The Cinque Terre or the Five Towns are five ingeniously constructed fishing villages, set in dramatic coastal scenery, connected purely by footpaths in the cliffsides. There is a 19th century train line, cut through coastal tunnels and ferries from village to village but cars are now banned in this Unesco World Heritage Site. These villages date from AD643.
We decided to drive to Levanto, and buy a special day ticket enabling us to use the trains between each picturesque village.
We packed a basic picnic, so were as free as birds to explore. Very hot day again, but Italy is excellent at providing water fountains everywhere…and fantastic coffee!
We enjoyed a cappuccino piccolo whilst waiting for our train.
So, five beautiful, quaint seaside and cliff villages, faded shades of orange, pink and yellow buildings tumbling down hillsides to the amazingly clear aqua Ligurian Sea.
We started at the furthest, slowly making our way back to Levanto over six hours…marvelling at the beauty of each charming village. Being Saturday, it became crowded with both Italians and tourists but we saw and did our own thing.
By 18.00, back to our air-conditioned car…pure relief! Chilled, literally, in our great car, as Rog drove us up the coast to Rapallo.
Each drive along this Ligurian coast is spectacular…Rog always whistles the Bond theme, which is played as 007 drives a luxury sports car along impressive scenic routes!
Through Riviera style seaside towns, along mountain routes with pastel coloured villages perched on wooded mountainsides, in and out of tunnels carved into the mountains. Sea views with churches hanging off a cliff side.
Rapello was, once again beautiful and we would have stopped if we could have parked! It was a busy Saturday evening, so very hectic!
We drove on to St Mag. and Portofino…both absolutely gorgeous but both totally “full on”….Rog equated it to driving through London but with Italian drivers and Vespas dangerously weaving in and out of the traffic! “The man did good” driving our large car in this crazy, excited traffic!
Lovely to see these very special towns but we couldn’t stop!
Finally back to the calm of Pegli, but no rotisserie chickens so once again, as late, Genovese ravioli, (again…what a hardship!) tomato salad and cheesy focaccia! I’ve never eaten so many white carbs in my life!
Last night, over pasta, Rog suggested staying in Pegli for Sunday, not rushing off to our next destination of the Lakes…what a fab idea…Yes! Since we landed in Genoa, Thursday lunchtime, we’ve been whizzing around, exploring, getting a feel of the area and only spent a few hours here, in Pegli, which is a delightful small resort.
So, today is a “catch-up” day!
Sort laundry, browse and enjoy Pegli, buy some food and plan our next few days…oh and redo my toe nails!
I’m up earlish, to profit from the best, coolest part of the day! It’s fresh and shady on site until around 11.00, when the heat of the day strikes…until evening!
Rog describes it as if an oven has been turned on!
It does seem unseasonably hot for September, even the locals are feeling it! Way up in the 32-34c!
If I look up, I see the sun trying to break through the surrounding mature trees and burn off the cloud cover. Give me a few hours of usable time, please!!!
By noon, we’d completed various chores and walked through the park down to the shops:
Rotisserie chicken. Bbq chicken, Parmesan and Tallegio, plus fresh produce…we’re set for a few days!
It’s heating up, so back to the caravan!
After a simple lunch, we drove to the Genoa IKEA! Needed a couple of their bits for the caravan and also air-con!
En route, we stopped at the few stalls selling local produce, lining the promenade. We bought raw honey from Piedmont, the mountain region behind us, and 100g of cured meat, with flies buzzing around it!
This IKEA was a well kept store, interesting to see a few different items. Fun!
Back at the caravan, Rog did the ironing, and I hoovered…we both put together a delicious bbq, before going for our last walk along the promenade.
Sunday evening was busy on the front…families promenading…a karate display…special flat bread cooked in huge pizza ovens being sold to the queues. Still being so hot during the day, activities and people emerge in the cooler evenings. We used to find the same years ago in Malta, when the girls were young. After dinner, we would take them to a playground, where all the Maltese children would also be using up their energy, having been kept indoors during the August heat.
