Monday, 24 October 2016

Dawdling in the Dolomites

In my youth I was never particularly interested in Geography. At the tender age of twelve I took up the clarinet at school to avoid Geography lessons. Sorry, Mrs Constable, but there you have it. One thing I can say about this motorhoming lark is that it has improved my European geographical knowledge. Just take the Dolomites. Before September 2016 I could definitely have said they were a mountain range and could probably have said they were in Europe, but I doubt I could have gone beyond that. Now I can say they are in the northern Italian Alps, were once part of Austria and spectacularly consist of sheer, craggy slabs and pinnacles of pink-grey rock (no idea what type of rock - my geology is way behind my geography!).
The start of the Dolomites for us (and a hang gliding launch point).

And we all enjoy the view!
It’s a beautiful region with magnificent rock formations smoothing out into gracefully rolling alpine pastures, and timber balconied chalets straight out of Heidi, with enough lederhosen and frilly dresses to reinforce the impression that becoming part of Italy after WWI didn’t change the traditions from earlier centuries. They’ve kept some of the German language too, along with something more local called ‘Ladin’, which is apparently still spoken in some areas. Place names can be a bit confusing, with Italian and German versions, such as Vipiteno/Sterzing and Bressanone/Brixen, but this mix of cultures means the food has turned out to be one of my favourite crossings of Italian and German cuisine.
Monte Bondone sosta
A free sosta, overlooking the alpine meadow and mountain coach trip restaurant near the summit of Monte Bondone, marked the start of the Dolomites for us. The temperature got down to 6°C in the middle of September and everything was feeling very autumnal. The leaves had been falling from the trees since we got to Italy a couple of weeks before, but you can sort of ignore that with daytime temperatures still at 32°C. We wondered when the snow would reach this mostly empty sosta, as it was surely built for winter tourism, though with no electricity on offer.

We had a bit of a false start leaving this sosta though, involving a closed road, a mountain race of some kind and a policemen whose “how on earth am I going to explain this to the English people in this van” look quickly turned to a smile as Rob spoke to him in Italian, following which we were forced to retrace our steps back down almost to Riva del Garda, before getting on the road to Trento. The sosta places in Trento were easy to find, as they were right in the centre, but I reckon you have to get there early to take one of the 6 places (2 in a layby by the river and 4 on a large car park). These places are a bargain with 24 hours on the ticket for a small number of Euros, but if you can’t get one you can easily park in the car park for 2 hours at a time - which is worth it for getting such a short walk to the historical centre.


Trento is famous for a series of ecclesiastical councils held in the 16thC to determine Catholic doctrine in response to the Reformation, and every palace in town that housed any members of the councils has an information sign, thankfully in Italian and English, telling you about the building and who stayed there. I thought that the cathedral was particularly attractive both inside and out, with a delicate pink stone exterior, Romanesque features and a refreshingly plain interior, without the added swirls and gilding of the baroque. It also has two interesting flights of stone stairs on either side of the nave, which presumably take you up to the bell towers and to the galleries featured on the outside.

The spacious square beside the cathedral is home to the bishop’s palace on one side, a central fountain and some 15thC palaces with beautiful exterior painting, though to be fair, the whole historic centre is dotted with painted palaces, making a leisurely stroll very worthwhile. Despite it being Sunday when we were there, we found many shops and restaurants were open, which meant we could be tempted by local cheeses and salamis, and partake in a lunch of very Germanic bread dumplings in a very Italian Bolognese style ragù.
Bedollo fair
It doesn’t take long to ‘do’ Trento, though there is also plenty there for those who want to linger. We left at about 3 p.m. and headed into the Dolomites proper on a road which took us through Baselga del Pinè and into the general Pinè area. At Bedollo, which seemed to stretch into several villages, we stopped by a small lake to have lunch before moving on to yet another part of the Bedollo set-up where we stumbled across a rural festival to do with bringing the cows down from their summer pastures. There were some very festive cows, wearing headdresses of fresh flowers and fir branches. The men showed off many a bare knee below lederhosen and a myriad collection of pointy felt hats, mostly sporting feathers in their colourful braiding bands. The ladies were largely in milkmaid ensembles. As we arrived some strapping chaps were performing in some kind of whip cracking competition. It looked like jolly hard work and the puffs of smoke given off with the cracking reminded me of the caps boys at school used to throw on to the floor  to explode. It definitely frightened the dogs, who had to go back to the safety of the van.
Bedollo fair

