coordinates say nearly 3 hours journey, so I re-format the sat nav to include tolls and motorways and now it’s only 1hr 45 mins via the A4 motorway.

A few minutes later we leave the LIDL car park and in 3 kms we roll up to the ticket machine at the start of the toll motorway, ticket issued, and we are on our way for 140 kms of motorway driving.

The weather changes to rain, the motorway is a decent drive with good road surfaces compared to the toll-free roads that run parallel to the toll roads and no lorries at all. (I think that in some European countries HGV movement is not allowed on Saturdays and Sundays).

The strange thing over here is there are no signs or information about toll road costs, or distances or towns, you just get on and worry about the euros when you exit!

radio aux

Listening to The Eagles and Foreigner albums & 90 minutes later we are coming down the exit slip road to the toll booths, we stop and put the ticket in, well we first of all I have to stand up in the footwell to reach the machine, it asks for €11.50, that’s cheap! well what a pavlava, I tried my pre-paid MasterCard three times, I tried cash but the machine wouldn’t accept notes, and now the remote ticket machine operator is telling me what to do in Italian through a loudspeaker. Mastercard, credit card, visa card, he says, I said “I am trying it but it’s not accepting it!”

This goes on maybe five times, suddenly a receipt is printed, and the barrier raises, off we go then grabbing the receipt. A minute late Cathy says the receipt value is zero, but our Reg. No. is on the receipt. We continue for a few minutes when a police car appears out of nowhere, sirens on and flashing lights, Cathy says “they are coming after us Dave!” as they drove by quickly.

Pulled up in Treviso at the Sosta, it’s attached to a huge car park which is very full for 6pm on a Sunday night. Selected a spot and put the kettle on, it feels ok with 5 other motorhomes here. There are 3 other motorhomes in the corner that look they have been here a while. The police patrol car drove around a couple of times in the evening before 11pm, it’s an okay spot, earplugs in to soften the noise of the noisy rail track 250 metres away.

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I’d never be able to get in that!

Treviso is by all means a lovely place to visit but we just wanted to sleep, Venice awaits and we’re excited.

Goodnight

Dave

We’ve found gold!

Saturday 14th April 2018

Dave posting,

This morning, from the camp site we walked to Sirmione, it’s a glorious day, we are wearing shorts, tee shirts, caps & walking trainers, sun tan lotion has been applied. It’s such a fantastic day that the Italians have come out to play, the atmosphere is positive, vibrant, cars trying to park to visit the old town, bars and cafes’ are busy, the sun umbrellas are out, everybody wants a drink and a view of the lake.

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Gold Rolls Royce

The sky is azure blue, the sun is beating down, the water is gentle moving around and is a bluey grey colour, there’s no breeze and there’s a feeling that summer is coming and just around the corner.

We amble around for a while, we feel like getting a drink and sitting by the water, we find the perfect spot facing West in to the sun on a hotel wharf, the water is gently lapping under us as we can see through the decking.

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Our lunch spot!

We sit watching the boats trips coming and going, passengers alighting and boarding, life feels very good for us right at his moment. We ordered a small lager and small wine, it arrives with some tapas snacks, mini pizza pasties and olives wrapped in sausage and breadcrumbs and deep fried mmmm, lovely, let’s order some food. A club sandwich arrives 15 mins later and we are glad that we ordered just one to share as it’s large! And they’ve put chips alongside, it was delicious too.

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What a great place for a bite to eat!

We are so relaxed and content at this moment, but we will have to move from our seats soon, as we want to go and see the castle. We paid €26.00 for 3 drinks and the sandwich and made our way to the castle entrance.

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Sirmione Castle

Sirmione castle is considered one of the finest examples of a medieval fortification including a very rare fortified port, the castle is also known as the Scalinge castle after the ruling family of the area until 1387. Entry fee was €6 each but you can visit for free on the 1st Sunday of every month and it’s closed every Monday by the way.

