The final night in France was a peaceful one, unlike the previous night when we wanted to strangle our noisy neighbours. Our next thoughts were on moving across the boarder in to Italy. As usual, I had my ‘pre new country’ nerves jangling. I’ve seen far too many Italian gangster movies and expected a horses head in the bed by the end of the first night. On top on that, we had to make a decision on whether to go through the Mont Blanc tunnel or not. The tunnel would be the quickest route but also the most expensive option. At €58 for the 11km journey, we’d use all of the cash we’d miraculously not spent the previous week. After a quick look at the alternative route, we opted for ‘Le tunnel’
The reviews we had read online suggested the views were magnificent and worth the price of the crossing. I couldn’t work that bit out?! After all, a tunnel is a tunnel. Concrete walls and disco lights for 20 minutes. I can only imagine that they meant the views that greeted you on arriving in to Italy. In fairness, they were pretty good.
Setting aside my fear of being hunted down by the mafia on arrival, Italy appeared to be the same as France. Everything the same other than the road signs. Our first night in Italy was to be spent up a mountain in a place called ‘Saint Denis’ Our app has warned us of the route to get to the to, so we were half prepared for the climb ahead. What we actually encountered was something else. It was like the motorhome version of a ski giant slalom race but in reverse. Poor old Gerty was struggling her best, lugging her 3.5tn load up hills that are only really fit for goats and lunatic cyclists.
Our struggles up the hill were rewarded with a fantastic camping spot, which was literally in the middle of nowhere. The site had everything we needed and more. The only downside was its location with regards to shops, bars and restaurants. Our cupboards were in the need of a refill and so was the bar. We’d both not had a drop of alcohol for two weeks and we were both fancying a glass of wine. Those cravings were put on ice and we had a great evening up in the hills on our own. The views were stunning as the valley looked back in towards the Italian and Swiss alps.
Our next couple of days were spent at one of the first lakes we encountered in the region, Lake Maggiore. A large piece of wasteland besides the main marina car park had been taken over by motorhomes, so we found a decent shaded spot and parked up. By this point, the temperature in the day was nearly 30 degrees. With a distinct lack of breeze, the van was starting to hot up! The only thing you can do when it’s like this is keep as many windows open without compromising security. It felt safe and lots of people were milling around in camper land so we headed out in to Arona town. It was a lovely little place and had an old cobbled street lined with shops, bars and restaurants. However, with the sun beating down on us, we were more interested in finding shade that shopping.
That evening, we opened a bottle of Chianti which we’d bought from the world famous wine shop, Lidl 😁 It was absolutely marvelous. Better still, I’d not had any adverse reaction to it. We’d head back to stock up the following day, it was that good (and on offer at €3.99 a bottle)
As we were in Lake region, our next stop for the night was also along the water. Lake Orta had been suggested to us by my mate Paddy. Another picturesque location greeted us once we got to the lake. Although, our journey to get there took us through towns that looked to have had better days, appearing a bit run down. Our first stop was again up the the side of a mountain. We could hear Gerty groan when we started the ascent, not another set of bloody hills! The photo below shows a lake side view of where we eventually arrived, at the side of the church, which can just about be made out perched in the edge of the cliff. As there wasn’t much there, we made our way back down in the hope of finding a spot with a bit more life to it.
We found a decent place to park and headed up in to the main town of Pella for a wander. As it was Sunday, many of the shops were closed. One of the only shops open was the Gelato shop which had a queue of around 40 people in it!
Below is a shot from the top of the hill looking down on the magnificent lake.
Our evening was spent roaming around the town. We did pop in to a local bar for light refreshments only to be attacked by mozzies. It’s no wonder a lot of the locals wear long trousers.
After quite a poor night’s sleep due to us being parked along a semi busy road, we had the perfect start to the week. A swim in the lake after breakfast.
The ‘beach’ at the lake which had been busy with people the day before was now completely empty. The crystal clear water was a lovely temperature. Cold enough for it to feel fresh but warm enough to enjoy. As far as Monday mornings go, we can’t really complain with this one.
Our friends will be landing at Lake Como on Tuesday and they have invited us across to their place straight away. The weather may get a bit thundery later this week so we hope to have a few days in the sunshine with them.
We’ll again be trading our traveller life for a few days of ‘normal’ living with our besties. Running hot water, a proper bed and a toilet. Not to mention the great company and a few glasses (bottles) of vino along the way.
Sounds blooming fantastico! Xx