Bedollo fair

To Rob’s glee, there was a great deal of very local produce for sale, with much free tasting of cheeses, salami, speck (a smoked, cured ham of the Südtirol rather like prosciutto), apples galore, crauti (sauerkraut), wurst and beer - all testament to the area’s muddled Germanic/Italian culture. Of course, so much sampling and purchasing so late in the afternoon meant we had reached 7 p.m. and really needed to find somewhere to stop for the night. Little did we know that search would provide one of those little motorhoming adventures that you can tell all your friends at dinner parties when you return home.

The main road towards Cavalese did not look promising for the sort of quiet layby or picnic spot we tend to favour for wild camping, so we took a side road at Molina di Femme and headed upwards, and upwards, and upwards. We passed a couple of good parking spots near an outdoor adventure centre, but we had our ‘let’s see what’s round the next bend’ heads on. That’s why we also ignored a couple of off road spots where logging lorries load up. We often find good viewpoint spots at top of passes, and this was a good, wide road, so we headed on and up, and it began to get dark, then it began to rain and suddenly it was a narrow road with many hairpin bends. We head out above the tree line and straight into the clouds and we had no idea where the top was likely to be, so Rob started to try a 300 point turn, but I think my screaming “we’re all going to die” might have been a bit off-putting, so he abandoned that one. Eventually, at above 2000m Rob had had enough and just stopped in a tiny passing place and said he wasn’t going to drive any further. He got out, had a little walk around, took a peek round the next bend and found a mountain refuge/restaurant, a large helicopter landing circle and a little viewpoint parking place. So, with great relief, we stopped, closed the shutters and cooked dinner.
The Manghen Pass looked fine the next morning
 The temperature got down to 3°C in the night, and it was quite windy right up there on the pass. The dogs stayed under their little blankets all night, which are actually our spare towels because we didn’t think the dogs would need blankets at this time of year, but they are thin skinned sighthounds who cry when they get cold and try to snuggle in with us. Next time we do this I’m bringing their PJs and proper blankets.
You have to imagine it in the dark with added rain and fog
By 7 a.m. the next day we began to hear cars passing us. Were there commuters going over this mountain pass? Then the motorcyclists arrived to take pictures of the views from what we found out, because we could now see the tourist map board, was the Manghen Pass. It did all look so much better in the clear morning light, and, of course, the drive down was much easier, and we passed the first cyclists of the day making their slow ascent. When we passed a cattle lorry we did feel a bit foolish about our worries the previous evening, but you had to be there in the dark, the rain and the fog to appreciate that!
Campitello fi Fassa
Our next stop was much easier - the Val di Fassa - a proper Dolomite area, with all the accompaniments of winter skiing, much of it being used for non-snow related activities to stretch the business viabilities throughout the year - ski-lifts are great for hikers who just want to walk downhill, and for the many hang-gliders who take a more floaty route. We had decided that it was time we used a proper campsite again and availed ourselves of electricity and laundry facilities. There are several campsites around there, but we went for the prettiest at Campitello di Fassa (and most expensive at €32), since I was going to be left there to my own devices while Rob took himself off on a day of cycling the mountain passes.
The campsite was expensive, but you pay for the view!

Rob’s mini cycle tour:

Just beyond Campitello the valley gives way to some of the highest and most impressive of the Dolomite peaks, divided into distinct sheer-walled massifs such as the Sella and Sassolungo Groups, or glacier-topped Marmolada. The road layout allows a circuit of about 50km, known as the Sellaronda, that crosses four passes as it circles the Sella group and offers breathtaking views of the others, and it was this that I set out to ride.
Man and bike

More Dolomites

Even at Campitello we were at 1400 altitude, and it was a cold start at 8am, but the climb to the Sella Pass at 2244m warmed me up. From here it was a quick, short descent to a col before another (shorter) climb to the Gardena Pass at 2234m. The sun was out and everything looked great, and by early afternoon I even dared ride bare-legged for a while. I was far from the only cyclist out, though we were outnumbered easily by motorbikes. The route continued round the east of the massif, over the easily-missed Campolungo Pass, a mere pimple at 1870m, and I had a coffee stop at Arabba before tackling the final climb to the Pordoi Pass at 2239m. By now my legs were starting to feel the strain.