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Castle drawbridge

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Fortified port

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Super view looking back down the Sirmione peninsula

There are many ice cream shops selling a huge and I mean a huge variety of flavours, they are in the chiller cabinets in waves, rolls undulating, certainly not kept in plastic boxes. The local infamous flavour is Stracciatella, allegedly this flavour was created by a local man here in Sirmione, but history mentions it was in fact Enrico Panattoni from Bergamo, a traditionally made ice cream with fine, irregular shavings of chocolate.  All the shops make a big effort to display their ice cream in such an appetising way! There are so well presented.

We continued walking through town towards the coastal path, following our noses and a small number of folk in front of us, we passed a jetty.

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He’s so relaxed!

Then we end up at the point where the path ceases, and we can’t go any further, but we are at the tip, we thought we could walk all the way around the further point of the peninsula, but not so.

As we head back we come inland a little and find a small public park with a tree lined boulevard and a plaque referencing Maria Callas, the famous Greek/Amercian soprano opera singer (1923-1977) who lived here in Sirmione.

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Through the park

We both agree that’s it’s been a wonderful surprise discovering Sirmione, water as far as the eye can see, mountains, snow, park, walkways and paths, beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees, everywhere is clean and spotless, fantastic buildings everywhere.

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It’s been a fantastic day and we have fallen in love with Sirmione! We will be back…… Arrivederci!

Dave

Camping “proper” in Sirmione Del Garda!

Friday 13th April 2018

Cathy posting,

The sun has got his hat on hip hip hooray! This morning we are totally relaxing, it’s seems like we’ve done so much in 19 days on this trip and 22 days since we left our home, as we’ve already said we have rented our house and now “home” is Pogo our motorhome, we are more than happy with our living quarters but we really have been looking forward to getting our chairs outside for some sun.

The morning started with what we thought were bacon medallions but turned out to be just thinly sliced pork so we had them with egg on toasted olive ciabatta, strange but it was quite tasty. We have a little toast or toasty maker

And of course good coffee was needed, we buy the coffee from Lidl, it’s called Bellaroma and we like it.

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It makes great coffee!

Dave headed off for another hot shower splurge! Got to make the most of it, even though we have a hot shower in the van and it’s surprisingly good it’s not as powerful or strong as you’d normally have. We’ve chilled out for a couple of hours in the sun and I’ve been writing this here blog and drinking more tea than is good for me, I’m off to wash some clothes, €3.00 before we start leaving an odour trail behind us!

Late afternoon and we decided to go for a long walk to Desenzano del Garda,  you can literally walk from one side to the other on Sirmiones’ peninsular, it was approx 11 Kilometers there and we had planned to walk back but we stopped for a beer! (free snacks again) and to enjoy the view down the lake to the north of Lake Garda.

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view from the beer stop

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We didn’t do this place Desenzano del Garda any justice as we didn’t really visit the town, we just walked to it and came back, it was more about the walk for us.

We eventually tried to get a bus back but we can’t find out any information for the times, time is getting on now it’s 6.40pm, we are at the bus stop, the timetable is vague, as a bus stops right next to me, I asked driver how to get back to Sirmione, she said we’ve missed the last bus so we asked asked a man at the nearest restaurant he said there is another bus in an hour and we need to buy a ticket from a tabac (tobacconist) before getting on the bus it’s easier and cheaper than paying the driver. We go back to the bus stop area to look for a tabac, no, I can’t see one? I decided to go in to the chemist, who can usually speak English as we have found on our travels around the world. Yes, this is the right bus stop here, pointing, the tabac is up there but the bus comes in 10 mins so you must be quick! we quickly exit and go to find the tabac up the street, we bought two tickets (€1.50 each) and ran back to the stop, we made it with 2 mins to spare! we then waited for 25 mins for it to arrive! We hopped on and sat near the front so we knew when to get off, the bus trip took only about 7 mins, it was a bit scary and we were worried by the driver who BRAKED LATE ! seemed to be tired and almost falling asleep, we put on our seat belts just in case! got back safe and sound, but we’ve no tea so it’s the campsite restaurant for us! Carbonara for Dave and seafood Linguine for me, it was lovely and thank you to Freda and Gerald for the money to pay for it and also thank you to Jonathan and Roisin in advance for the Euros for tomorrows dinner which we’ve just booked in for!

p.s. – the campsite launderette is very organised, you have to choose your time, i.e. 30 minutes, your temperature i.e. 30° and they give you a key to the electricity control unit, as soon as your minutes are up, switch the electricity off and lock the unit and then you go and pay, obviously this keeps people from leaving their stuff there for ages because you have to pay for the length of time you’ve used. These were just my clothes, Dave had his washed a couple of days ago in a tub with a sealed lid which sat in the shower whilst we travelled, my clothes are not going in with his socks lol!