We can’t help but make comparisons with English seaside towns…families and atmosphere.
We meandered along…ate good gelato whilst people watching !
Another really good day, enjoying our location and catching up with chores. Love Pegli!
A beautiful cool morning…a long drive ahead, so we are up and ready by 9.00, as are many of our new “friends”.
You make acquaintances with fellow travellers, sharing these moments, very transitory friendships. Then off we all go, in different directions….meeting more new folk next time…from all over the world.
It was a mass exodus of motorhomes and caravans this early Monday morning. Byes said, we convoy though the narrow roads of Pegli, past the beautiful pastel villas, down the hill to the main shopping road, where naturally the Italians have parked on corners and over two pedestrian crossings, just at the crossroad junction Rog needs to turn left!!! Yes, you’ve guessed!
In spite of being quite an expert, these days, in manoeuvring our long load around these narrow crowded streets, we couldn’t get around the corner…the traffic started building up, hooting and gesticulating drivers!
No choice but to unhitch the van in the middle of the chaos…pavements beginning to fill with curious onlookers doing their shopping..all with an opinion and a voice…could have been in Israel!
Then the town policemen whizzed up on his Vespa, to see what on earth was causing this total jam at the crossroad! As Rog unhitched the van, I drove forward, (Roger’s comment – Jane actually drove 100’s of yards off up the road, so I had to yell out “Jane come back, Jane come back” which she eventually did when a lady pointed out to her that I was screaming at the top of my lungs to reverse!) this enabled him to motor-move the caravan around the corner, I then reversed the car so he could reconnect it…meanwhile our cool, friendly policeman took control, in his macho manner, discussing with the audience what had caused this nightmare! He asked us, through an English speaking Italian, if we were going to do this again?! (Roger’s comment – which we did when I took a wrong turn and had to go around and take the bend a 2nd time, at least the car blocking the corner had moved by this time!)
No! Arrivederci to all our helpers…off we went!
I really wish I’d have taken more photos, as we caused chaos, but was rather occupied at the time plus, never quite sure about takings policeman pics!
Lake Garda…here we come!
An enjoyable motorway drive to Lake Garda, stopping for a cappuccino. A very flat landscape of agricultural land, impressive and tumble-down farmhouses, farm buildings and factories.
Fields and fields of sweetcorn (polenta!) wheat (pasta!) vines (wine!).
Pink roses planted down the central reservation…mountains in the distance…dancing to Doobie Bros…as we make our way.
Lake Garda…the sat nav guided us to the wrong entrance of site, hence when we came to a very sharp right hand turn, Rog had to unhitch AGAIN…motor-move the van around the corner, hitch up and move on as, once again, we were causing chaos in this lakeside resort!
Arrived at reception, they asked why hadn’t we used the main entrance!
Lake Garda is huge and very beautiful. So vast that each side has a different feel. I’m getting used to the site, which we chose for it comparatively small size and proximity to the lake,but is a bit resorty for me, which I had considered.
It takes us a day to get used to a new site, then we absolutely love it and don’t want to move on!
As I’m posting this blog a few days after initially writing it, we love this relaxed easy-going site. It’s not on the most picturesque side of Garda (still lovely!) but a great location for day trips…if you ever feel like leaving!!!
After setting up, we ate lunch in the shade, walked for an hour, around the lake then swam in it!
Was fabulous to swim in fresh water…bit reedy in parts but warm with great views!
Back at the caravan, I found a washing machine and dryer, so took advantage of them, whilst Rog insisted on making our dinner…Rotisserie chicken and salad!
After sorting laundry, we took an evening walking into our nearest small harbour town Peschiera del Garda…a good 25 minute walk around the lake path. Past other lakeside campsites, some huge, plus a few hotels. Many people out strolling on such a lovely evening. Peschiera del Garda was lively with pizzerias and restaurants buzzing. Interesting historical town which we would like to visit again, during the day.