The summit of the Pordoi Pass was a vast expanse of car parks and tourist tat by an enormous cable-car station below more sheer cliffs, but it also marked the start of the exhilarating last descent, and I zoomed back down to Lesley and the dogs in near-record time.  

We left the Val di Fassa and headed upwards to visit a couple of the passes Rob had tackled on his bike ride - the Sella Pass and the Gardena Pass. The road passes quite close to the sheer walls of rock I’d viewed from the valley and there were ski-lifts everywhere, some huge and some tiny, which looked a bit frightening to me.

We took the road through the Badia Valley, where they will hold the Ski Olympics in December 2016, and then took a side road to San Vigilio hoping to find the sosta in our book. We did and it was large and very attractive, but also very closed, so we continued up the tiny valley into the national park. Again, this was a really pretty area consisting of sheer sides coming down to wooded lower levels, and a wide flat valley bed covered in very white, small stones, over which roamed a great many free range cows. It would have been perfect for wild camping if it weren’t for the many signs telling us that they didn’t want any kind of camping anywhere at all round there, and since the road didn’t go any further than a large car park and a big, commercial refuge-cum-restaurant, we were forced to retrace our steps (so to speak).
Parco naturale di Fanes-Sennes-Braies 
We were a bit stuck for somewhere to stay the night, to be honest. There were no more nearby sostas in our book, and we were at a loss for which road might offer up a suitable overnight spot, but it would certainly not be on the main road between Bressanone (aka Brixen) and Brunico (aka Bruneck). Almost on the flip of a coin we turned towards Bressanone, from where we planned to leave the Dolomites, and indeed, Italy, via the Brenner Pass. 
Walkers' car park overnight spot

Nice walk
At Chienes we headed into the hills once again and luckily spotted a brown tourist sign showing parking off this road and ended up in a lovely walkers’ car park near Terento village, where we spent a very quiet penultimate night in Italy and where even in late September, on a Thursday, hikers began to arrive and park up from 7:30 a.m. By 10 a.m. the car park was very full, probably because the reasonably easy walk from there goes to a snack bar in the pretty South Tyrolean meadows some 40 minutes away.
Nice walk

Nice walk

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Brief Tour of the Italian Lakes

Coming down from the Italian Alps we began our mini-tour of the lakes at the small scale Lake Orta, driving along the eastern shore first as it looked the best bet for campsites. Orta San Giulio was where we planned to stop, but the campsites there seemed very expensive and very crowded to us, and because we’d done practically no research for this trip we didn’t know there was a perfectly nice camper stop in the middle of the Parco del Sacro Monte. We drove around the lake to the north west tip, where we found a nice little area attrezzata at Bagnello, a suburb of Omegna, (€10 for each 12 hrs, inc. hot showers & wifi), by the sports centre, and next to two public beaches - one very open and no dogs, the other, past the sports centre, in a wooded park where dogs can have a good run. Our dogs are both lurchers, and when they run they really run, so we need space where they won’t crash into anyone and where there’s unlikely to be anything to hunt!

Bagnello area attrezzata

Lurchers when not running

The town of Bagnello is a bit of a stroll away from the camper stop, but is very pretty and has a good range of shops, plus boats go from there around the lake. If, no - make that when we come back, we will make sure we pop in there and take a boat tour to Orta San Giulio.

Swimming in Lake Orta was lovely, although the dogs could not be tempted, and we spent much of the next day sunning and swimming here before packing up and driving over the rugged hills to Lake Maggiore to meet friends at Arona.

The road down Maggiore to Arona was quite busy at this tail end of the holiday season, so I’d expect it to be chocker in the summer months, but it passes some very elegant ‘fin de siècle’ (my new phrase - means turn of the century, end of 19th in this case) villas and hotels painted in ice-cream pastels. Lots of coach parties were unloaded to stroll along lakeside promenades and you can imagine a once chic heyday for the towns we passed through.

Facebook is an interesting thing. You pick up ‘friends’ you’re never likely to meet and reacquaint yourself with people you knew in your youth. On this occasion Rob noticed that a chap he’d gone to school with was posting about his holiday on Lake Maggiore and since we were in the area it seemed like a good idea to go for a meal with him and his wife. Despite not seeing each other for some 32 years, threads of lives were picked up from where they had frayed, career paths swapped and a generally lovely evening was had. Even the dogs behaved themselves under the table.