Cathy

Fair Verona day 2 & on to Garda

Thursday 12th April 2018

Cathy posting,

Juliet’s house, well we can’t come to Verona without going to look at Shakespeare’s mythical story of both love and tragedy and so we go to Romeo & Juliet’s balcony, it was a little cobbled square and you could also go inside the house, included in our Verona card (€18), it was packed with school children but we’re glad we went to see it.

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Next we climbed 384 steps up the Lamberti tower, it’s 84m high constructed started in 1172, it was intended for defence but also housed a jail, we could have paid €1 to go up in the lift but no! I want to get fitter! (ps my legs hurt the next day!)

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Looking at St Peter’s hill from Lamberti Tower

The views from the top of the tower are very good as you look towards St. Peter’s hill.

We have to leave the Sosta by 1.30pm to keep within 24 hours, so off we go in the direction of Lago Di Garda, bring it on. It’s only 40 kms to Garda south at Sirmione and after shopping at LIDL for supplies we arrive at a very pleasant campsite Camping Sirmione where we plan to chill out for a few days, it’s not cheap, but we did pick a superior pitch with lake views personal drinking water tap & hook up! We are having a holiday within a holiday! There is a restaurant and bar on site overlooking the lake and very hot showers! Lovely! €31 per 24 hours. As soon as we arrive the sun is shining and we get straight onto the lakeshore path and walk to Sirmione old town, it’s 4 km each way and the views are breathtaking and beautiful, there are beds of tulips and little marinas along the way which made for a very pleasant afternoon stroll.

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Close up of the view from the campsite

The 13th Century Castello Di Sirmione played a crucial role in the defence of Lake Garda, we decided to save the castle for another day and headed towards a square with lots of restaurants and bars, it was called Palazzo Callas, named possibly after the late and well renowned opera singer Maria Callas who house is a house on the hill in Sirmione.

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View from Camping Sirmione

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Pogo’s hiding behind the hedge, he likes his view!

We ordered two beers and it comes with the usual little bowl of olives, crisps and this time some little cooked tuna pieces rolled in black poppy and sesame seeds, we love it! We sat people watching for an hour, then decided to have what all the Italians were having Aperol Spritz in wine glasses with ice, we’re not moving from this spot, best table in the square, we can be nosey from here and the sun is shining! Oh and they brought more olives and mini baked breads, yummy.

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Too late we’ve eaten the snacks,yum!

It’s time to head back, the 4 kms walk back was as pleasant as before and we go and have hot showers and I make a triple tomato risotto which is a staple in our house,  in LIDL we purchased a wine “brick”, it’s 1 litre of wine, we’ve read about these from other bloggers and had to try some, we bought one white wine €0.65 and one red at €0.95. The review from myself is that it was drinkable at 10% volume & I thought it would be too sweet but it was very dry, maybe I could get used to it when the budget gets off track! possibly the red one will be better.

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Dave in the office

Dave writes some blog as we are 3 days behind! And I read my book for a while. Off to bed early as we really want to explore more tomorrow and the forecast for the weather looks great!

Cathy

Oh Romeo!

Wednesday 11th April 2018

Cathy posting’

We woke up in Brescia this morning with no specific plans once more but the inclement weather suggests we should wait and go to Garda maybe in two days time. Verona is close, let’s go there! We look up the city centre Sosta in Verona, price guide is €10 per 24 hours, that seems cheap, maybe the information is out of date. It’s only 60 kms from here, so a short drive & we arrive and pitch up, ( it’s an unmanned, barrier & ticket entry and pay on exit system). Secured Pogo and we go out for the rest of the day and if it is €10, it’s excellent for Verona.