To keep us energised, for the return walk, we had just one scoop of gelato!
Whilst waiting for our coffee, I popped down to the lake for the early morning light:
After coffee, Rog went to the lakeside to do his exercises whilst I went for a dip, he joined me 7 minutes later (7 min app!). How glorious to be able to experience this at 8.30am!
I then bought our breakfast down to the lakeside…still peaceful and perfectly warm at this hour, where we stayed till noon. Such a lovely morning and the first time we’ve done “beach” since Cannes!
This is a relatively small site by the lake, but on the more resorty southern shores…which is convenient for us as en route to Verona, Padua and Venice.
At some point, would like to explore the quieter western shores…which is exactly what we did later this day!
But I’m jumping ahead…as I was dressing, Rog was befriended by a charming charismatic chatty young British guy, who coincidentally came from TWells! They ended up having a “jam” together in the shade of the pine summer house.
After our tuna, caper salad lunch, off we went to explore the western coast of Garda…briefly stopping at Lidl to buy more insect repellent! My legs are bitten to pieces! A huge impressive Lidl…Rog would like to return!
So, made our way around the lake, passing pretty resorts and not so pretty commercial retail centres!
Our destination was a lakeside harbour town called Salò.
Well, this has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth!
An Italian harbour town on the lake at the foot of the Dolomites.
We meandered along the promenade, licking another Gelato (!) then back through the charming town…gorgeous buildings, alleys, piazzas, small shops.
Back into air-con car (thank goodness!) on to a small harbour village, Portese, where we ate our first pizza, overlooking the harbour with the Dolomites in the distance.
Sun set…a stroll by the shore as the light became misty blue…an ephemeral feel…wonderful place!
Can’t seem to take my cossi off today!
This site is beginning to feel like Hotel California (The Eagles Track) once here…you don’t ever leave!
Our view from van, the next day we moved to that front pitch!
As I write this, I hear Rog and our new friend M, jamming, once again, in the pine summer house…M and his girlfriend, F, can’t seem to leave either!
One minute to lake, tree shaded site…what more do we need!
The small onsite shop is run by an Indian guy, like an English corner shop, Indian music playing…funny and rather incongruous here!
The plan was to chill by lake this am, morning exercises and dip…yes, that happened..then after lunch to Verona, don’t think that’s going to happen today!
Last evening, over our pizzas, we made travel plans for Verona, Padua and Venice…very special having the freedom to change them!
Feel fortunate. Know I’m lucky.
Well what a day…It had a dream like quality!
We have spent most of it with a very lovely, bright and charismatic young couple…who seemed to enjoy our company!
Over 12 hours, we had many very open conversations/ discussions…some heated…putting the world to rights…
Before lunch, Rog and M had a great “jam” … music in the air as the day heated up.
We then shared our tuna salad lunch in the pine summer house…spending hours chatting.
On to the lake, where we played frisbee and sat on the jetty, in the late afternoon sun…still talking!
M & F, invited us to share dinner with them, so after showers and a quick shop in the local Lidl, we met in the pine summer house for a very tasty pasta/ tomato/ veg/ pine nut dish, very cleverly cooked on their small camping stove…was delicious!
We added Parmesan, salad, wines and ice cream! Quite a feast!
Rog added Limoncello…and we chatted animatedly in to the night!
A very special couple…wanting the best for our world, their generation, and trying to make a difference in any small way possible.
Very autumnal feel today…much appreciated cloud cover, leaves falling from the surrounding mature trees and being blown around in the breeze.
A respite from the unseasonably high temperatures.
Our young friends popped by to say they were off North for the day…we had a lazy morning, me catching up with Blogs! and uploading photos whilst I have wifi…then a thunder storm and pouring rain! Much needed as it cleared the air and washed away the dust.
Brilliant news! A pitch on row one (lake view) is free …. so we’re moving instantly, well as soon as storm eases off!
One of the main reasons for buying this caravan, was for the panoramic window and now it’s paying off!
