Lake Garda, Riva del Garda, Salo, Sirmione, Verona, Vicenza, Venice
134 days away
165 miles / 266 km since last post
7,253 miles / 11,673 km total
Last Monday we cycled into Riva del Garda once again, as the weather had improved on yesterday. We happened to end up at the same place for lunch as yesterday, with a nice view over the lake. It was actually feeling quite warm, especially when the sun made an appearance. After the cold weather we've experienced this month in the south of Germany and Austria, it was actually feeling like summer once again.
Once we had returned to the motorhome we packed up and set off for a drive further down the west side of Lake Garda. Unfortunately the weather was quite hazy for most of the drive so we didn't always have a great view over the lake. It was probably for the best really as I need to keep a sharp focus on the road. The drive along the side of the lake was interesting to say the least. The road was quite narrow in places, and combined with lots of tunnels and bends, taking a look at the scenery wouldn't have been a good option. Add into that, however, the fact that the Italian drivers have a tendency to veer over the middle of the road and slightly into the oncoming lane, and poor Stu (who is sitting closest to the middle of the road, of course) probably didn't manage to unclench his buttocks for the entire journey (Stu note: actual sweating palms)
Thankfully we made it in one piece to our next destination, a campsite just outside of Salo. Actually, the first site we found was closed for the season, but a smaller one next door was still open. After parking up we took the bikes out for a ride into Salo. I think we must have misjudged the distance into the town as we appeared to be riding for a lot longer than expected. However, it was worth the effort as the town, right on Lake Garda, was very pleasant. We picked a spot to have a drink, but decided we would find a restaurant on our bike journey back, as the restaurants in Salo were quite pricey. We found a pizza place on the way back which was much more reasonable - a good call.
On Tuesday we drove to Sirmione, which is still located around Lake Garda but we opted for the non lakeside drive. This drive was easier than our drive around the lake, though we couldn't believe how many roundabouts there were - we were going through one on average every 800 metres of the whole distance of about 50km!
Sirmione is essentially a little peninsula jutting out into the south end of Lake Garda. Upon arrival at the town we saw they had special allocated parking for mortorhomes and campervans - very handy indeed. After parking up we went for a ride around the town on the bikes, which was very pretty, only stopping briefly for some delicious Italian gelato.
Heading on from Sirmione we headed further east to Verona. We arrived late in the afternoon and found a camper stop not too far from the city centre. It was a fairly cheap €8.50 for 24 hours, so we decided to stay in for the night, venturing into the city the following day (Wednesday). It wasn't far to walk to get to the centre - maybe a kilometre or so - and it was well worth the visit. A beautiful, old city. On the main square, Piazza Bra, it has a Roman arena dating from the first century AD dominating the view - apparently the third largest in the whole of Italy.
We took a leisurely stroll around the city, taking in the pretty streets, buildings etc, exerting a bit of energy by walking up the many steps to the Castel San Pietro. The building itself was of little interest it has to be said, but it afforded us a great view across the city. There were plenty of sights to see around Verona, including the Juliet's balcony! I don't think we quite understood how the balcony of a fictional character could be of such interest, but there were plenty of people around looking at it. Stu partook in the customary tourist photo of inappropriately assaulting a statue of Juliet.
We took a welcome break at a restaurant on the Piazza dei Signori. The food was OK but it was the wine that was especially nice - only the house white but really nice, and cheap too! We soon headed back to our motorhome after this. Along the way Stu picked up a nice Italian tart as a treat for later (the baked kind!), then we settled in for the night. Thankfully there was no rain in the day as forecast, and just some in the evening. We were graced by our neighbour playing his guitar - Eric Clapton watch out!
Thursday morning we headed out of Verona and, via a stop at a Lidl for a food, onto another camperstop further east in Vicenza. We had considered taking the bikes out for a ride into the local town, but by the time we arrived we were both feeling quite tired. Instead we opted for a lazy afternoon in the motorhome, even managing a nap too.
Friday morning was a noisy start - the camperstop was fairly close to a main road and a petrol garage, and it seemed most people had chosen today to use the car wash! Anyway, we headed off to Venice. A place we were quite looking forward to seeing. Unfortunately, the drive to Venice didn't exactly get us into the right mood for enjoying it. As we were getting closer to our chosen campsite, the route we needed to take was closed off. Also, the way the slip roads came off the motorway made it very difficult to follow the GPS - the slip roads continue parallel to the main road so you can't see which lane to be in. That coupled with the fact that Stu was hurriedly trying to find an alternative to the closed route made for a stressful time of it. As if that wasn't bad enough, as we were driving along another road I realised I needed to change lanes. Of course, nobody in Italy wants to let you out so I am trying desperately to get a 7.8m long motorhome into the next lane, which is running out pretty fast ahead. Just as I manage to squeeze in front of the inconsiderate car behind, the lorry in front comes to a complete stop. Thankfully I noticed just in time and managed to bring the motorhome to a stop just a couple of inches from the lorry. It wasn't pleasant having to do that in a 3.5 tonne vehicle, especially one that has all our belongings in it! We did get moving again, and Stu managed to find us a good route to our campsite. Finally we could relax! We didn't feel like heading into the city as we were well into the afternoon.
We headed into Venice on Saturday. Whilst the weather appeared to be fairly overcast and a bit misty, it was pretty humid - apparently quite common for this time of year. There was a bus stop just a few minutes walk from our site and we could buy our tickets from reception. Around 15 minutes on the bus, driving along a long bridge, took us into Venice. We decided on a casual walk around, taking in the sights along the way. What struck us immediately was what a unique place it was. It is a very pretty city too, with all the many canals and attractive bridges. We also liked the many back streets - a convenient way of losing the bigger crowds sometimes.
We found the prices of some restaurants to be a little steep, but it didn't take too long to find one that was more reasonably priced. I also opted to try a drink I had being seeing a lot of the locals drinking in Italy - a Spritz. It is an aperitif made with prosecco, Aperol (milder and less bitter than Campari) and soda water. With the first couple of sips I wasn't too sure, but by the end of the drink I decided I actually quite liked it. After walking around Venice a little longer we decided to head back and rest our tired feet.
On Sunday we discovered they were holding the Venice marathon in and around the city, so we thought a day around the campsite might be better. We ventured back into the city again today (Monday) to see the sights we missed on Saturday - the main one being Piazza San Marco and the Basilica. The sun was shining and the mist we've had the last few days seems to have lifted. It was nice, after all the narrow streets and alleys we've seen, to see the huge open square of San Marco. We also took the lift up to the top of the 98.6 metre tall St Mark's Campanile - the bell tower of the Basilica. It provided a great view over the city. If we had come here on Saturday we wouldn't have seen far due to the mist and haze, but today we could see quite far.
We took a more casual walk for the rest of the afternoon, stopping for a while at a small cafe for an espresso, then heading back to our site again - just getting a little lost in the maze that is Venice. Thankfully our GPS app sorted us out. We feel we have seen all we need to with Venice so shall be heading off south tomorrow.
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