The bus stop is directly outside the Sosta so off we go €2 each to the stop Castelvecchio, well we can guess what’s at that stop. The friendly bus driver points us in the direction of Piazza Bra, rounding the corner and all I could say was wow! directly in front of us is Arena Di Verona, a well preserved Roman amphitheatre, seats 20,000 in ancient times it was 30,000 and it was built in the 1st century AD between the end of Augustus reign and beginning of Claudius, it’s the 3rd largest after the Coliseum in Rome and the Amphitheatre Capua.

A 12th century earthquake damaged almost all of it and it’s not as splendid as it was once so I would have liked to have seen it before but oh my it was a sight to behold. Excavations under the structure have discovered a complex hydraulic system to bring water inside the arena for spectacular water games but also to clean up after cruel fights held inside!!

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Arena Di Verona

Quite a contrast to the wonderful operas held between June and August each year, I would like to attend one of those!

Whilst visiting we could not get up to the top of the arena as staging was being created ready for the performances later in the coming months, the work involved to turn an arena like this into a modern performance venue looks to be very intensive.

We bought a Verona Card for €18 each, this turned out to be good value as it covered the Arena which alone was €11 each and many other attractions plus 24 hour city transport. As ever it started to rain and so we headed to the nearest coffee shop and of course we may as well have a view! We’d missed breakfast so went straight into Bruschetta, they were superb and I loved the little blue coffee cups.

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Bruschetta tastes best in Italy!

What got to me the most was the Juxtaposition of the Arena and the coffee shops opposite, 2 worlds!

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We looked at the information for other tourist sites that were open until the evening and we decide to go to the Museo Castelvecchio, free entrance with the Verona Card saved us a further €6 each.

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Fishtail battlements at Castelvecchio

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Castelvecchio Museum inside the castle

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Museum is quite modern, light and airy

We saw venetian paintings, frescoes, well preserved Flemish art circa 1350’s,many other pieces of extremely well-preserved wall coverings, the castle suffered damage during Napolean times and WW11 but an interesting place all the same with it’s fishtail battlements.

 

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The art work is amazing, look at the colours from circa 1400, not screened or covered up!

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Unbelievable fresco’s, so well preserved!

We decide to head back to the Sosta and come back early in the morning as our tickets were for 24 hours and the weather looks like it might be better.

Cathy

 

 

Bergamo, day 2

Wednesday 11th April 2018

Dave posting,

We intended to go back into Bergamo this morning as we loved it, the weather is not looking so good though.

We have been away on the road now for 3 weeks it really is time to do some housework in and around the van. We have been meaning to do the cleaning, sweeping and dusting for about a week now, so today is the day. We work well as a team, we’ve settled in to blue and pink jobs! I wash the windscreen and the whole cab area inside. Cathy did the kitchen, work surfaces, bathroom,  Last was the removeable carpets that came out for a beating! A blue job!

Well what a friendly bunch motorhomers are! We have noticed the comradery amongst you, there is always someone to help or advise you. Often conversations start that lead to interesting details and information about places you intend to visit or have been. We met a New Zealand couple who surprised us as we thought they were Italian, he really liked our van and came to take a look.

We don’t always have a plan of what to do or where to go, sometimes we get up &chat and then decide, we follow our instinct and feelings about what we want to do next.

Lake Garda and Venice were always a plan though, checked the weather forecast, urmmm rain and cloud for the next 3 days at least around Garda, let’s go there when the weather improves. We feel the need to move on, so we take a chance and drive to Lake Iseo to find a free wild spot near there. We found it okay but now it’s a supermarket! Oh, we stopped for a while, drove around the area looking for a suitable spot, no joy though. Back to the supermarket to buy a small amount of fresh groceries. Next we had lunch whilst we researched where to go, the heavens open and it’s raining heavily now, spent a couple of hours in the car park, doesn’t matter a lot when it’s raining!

Let’s go to Brescia it’s not far away, we head there hoping to use a free overnight stop. We find the “listed spot” next to the Prison (might be safe!) but it doesn’t feel right, not enough length available to park, it’s close to permit parking for cars, it’s not level with both left hand side tyres in the gutter giving us a lob sided fell, can’t use the chocks as the tarmac and grass shoulder is too rough.