We slept in a large car park area beyond Arona station, which was almost empty when we went to bed, but which was full by 8:30 the next morning. Needless to say I hadn’t heard any of those cars arriving and parking around us. There was a little park beside us, which, if we’d been braver, would have been a better place to sleep, and there had been a motorhome there earlier in the day, but it had gone by the time we got back from our meal so we guessed it was a not for sleeping place.

Arona - we overnighted just beyond this fountain

We spent the next morning strolling round Arona, having breakfast of croissants filled with a very sweet custard (crema) or an apricot jam (marmelada) and watching the entertainment provided by two cycling acrobats, part of an event of ‘theatre by the sea’ which was on for a few days.

Arona's take on bunting

We drove round Lake Maggiore to Luino, stopping along the way for a swim and a break. Germignaga, just before Luino, had a campsite and a sosta right by the lake, but unfortunately the sosta was full by the time we arrived and we didn’t fancy paying for a campsite when all we wanted was to cook and sleep, and it wasn’t next to the beach, so we drove to the other area attrezzata advertised at Lunio, which is a little out of town by the sports centre (as they so often are), but was free, very quiet (just one French van there), and had areas where we could run the dogs, replace water & dump our ‘you know what’.

Lake Maggiore swimming spot

Lunio area attrezzata
Heading south from Maggiore the next day, we passed a couple of places on the lakeside where motorhomes were allowed to park and where steps led down to public beaches (you could easily wild camp at these), after which we headed for a brief drive through Switzerland to Lugano, which was as busy seeming to us as the last time we passed this way 5 years ago, and we gave up on the idea of trying to park, instead driving on to Porlezza. We would have stopped earlier, as the little lakeside villages were very pretty, but it was that old parking problem again. Still, Porlezza was a nice place to eat ice-cream on the spruced up lakeside promenade. A passer by photographed the dogs, stretched out on the boardwalk, mainly because Betty was doing ‘very cute’ with her head on Pom’s back.

Sign granting permission to stop here
Finding good food shops was becoming quite difficult. If you are happy trolling round a large supermarket (I am!) there’s one outside every town, but Rob always wants local shops selling local produce. There were shops selling tourist wine and salami in Polezza, but the bread shop had closed down (maybe for the season, maybe forever) and the one tiny general store didn’t have a lot to offer. We did manage to find a good butcher, so replenished supplies of sausages, and also found a tiny shop where we managed to buy garlic - we’re alright as long as we have garlic and tomatoes! We briefly discussed stopping at Polezza’s campsite, but decided to push on to Lake Como, which was possibly a mistake since time was rapidly heading towards evening and we always have a habit of leaving finding a resting place until too late.

We passed through Menaggio, on Lake Como, past the place we camped 5 years ago on a car park overlooking the cemetery, but decided to head on a bit. Finding parking by the lakeside seemed a bit of a trial and we ended up heading up a hillside after Gravedona, towards the village of Livo, as our book said there was a sosta at Peglio. The trouble with these books is that they are not always accurate, and in this case the index gave no address for the sosta, which is always going to be suspect. Also, our book is 5 years out of date. Still, for those motorhomers happy to wild camp we can say there is a nice car park at Peglio, near the village recycling point, where we spent a fine night, and got fabulous views over Lake Como on our way down. There’s also a nice church by the cemetery, which is worth a walk around the exterior, and a huge chapel by the car park.

Peglio overnight spot

Peglio overnight spot

A walk around the exterior of Peglio church
We slept well up in the hills, and then wound our way down the next morning to stop at the village of Domaso on Lake Como for a shop, breakfast and a swim, before having to make the decision to head back to Alps or continue around Lake Como. We chose the route to the Alps, got as far as Morbegno, checked the weather reports for the Alps and turned round to head back to Lake Como.



We found a very friendly campsite just outside Colico, at Piona, which had a nice private beach. Italian campsites can look a bit off-putting to us as there are often small caravans permanently sited, which over the years have had extensions and awnings, bringing them so close to their neighbours that they give the impression of some sort of colourful shanty town. Interspersed between these encampments are odd spaces where motorhomes can be squeezed in. We look over the fences at these places and baulk at the cramped spaces. However, all of the ones we’ve stayed on have been fine, and once you are parked and have staked out your area with the awning out, it feels fine, and it’s nice to have electricity, showers and clothes washing facilities. Camping Piona cost €22 with everything, including dogs, electric and wifi (2hrs a day).

