We instantly like Italy, all the roads are downhill, … yes? After climbing out of Innsbruck towards the Brenner Pass we part with €9 at the Toll Booth, seemingly for a tin of peppermints. We then begin two hours of driving downhill and now assume Italy must be two miles below sea level, the car is pulling the best towing mpg ever and the gradient is so gradual we never touch the brakes. The only slight negative is that we were warned about no overtaking for caravans on this Mountain Pass so we are once again reading the back of the same truck for a hundred miles. We think we are naively misinterpreting the road signs, normally a road restriction has the same sign ‘crossed out’ to signal no further restriction, we never see this so continue ‘not’ overtaking. The signs do subtly change and occasionally the caravan symbol is not included, we think this is a ‘green for go’ but being British opt for ‘amber for caution’ and stay put, plus, we haven’t finished reading the back of this truck yet.
After three weeks in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Austria this is the first time we sense a difference from the previous area, difficult to explain why, the steep sided mountains are dotted with villages and churches and every inch of land is covered in grapes, so copious consumption of Italian wine is predicted ahead. The toll cost as we depart the A22 is €20.90, only a few more roads to the site, seems our satnav is even pre-Roman roads too, and we arrive at Camping Fossalta, site review HERE..
Lake Garda is not surpringly a commercial victim of it’s own beauty, to accommodate everyone who flocks here miles and miles of campsites line the edges in terraced rows stepping back from waters edge up the hills, imagine tin box vineyards. They are however, very well set out and planted with many trees that make the site look more ‘green’ than some other European sites. Be warned, you are unlikely to pitch your caravan here without uncoupling it from the car first, you will need a mover, or a few willing neighbours, who really do help each other pitch, as you spin caravan 90 degrees then squeeze between trees lining the path to the pitch that is still large enough for caravan, awning and car.
As we walk down to appreciate the Lake a voice calls out behind us “Hello”, oh no, are we on private ground, we turn to meet our fate, stood before us is Tineke, our neighbour from the last camp in Innsbruck, they left one day before us with plans to visit this area, out of hundreds of campsites we both randomly picked this one. They throw a lead on Timmy, the dog, and join us for a short walk by the lake. Later on, we jump on the tandem and ride to Lazise, The Boss asked a German couple if we could ride on the lakeside path, in German, he must have been good because they gave a hundred word reply of which he understood very little. Hoping they weren’t talking about a family bereavement he nodded and smiled. We worked out that our tandem would be unsuitable by the lake so took the road to Lazise, having had the luxury of cycle lanes so far this holiday it was nice to feel wing mirrors brushing our elbows again, a taste of home. Lazise is beautiful on this beautiful evening and the beautiful people are parading on the promenade, joined tonight by two sweaty people on a tandem.
We return to Lazise the next day, this time on foot via the Lake Garda footpath, we pass many caravan sites close to the waters edge except for a fence and the lakeside path, although it sounds idyllic we would not like to place our caravan here, the fence is … a fence (ugly) while a thousand people walk by and stare at you … Ah, a zoo where you pay to be the exhibit. We tasted our first ‘Aperol Spritz’ drink, recommended by a German couple at our last site, who specifically directed us to this area, we could sit all day people watching but decide to walk back before we become too ‘posh’.
Sunday, and we plan to do …. nothing, just a full day of relaxation by the caravan, watching our side of the site gradually fill up. Interestingly, to date, every site we have been on has been 60% German, 30% Dutch and 10% everyone else. The caravan vs Motorhome mix has been similar to UK which we didn’t expect, not sure why, but we thought Europeans preferred the Motorhome. Generally, we have found people friendly, in four weeks, not one person has been rude, we have struck numerous ‘site-time’ friendships with Dutch people who put us to shame with their linguistic skills. We struggle communicating with German people due to the language barrier so settle for muttering “Morgan” and smiling each morning and “Hallo” during the day. Caravanning does bring down any barriers if you need help with ‘pushing’ or ‘pulling’ onto a pitch, people are quick to help. We attempt the local ‘lingo’ everywhere we go but that is normally – Hello, Please, Thank you, etc. We think ‘trying’ to speak local language improves the response. We are looking forward to France when we can manage much better.
After tea – ‘evening meal’ (we even translate for English people), we are invited by Chris & Tineke, our Dutch neighbours from Innsbruck, for 8pm Coffee by their caravan and then maybe some wine too, conversation flowed on many subjects and before we knew it, it was nearly midnight!! I hope their new neighbours didn’t mind our chat. A lovely couple from the minute we met and always happy to talk as we passed by their pitch.
Monday dawns and The Boss is itching to be a tourist again, he wants to see more. I think he plans the car but he takes my hesitation about using the tandem as a “Yes” and instantly gets the bike ready. We take the high road again and jostle with cars and fellow cyclists, for some reason he has to overtake every cyclist we see ahead, men!!! First stop Peschiera, our first Italian Pizza and ‘another’ Spritze … we even meet more neighbours from our campsite. Time to go back? No, he has another plan, “I’m sure Sirmione is only round the corner”, he only ever half-plans, so we head ’round the corner’ to Sirmione.
Sirmione is both picturesque and bonkers busy, we assumed it was going to be worth investigating as you had to cross a draw bridge to enter and it had it’s very own Police check point to enter by car, We thought we saw a ‘bike restriction’ too, but nothing about tandems, we whistled nervously as we sneaked the tandem past the checkpoint.
Inside was spectacular, and very narrow, in the 7 feet gap from shopfront to shopfront was hundreds of tourists and dozens of cars, mayhem, dread to think what this place is like on a weekend. Suddenly, a Policeman blew his whistle and gave us the ‘curly finger’, “Not Allowed” he snapped whilst eyeing up the tandem, he seemed to be looking for an engine, we wanted to joke our legs were the engine but decided to meekly look to the floor and head for the exit. We locked it in the car park and said our last goodbyes (just in case) before going back in for a better look around. We are amused by the weirdest things, so the best part of the day was hand feeding the birds whilst enjoying a very large beer.
We took the car free panoramic path back to the tandem, The Boss could see our campsite across Lake Garda but sensibly choose not to point it out because he later said it looked a long, long way away. The tandem was still were we left it, shame, so we had to ride back via Lidl, where we added four bottles of alcoholic ballast for the journey. This time we stayed firmly on the Lakeside path, which involved some deep gravel and big stones, but he enjoys the challenge and says falling off is character building. We stop one more time for tea (evening meal), The Boss says he needs pasta for the final hill climb from the beach to the campsite.
We leave in the morning, we have very mixed feelings about this stage of the trip, there is much about this site that we normally would not like, but we don’t feel ready to move on. Hopefully we will return one day, but we guarantee it will be off-season.