We rested for 10 mins and chose the cheapest paid for site nearest to us, it’s 7.15pm now and we just want a place for the night. Cathy found one 5kms away, Ristorante Cascina Maggia, it’s a farm/restaurant with camper car facilities, €15 including electric hook up. 10 mins later we are there, plugged in and set up. We go back to reception and ask if the bar is open, we need a drink! “no, sorry, not open on Mon, Tue & Wed” Anywhere nearby ? “Yes, 500 m that way!” Off we go on foot to find it, we find a bar near a fairground Called L’Old Roger, it looks like an English pub abroad but there’s nothing else that’s open or near, we go in and ask do you do food? Yes, we are shown to a table, it’s quite busy as well with a good atmosphere, it feels friendly, it’s warm and we feel comfortable, we order food and drink. One beer, one wine and two burgers…unbelievable burgers, Cathy was Iberico ham (200gr) brie, smoked bacon and caramelised onion, mine was 400gr irish steak, bbq sauce, cheese, smoked crispy bacon, the buns were perfect for the burgers, like a soft shell with crunchy seeds and not too doughy inside. Cathy was disgusted at my 400g! she says she makes chilli for 4 people with that much beef! mmmm! but it went down very nicely.

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Beer, burgers and football

 

It’s getting busy now, the atmosphere is ramping up, the Italians are watching and supporting Roma in the Champions League quarter finals and they are beating Barcelona, they get a little nervous as the final whistle approaches, great atmosphere in here tonight!

Cathy’s beer she described as “smoky” I tried it but I didn’t like it! It’s our second meal out in 19 days and it was great, Cathy never orders burgers but this menu had to be tried! and she reported back that if all burgers were like that shed have one more often.

(sorry not many photos!)

Dave

 

Bergamo – an undiscovered gem

Monday 9th April 2018

Dave posting,

This morning we are waiting for the No.5 bus at the stop outside the Sosta and Cathy asked a young lady if we were in the right place for the bus in to Bergamo, she was very helpful, friendly and spoke good English, little did we know that we would need her help again later in 10 mins! Once on the bus you have to buy a ticket from the machine either cash or card but not from the driver, we tried to buy a ticket, but the machine didn’t work for us, the young lady helped us once again and as we tried to buy a ticket with her help, three bus ticket inspectors got on, the young lady said “you can get off quickly through the other door if you want to”. We said we are ok, no problem, the ticket inspector came along & our new friend explained that the machine isn’t working, and we had tried to pay! He quickly fixed the problem, he inserted a new till receipt roll in! Two tickets later and our friend explained where to alight and to catch bus no.1 for the Citta Alta (Upper town) and the funicular. Apparently, our bus ticket of €1.50 is valid on all city transport bus and tram and funicular for 75 mins from time of purchase!

It is only 40 minutes since leaving the site and we were stepping off the funicular at La Citta Alta we found the Tourist Information office & left with our obligatory maps, outside the tourist info is a board with free City Wifi, nice one, just log on , as we wandered up the hill and discovered the most wonderful shops selling what looks like the best food in the world, the Italians have a great knack of presenting food, drink and atmosphere through their windows and entrances…. Cathy loves looking at the range, variety and different styles & types of food, how it is made, presented & served, she was in her element!

The weather was not good to us it was pouring with rain and we needed to escape, we were feeling a bit peckish, so it had to be coffee time but also with something to compliment it, how about some Arancini?

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Well the Arancini were fantastic, neither Cathy or I have had Arancini before and we loved them! Arancini are soft rice balls with a lightly deep fried outer, the centres are filled with a variety of foods, Cathy’s was pistachio, mozzarella and blue cheese, mine was mozzarella and ham, gorgeous! the bill was only €9.50 for two coffees which were the best we’ve had so far (we love good coffee!) and two arancini’s, very reasonable. It’s called Il sole in Bocca, it was a tiny place with only 8 seats.