Piona beach

Piona camping

The dogs and I stayed put at Piona, while Rob had a day cycling up to the Sanctuary of Madonna di Ghisallo, above Bellagio. The sanctuary is dedicated to cyclists and cycling, and there is a collection of famous bikes going back to the 1920s. It’s a weird place with cycles hanging from the walls inside the chapel, but it was very popular with cyclists, so Rob was not alone in his visit.
Sanctuary of Madonna di Ghisallo

Sanctuary of Madonna di Ghisallo
The abbey at Piona is worth a visit. It’s on a pretty headland and is set in olive groves, which reminded us that this is the first area on our route through France and northern Italy where we have actually seen olive trees. The abbey has some old parts, a ruined apse from the 7thC and 12thC cloisters with frescoes, but much seems to have been rebuilt after the place was revitalised in the 1870s, including a strange little prayer grotto. The Cistercian order took it over in the late 1930s and it now houses silent orders of monks and nuns who spend their time in contemplative prayer or in painting horrendous abstract works of art incorporating some sort of glittery rock.

We drove along the east side of Lake Como towards Lecco, hoping to find a nice restaurant for lunch or a swimming beach, or preferably both, but we couldn’t even find a parking spot, it being Sunday and every lakeside town seeming to have a bric-a-brac market. The road gradually got busier and busier, and it dawned on us that there were more and more motorcyclists on the road. You expect quite a few out on a Sunday afternoon, but here there were convoys out in force - huge numbers of them - running into the hundreds.

We reached the town of Mandello del Lario, only we didn’t find out the name until much later, where we saw a very uninviting area di sosta and a sign to a lido. Traffic on the main rod had come to a complete standstill so we tried to get to the lido, made a wrong turn and ended up heading back in the direction we had just come from. Loath to join the traffic jam again we spotted a parking spot overlooking the lake and stopped for a bite to eat. Time was getting on and we decided our best bet for the evening was the unattractive sosta, but only to park up and sleep, which would mean we could spend the early evening at the lido and then go into town for an evening of sitting at restaurants and bars. After we parked up we noticed that everywhere around us had signs saying they welcomed motorcyclists, and when we reached the lido it was obvious that there was some massive motorcycle event going on, with tents pitched on every green patch of ground, stalls and beer tents set up and hundreds of bikers of all shapes, sizes and nationalities walking around - with Germans over the age of 55 dominating the scene. It turns out that Mandello di Lario is where Moto Guzzi motorbikes have been made since 1921, making this their 95th anniversary, for which they were having a three day celebration event.

An evening in Mandello di Lario

Unattractive area di sosta at Mandello di Lario
Staying on a sosta we’re not overly enamoured with does mean we are more likely to make an early getaway, and in this case we were off and had parked up below the walls of the old citadel in Bergamo by 10 a.m. Bergamo is well-worth a visit. The old town overlooks the newer, planned, 19th century town. There are two different funiculars to the top. Medieval streets wind about to a main square where a beautiful Venetian style palace sits in front of the baroque cathedral and the older church of St. Maria Maggiore, onto the front of which is tacked an ornate red and white striped porch and mortuary chapel, dedicated to the 15thC Bergamo nobleman, Bartolomeo Colleoni. Inside the church every available space was highly decorated with frescoes and tapestries, with the extra icing of copious gilding in any area felt not to have quite enough ornamentation.



The main thoroughfare through the old town, leading to the citadel, was full of lovely local produce shops, including some sweet polenta cakes, which we didn’t try. We did get some delicious pizza slices and some fresh stuffed pasta. The dogs drew quite a bit of attention, especially from an English chap in tour party, who thought Rob and I spoke good English. He had a good old East Anglian accent and it turns out he was from Ely, and he was amused when we said we were from Duxford!

The drive from Bergamo to Lake Iseo was a bit dull and urban sprawly until we reached the tiny Lago de Endine, where the road along the western side of the lake was pretty and well endowed with picnic places, where you could easily overnight. The eastern shore looked to be a more sedate lakeside holiday destination than some of the larger lakes.