We waited for the pounding rain to cease, securing all our stuff inside the van, once stopped, Rog sorted the outside “stuff” and motor moved us into our new lake view pitch!
Just in time for yet another downpour and storm!
Lunch was taken in the cosy van, views of the lake and stormy skies, torrential rain hammering on the skylights!
Around 15.00, we drove to Verona for the afternoon…another beautiful and charming Italian town…touristy in a few parts but a real Italian town where people live and work.
We loved the feel and ambiance of this stunning classic Italian city.
A lovely day in Verona culminated in me agreeing to a burger in the “burger joint” near our site…Roger’s perfect day!
Then off to Padua for the day. It’s not every Friday I can say that!
Rog, sensibly wore grown-up navy chinos, whereas I popped on an orange sleeveless dress and leather sandals…it poured and poured in Padua ! In fact the whole Venice area was forecast with thunderstorms!
Two days ago we were sweltering in the European heatwave now we’re trying to sightsee in torrential rain!
We arrived in the centre of the city, ate our Italian rolls in the car, English style, rain hammering down all around us, discussing what to do next!
Which was…parked up and put my red wellies on with my grown-up dress, basket and umbrella…I looked more suitably dressed for Glastonbury than a sophisticated northern Italian city!
I did get quite a few looks but my feet were dry and we were able to walk around the city for a couple of hours
Yet another beautiful classical northern Italian city…Padua is a very elegant, historical university town.
We strolled through what was the Jewish Ghetto area, the old town and chic shopping areas…bridges, alleys, amazing architecture…all the usual !
Northern Italian cities are beautifully preserved…hints of modernity discreetly encased in the old. Stylish contemporary window displays set in old frames.
Love people watching too! Casually smart people in these cities…no sports wear unless doing sports!
Still pouring by 16.00, so we decided to do a “recky” of our Venice site…only 30 minutes west.
At least this way we’ll be prepared when pulling the two tons!
An unusual site, opposite Venice, not on the Lido as that’s a long way round. When there, we’ll catch the ferries across the water to sightsee.
We returned to Garda, stopping at a lovely village Soave, which was setting up for its annual grape festival, this weekend.
Amazing place! 13th century castle walls surrounding the centre… another gem! Just one village of the hundreds we pass though on our journeys.
Happy to be back home in our cosy caravan, as the weather was cold and wet outside…even wore slippers as I prepared a chicken, wholewheat pasta pesto meal.
It rained all night…still heard it hammering on the skylights at 4.00am!
The morning after the night before!
Lots of drying out and the laundry to sort.
Everything got drenched yesterday.
M and F popped by to say they were moving on…had experienced a very damp night under canvas, next stop an Airbnb!
Hugs and byes…will miss their vibrant company…more transitory friends with whom we share great moments.
Sure we’ll meet these two again!
So, as the day unfolded and the clouds passed on, we had a sorting out morning…all the time watching those ever changing stunning views.
Simple lunch with that view:
The afternoon was happily spent walking into our nearest town, Peschiera, along the lake path.
It’s an enjoyable 20-30 minute walk looking across the lake.
Peschiera is an historical town dating back to Roman times, and once you get off the tourist track, there’s much to discover.
Rog gave me a grand tour!
We came home via the main road and popped into a frozen fish shop to buy dinner. We’d looked in this shop previously and were amazed by its products…any fish, shellfish, pasta and shellfish, rice and shellfish, gnocchi and shellfish, whole octopus or fish mix…frozen!
Whole frozen Octopi!!! Never seen this in my life!
We, eventually, (I’m not known for my decision making, sometimes!) chose a gnocchi, salmon, prawn mix as opposed to me making a seafood linguine!
After chatting about the world to our neighbour, we ate our meal…was okay! Rog ate with relish then said, never again!
A lovely nighttime walk from our site around our tiny village onto the promenade, always those views, now twinkling in the dark, ended our sweet day.
Back to the caravan, just in time, before another storm!
Luckily, this time we were prepared and everything was stowed away!