The rain has eased now as we go outside and make our way to Basilica Saint Marie Maggiore, OMG, forgive the pun! What a magnificent place, we were taken aback at its outstanding beauty, the vibrant colours, every inch decorated, the architecture, it was so beautiful, the photos might not show the detail, the work and craftmanship. We didn’t speak we were in awe. I had to sit down as I became emotional. We are not religious, but you cannot ignore the hidden history, the stories, the emotions, over thousands of years, we felt privileged to be here and having this experience. It has a Romanesque exterior with a Baroque interior and there were many relief sculptures on the ceiling.

Please zoom in to appreciate the beauty.

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Basilica entrance on the left

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Apologies for so many pictures but I wanted to convey all its beauty. Parts of the Basilica dates from 5 AD

 

Once we caught our breath we visited the Duomo (cathedral) next door, all of the historic sites are within short walking directions inside the city walls.

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Duomo

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Duomo ceiling

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Duomo ceiling

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The Duomo Di Begamo was not a disappointment in any way with its gold relief but after the extravagance and outstanding beauty of the Basilica maybe the Basilica should be visited at the end of your day. (it’s closed between 12 and 2pm)

The rain ceased, and the warm weather arrived, we wanted to walk the city walls which are Unesco Heritage and are 16th Century built by Venetians on old roman foundations and off we go to find them. What an amazing place Bergamo is, whilst walking the walls we can see the creativity of using the surrounding land and the terracing is fantastic, maximum use and reward of their land, they even manage to squeeze a football pitch in! and the views down to Citta Bassa (lower town) are great with many street still covered in cobblestones.

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A triangle football pitch!

There are many executive and exclusive properties can be seen from the highwalls with a backdrop of the mountains.

There’s no wonder the Italians love there their super mini cars here, the paths and roads are so narrow, but no they drive across and down them no bother! Sometimes we felt we were in the scene of Michael Cain’s Italian Job!

We head off down the hill to Bassa town leaving the marvelous old town behind, the walk was easy enough going down and pleasant with a warm breeze, now we are thirsty! We’ve walked and toured for 5 hours! We stop at a restaurant at the main boulevard with an outside area for patrons behind glass screens as the Europeans do so well! Two medium lagers please, they come with peanuts, olives and crisps, they are great at this aren’t they! They must put something on the snacks because the next thing we know we are ordering two Margarita pizzas and more lager! This is our first meal out since leaving home!

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Pizzas were really good, crusty light thin dough base just how we like them. Paid up €31.50 And we walk to the tram station to catch one back to the site, the tram runs past the site as well, cost €1.30 each and only took 10 mins.

Well that was a brilliant day and one we will never forget, we can’t recommend Bergamo enough and we are glad we didn’t miss it.

Bergamo seems to be off the usual tourist trail and maybe it’s an overlooked area, we would recommend a visit to Bergamo.

Dave

What did she say?

 

Sunday 8th April 2018

Cathy posting,

Up early and went for a 6.5k walk along the riverside and into the village near the sosta. It’s a pleasant enough place with lots of people cycling, running, walking, jogging and fishing, strange thing that we noticed in Italy is lots of people exercise and yet there are cigarette machines at the side of the road & near car parks, it’s an odd contrast.

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There are many small holdings very close to residential properties

 

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Cathy loved this rose tree

We are surrounded on three sides by huge tall mountains making us feel like we are in the bottom of a bowl.

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Surrounded by mountains in Chiavenna

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Lots of old style alpine roofs, the stones are holding the slates down

We had a nice chill out after lunch, did some blogging, the usual van services, water etc and set off. We had decided upon Bergamo, the research suggests it’s an amazing city with loads of history, wonderful views from the Venetian city walls from 16th Century, we fancy a bit of that.

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We got stuck behind this chap for miles! (Piaggio)

Travelled on the SS36 road which is basically a motorway through tunnels alongside the east side of Lake Como, the tunnels were not very pleasant to drive through, every now and then there was a view but before you could say ”Bob’s your uncle” we were thrown into darkness again!

Whilst driving along it dawns upon Dave that the numbers on the speed sign i.e. 90 is the minimum speed that the Italians think they can drive at! There were some scary moments and the air was a little blue!