We’d deliberately chosen not to drive directly to Iseo town, but to head to Lovere at the north west tip of Lake Iseo, with the intention of driving down the eastern shore and sussing it out, before arriving at Iseo and returning to the campsite we stayed at five years ago. We did this, passing by a couple of reasonable overnight stopping places and some campsites, but on arrival at Iseo we found the three campsites there were full. They were also quite horrendously expensive at up to €35, so we turned round and headed to Marone and Camping Riva di San Pietro, which is by far the nicest Italian campsite we’ve stayed at, being spaciously set out, with good facilities, good wifi, lovely showers & our dogs (by negotiation of Rob pulling faces) free all for €26.50. This campsite was so lovely we stayed here for 4 nights - and it's very unusual for us to stay put that long.

View from Marone campsite
For those interested in food shopping, or other shopping, there's a teeny tiny market in Marone on a Thursday morning (get there early as it starts closing up by 11:30 a.m.), and a ginormous market in Iseo on a Friday morning, which seems big on cheese and fish stalls, as well as clothing, shoes and so much more, and where you need to dart around the very many begging migrants - a sign of how hard Italy has been hit by waves of unfortunates hitting their shores. 

Moving on from Lake Iseo we headed over the hills, through Sarezzo, to Lake Idro. Sarezzo seemed to be entirely given over to a massive Beretta factory and production of ‘stuff’ for the Italian army (there’s a museum too, if you like armaments), but the whole area we were driving through had begun to be much more focussed on industry, much of it to do with metal working.

We didn’t find Lake Idro particularly motorhome friendly - lots of signs saying no parking for our sort, though it was raining and nothing looks very cheerful in the rain, does it? Lake Idro marked decision time (again) for us though - on to more lakes or leave the area for the Dolomites. We’d been to the southern end of Lake Garda before and felt it was a bit overdeveloped for us, but in the end we decided to head that way and see if the northern end was any better.
Ledro Valley great overnight spot
From Lake Idro we took the road through Storo, to Riva del Garda, which took us through the pretty Ledro Valley. At the highest point across the hills, in the Ampola Pass, we came across a nice big, empty car park and picnic spot where we decided to stop for the night, which meant we got a good, early start the next day.
Lake Garda

Lake Garda

It was just as well that we managed an early start, as we spent a fair bit of time driving along the west side of Lake Garda to Limone sul Garda. The roads either side of Lake Garda are busy, and we’ve only ever seen them out of peak season, so heaven knows how packed they get in the summer months. Needless to say, we didn’t find anywhere to park. We had a bit of trouble even finding somewhere to turn round. Still, it is very pretty along that road, with craggy hills rising steeply above, and we got to see it in both directions, which gave me ample time to notice that all the tunnels are named. Rob says they all are in Italy, but it was on this stretch of road that I noticed it, probably because whoever was responsible for naming had dipped heavily into Greek mythology with tunnels named satyr, dryad, nyad, fury, siren, titan and gorgon, among others.
Riva del Garda

Back in Riva del Garda we found parking in the side streets running at right angles to the lido park and headed into the old town centre, which was lovely - full of tourists, but attractive, especially around the harbour, and a good place to sit outside one of the many cafes and chill. We managed to buy Rob a pair of water shoes here, so all we needed next was to find a beach we could park at. Useful tip for anyone visiting the lakes - bring a pair of shoes you can swim in as it is generally very rocky and you’ll end up wincing and slipping, as Rob has been doing, if you try getting in with bare feet.
Mount Bondone sosta
We found a swimming spot on the other shore of the lake, heading through Torbole and past the various campsites. Unfortunately the spiaggia (beach) was non-dog, so the girls had to stay in the van, but we managed to fit in an afternoon swim before leaving Lake Garda and heading into the hills to Mount Bondone just before Trento. We were thinking of wild camping in one of the picnic spots or laybys in this area, but we had on our ‘let’s get to the top’ mentality, so headed on past suitable places, ooing at the fabulous views over Lake Garda. At the summit the road opened out onto proper rolling Alpine meadow, with a large refuge/restaurant/hotel and a 48 place area di sosta with great views over the lower Dolomites. This wasn’t in our sosta book. It looked like it was probably there for busier winter tourism, but it was perfect for us, and was free, so we joined the Dutch van and UK van already parked up and settled down for a cooler (9°C mid-September) evening in the knowledge that this really was the end of the Italian lakes section of this trip.