Enormous crashes and flashes…rain so heavy and loud that we could barely hear each other! Fantastic!
Another day in paradise!
Can’t believe how the temperature has dropped…it’s a lovely fresh manageable 22c as opposed to, this time last week…way up to 32c plus!
Look at this…so much rain last night, it filled this empty wine bottle we placed outside by the door (before any remarks, we’ve had that rosé since Genoa!)
After coffee and awake, Rog did his exercises by the lake whilst I beachcombed for these special little black and white shells I’ve only ever seen on this Garda beach, then went for a quick swim. Just can’t resist these fresh clear blue waters!
Once dressed for the day ahead, I made egg mayo using our last Ocado eggs! Bought two delicious seedy rolls from the site “corner shop” added a couple of huge white nectarines, some nuts…a picnic!
Off we went…to explore the east side of Garda’s shores, on a lovely Sunday.
What a memory day ahead!
I drove, to give Rog a break. We followed the lake road, stopping at places to either look around or take photos!
First stop was Bardolino Olive Oil Museum, where we looked at how oil is produced, tasted their oils and bought some! Plus a bottle of their local wine!
Once past the busiest section of our route, such magical, beautiful little villages and harbour towns. Some barely touristy.
Why wouldn’t we all want to live here!
Another stop led us to one of the most magical hotel/restaurant locations we’ve ever experienced…those you occasionally see on travel programmes! Was just outside of Garda (town) and very special.
Some scenes en route:
We stopped for our picnic in a small place called Castelletto. So idyllic!
Could have stayed forever but moving on…stunning, breathtaking view after view…
…until we reached Malcesine, where we took the cable car almost 2,000 metres (1.25 miles) up to Monte Baldo.
Well, for those of you who know about Roger’s fear of heights…he was very brave!
We absolutely loved it all…the two cable cars to reach the peak…the flat ridge which we walked on for about half a mile…the height meaning that we were literally in the clouds so got drizzled on…watching daredevil hang gliders throw themselves off the top…the constantly changing views as the clouds moved across the peaks…the cappuccino and pizza before our descent!
Whilst on Monte Baldo, Rog said “it felt as if we had been transported to a different place up on the clouds with the stunning mountain vistas all around and the lake far below”.
We had planned on travelling around the whole lake but it was already 18.30, so decided to save that adventure for another time.
A wonderful experience.
Within an hour it had settled down and turned into a glorious day but it’s arrivederci Lake Garda as we’re off to Venice!
It’s been totally fabulous, so many happy memories. I say arrivederci, as we’ll be back at some point!
So, packed up, battened down the hatches…”ciao” to neighbours and off we went…Venice here we come!
At some point soon we will definitely be suffering from beauty overload…how many more astounding sights can we cope with?
A good journey…always at a lovely 50-60mph (fantastic!) and as we’d already visited this site on that rainy Padua day, we were prepared!
This is ridiculous! Look where we are now!
Ok, our electric lead doesn’t reach the power supply box…but who cares when you have this view!
(I chose the spot…heart over head!)
Just eaten lunch with a view, now off to find an extension lead!
Didn’t really want to rush into Venice proper today (as planned) now we don’t need to as the kind receptionist has given us half price rate per night! Wonderful!
An interesting ride, out to the parts of Venice you don’t see in travel guides…where locals live. huge hypermarkets and a B&Q type store, we found the lead!
A few provisions from the mega-hypermarket and home to our peaceful waterside site.
A brief continuation of the lead dilemma…it was 2 metres short! So, we moved the caravan back…hey presto…it’s fine!
It’s been good to do “normal” tasks today as a change from sightseeing…for the next two days, it’ll be Venice!
Settled into our new site…well organised and peaceful…very helpful staff…all good so far!
I cooked us a delicious tomato and veggie tagliatelle meal, which we ate outside watching the water, all sorts of boats and container ships go past, along this shipping lane… fascinating!
Had to come in as the mosquitoes were driving us mad in spite of my citronella candle!