We’ve noticed the Italian roads are a bit rough compared to Switzerland & Germany, it’s a game of dodging the potholes, from Lecco at the Sothern end of Como it was a horrible drive to Bergamo, roundabout after roundabout every kilometre for many kilometres.

Sat Naff can’t speak French very well, she doesn’t have any German or Swiss either and she most definitely can’t speak Italian! (apologies for the lack of focus on the video)

We were going to stay at a free car park but when we got there we didn’t like the feel of it being on a corner of two busy roads, also we’d located a campsite just 4 kms outside of Bergamo centre, for €18 per night plus it has a bus and tram stop right outside the gate for Bergamo.

We arrive late just before 8pm and it’s not busy, so pick your spot.

We tried to ask questions of the lady who runs the site and we’ve had success with google translate however tiredness and not having reading glasses on again and I managed to communicate with her in Romanian, no wonder she looked confused!

Gnocchi and pesto for tea and the evening was spent researching Bergamo.

Cathy

White Turf

Saturday 7th April 2018

Cathy posting,

By the way I have updated two previous blogs, Lost In France with a video, click here and the Imperia Statue in Konstanz, click here.

We are still on the pass in Rona. It’s a lovely sunny but cold morning in the shadow of snowy capped mountains, we considered driving along the west side of Lake Como but it will take too long as we plan a stay at Lake Garda, we’re on a mission to get to Garda as we were there in 2008 on a motorbike and the mist came down to ground level and we couldn’t see the lake even though we were stood on the edge at Val Di Sogno on the North East of Lago di Garda, So we head off through the sunshine towards the Julier Pass, the scenery is outstanding.

road to Rona from Chur (13)

Julier Pass (2)

Julier Pass (9)

We found driving on the pass amazing, some very tight hairpin bends with fantastic views, there were a few very green areas but mostly snow capped mountains, the pass is up and down, the sunshine through the window made it feel like 25°  but in reality it was about 16°

Dave coped well even with the hairpin bends.

Finally we descended and near St.Moritz we see a huge frozen lake.

Then we realise we’ve been here before, yes, you’ve guessed it! On the motorbike in 2008. The St.Moritz lake and it’s the place where the “White Turf” happens each February on the frozen lake, not summer!! as I said on the video! This is a horse race on the frozen lake and all the rich and famous gather to watch it, the horses and rider might get a bit damp in summer, ha, ha!

We stopped for a break and lunch, checked the search for sites and camper contact book for somewhere to stay, we decided not to head for Lake Como and instead stopped at Chiavenna, in the Lombard region, the sosta is free with services next to the river and there’s a small supermarket and laundry opposite. However even though we could do some washing we didn’t as the sun decided to make appearance we got our chairs out to enjoy the warmth, plenty of time for chores later.

ChiavennaCD (1)

Relaxing in the sun……

We had a meal that my sister Lou makes me, it’s chicken, gorgonzola, white wine, cream and chives sauce with tagliatelle and I love it and it just so happened the supermarket had the cheese, so it had to be done!

Found some wine for €3.50 and Dave found two large bottles of Moretti for €1 each and some cheaper Pils from Slovenia for €0.49 and the report back was that it was good!.

Cathy

Heidi Land – Switzerland

Cathy posting,

Friday 6th April 2018

We’re heading into Heidiland home of Johanna Spyris world famous Heidi story.

After making everything secure, it’s time to go to Switzerland via the Julier pass starting at Chur and ending near St Moritz, went to the service point for fresh water and the usual stuff. No fresh water here, it’s not working, and we have run out of water, never mind we will try and get some later. We drove literally around the corner after leaving the car park to the Swiss border control, the border runs right through the middle of Konstanz, oh! Let’s see what happens here then! The policeman has a quick visual at the windscreen as we slow down probably checking for the vignette and waves us through, however he pulled the next car over.

Great scenic drive through the countryside towards Bregenz, south of lake Bodensee and joined the A13 south to the Alps. The roads are super smooth and it’s a relaxing drive in the sunshine through Heidi Land, yes that’s what it’s called (most of Eastern Switzerland), we are intending to pitch up at Chur and stay for the night and tackle the pass tomorrow.

