Thursday, October 3, 2013

La Dolce Vita

Yes, we’ve been in Italy for 3 weeks, but before I rave on about it, a bit about leaving France.

We spent 4 days in the Vercors, doing some brilliant walking. This is another stunning area where we could have spent weeks. We had our last Sunday lunch in France in the tiny local village at a wonderful restaurant. Another memorable meal.

Walking in the Vercors
We crossed into Italy in a rather dramatic fashion through the Alps at Colle dell’Agnello, 2744 metres. More amazing scenery that I won’t go on about, I think you all know what the Alps looks like. I was quite excited as this was my first true alpine crossing, no boring tunnels for us.

Half in France, half in Italy

First stop in Italy was Piemonte and the associated wine regions of Barolo, Barbaresco and the Langhe in general. We hired a smart looking Lambretta scooter, thinking it would be the very thing to zip around vineyards. Wrong! First one got a flat tyre so we missed our afternoon appointment. The second one was so ratty we feared for our life and handed it back. We did our usual trick of visiting wineries and buying too much wine, then having to stand on my head to fit it all into Boris.

Beautiful Barolo Vineyards
Wine tourism in the area is well organised and the wineries are very welcoming, happy to spend time with you, open their precious wine and show you their secrets. Being a wine geek, I took more photos of vineyards and tanks and barrels. I won’t bore you with those!

From there we drove across to Verona to meet our friend Sam who is currently travelling the world thanks to a happy redundancy. We spent most of the time at Lake Garda. After spending a few days at the southern end, we escaped the tourist hordes and headed north. Did some great walking and had an ongoing scrabble contest. Sam won as usual. In fact, I blame Sam and the scrabble for not updating the blog.

Dinner at Lake Garda with Sam. This is the campsite restaurant, slumming it as you can see.
We had to leave Boris in Brescia (not far from Verona) to get a few ‘issues’ sorted out. We needed a new fridge door, a new window and a few handles needed replacing – stuff like that. Plus some boring mechanical things to be done on the blue bit. So, instead of hanging around Brescia, we decided to head for Venice by train.

We booked the world’s most expensive, but rather dull 3 star hotel - 250 euros a night (gulp)!! Venice was booked up and that was all we could manage, but it was in a brilliant location - spitting distance to San Marco and a stone’s throw from the Rialto. The Japanese and American tourists were out in their thousands, blimey we couldn’t breathe. We did the obligatory Palazzo Ducale and from then on avoided tourist areas.  This meant I saw bits of Venice I hadn’t seen before and we had a grand time touring the back streets, finding wonderful but empty churches, and of course getting lost.

Dear Old Venice
I’d read recently in a magazine that a grower had started a vineyard in Venice. How could we resist a challenge to find a vineyard? So we took the ferry to the island of Mazzorbo (right next to Burano) and there it was, a tiny walled vineyard growing the ancient white wine variety of Dorona. No wine has been made yet, so sadly we didn’t get to taste it.

Venice doesn’t change. It just looked a bit more faded than my last visit 5 years ago. Of course we managed to eat very well with rabbit and porcini featuring strongly. It’s porcini season in Italy and we are being little piggies, sniffing them out wherever we can.

We were so happy to get Boris back and settle back in our little home. We drove directly north to the Trentino area and camped in a cloud (I think it may be No.9). It’s cold up here and the mornings definitely have an autumnal chill. We’ll do some hill walking here and head even further north into the Dolomites, maybe even Austria, before heading to Slovenia and Croatia. Don’t panic – we’ll be back in Italy in early November.

Today we went into Trento with it’s magnificent Duomo where the Council of Trent met in 1545 to be see what could be done about the pesky Protestants and their Reformation. I wish I’d kept count of the number of Cathedrals and churches we’ve done- must be hundreds!

So once again we’ve overindulged and are back on our water and veg diet.

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