Pulled off the motorway, now on the outskirts of Chur, stopped at petrol station and asked if we could fill up with water, no problem they said, topped up & now we are ready to find our overnight stop.

In Chur there is a chargeable campsite and according to our own research also a free “wilding” spot, when we arrive the wilding spot is actually a Stellplatz for 5 Wohnmobile. This Stellplatz is literally a parking bay for 5 vans outside the gate of the commercial campsite plus it’s right next to a quarry entrance and lorries are noisy and whizzing past the end of our van, there’s concrete dust everywhere and the motorway noise is very loud! All this in direct contrast to the lovely Rhine river on our left. We go into the campsite next door to enquire about costs, it’s 33.50 CH francs, that’s €24-28, far too much! and after looking around it seems the campers are of a permanent nature, there were residents with permanent wooden structures attached to their Moho’s, some with guttering and drain pipes, we have seen it all now, it was a scruffy site and we decided it wasn’t for us. The sign on the Stellplatz said pay at the campsite reception so we asked how much to stay, 18 CH francs (about €13 or £15). We are hungry as we’ve missed breakfast, so we have some bread and cheese as it’s 3pm now and out comes the “saucisse expensif”! Feeling more comfortable we decide this isn’t the stop for us and we are out there pronto! As we hadn’t paid yet anyway, let’s tackle the pass Dave says, ok but what if we can’t stop anywhere? I say as it’s about 60kms, 1.5 hrs drive, Dave is sure we’ll be able to stop, and he wants to stay on the pass somewhere, so off we go.

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The weather is lovely and sunny and the views as we go up and down the pass are incredible! Snow capped peaks and then luscious green areas where the sun can get through, there are some very tight bends and I’m clenching my buttocks as we go around them, Dave is calm and steady even when he had to select 1st gear! We finally hit some ski villages and there are still a few people trundling along in the ski boots. We stop a couple of times to admire the views.

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Whilst we’re stopped I check www.searchforsites.co.uk (free to join) to see if there is anywhere on the pass to stay and it comes up with one 6 kms away at Rona, it’s a Wohnmobile Park with services and not sure if there’s a charge or not, we head there anyway as the photo looks good too. We find it easily, it’s a pleasant enough car park with EHU (electric hook up) and scenic holiday chalets and there’s still a heavy covering of snow but with spaces cleared for motorhomes.

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Aire in the Alps – Rona

There’s a shower block with washing machines but it’s closed, a restaurant is on site too and that’s also closed, so we thought oh it’s looks like it’s free then! There’s not a soul to be seen and the chalets are empty too.

Dave pops out to take a photo, it’s a very pretty spot even though the road is nearby.

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I decide to make a Russian’ish salad as I’ve got cold cooked potatoes in the fridge and Tuna instead of ham and some lovely Heritage tomatos picked up in France.

salad

Russian’ish salad, the photo doesn’t do it justice

 

We haven’t written a blog today but we decided we need to have a chill out night tonight and watch a DVD on the laptop tonight (The Way with Martin Sheen about his quest to fulfill his sons dream of walking the Camino de Santiago, the Pilgrims walk ) so we open some wine to go with the salad, we are relaxing now….”knock, knock” on the door, there’s a gentleman who looks like a farmer with his work clothes and wellies on, he speaks no English and we definitely don’t have any Swiss, he’s talking to me quite fast! I asked him if he speaks French, shakes his head, German I ask, shakes his head, out comes my phone with Google translate, I ask are you the owner? in Swiss, yes he nods, do we need to pay you, yes is the affirmative reply, how much? 25 CH Francs! that’s €21 or £18.50, ooh that’s a bit steep! With no services I thought silently, we don’t have any Francs so I offer him €’s he nods ok, I offer €15 and he smiles and takes it! (subsequently I realised that we had electric hook up! Time to wash and dry my hair!

Dave is laughing afterwards and he can’t believe I just bartered for a stay with google translate and a bit of a smile – Ha,Ha  yes I say but that £5 saved just paid for that wine you’ve been glugging away at whilst I’ve been working!

 

Cathy