After much deliberation last night, we decided to move on eastwards to Lake Garda. We nearly had a last minute change of heart, as whilst we were showering, there was a sudden exiting of the campsite, and as we sat eating our breakfast, we were the only ones left in our row, having been virtually full over the weekend. Clearly the Italians come away to Venice for a weekend break, too. But having half packed up ready to leave, we decided to continue, and move on.
We had forgotten how foul the Italian roads are, having been lulled into a state of false security in Croatia and Slovenia. Come to think of it, the toilets without seats or no toilet paper, and no soap to wash your hands, had also faded into our distant memories – but then the penny dropped – we were definitely back in Italy. I guess Venice is an exception to the rule, being so reliant on their tourist market, but once out of Venice and it’s environs, it was business as usual. We did, however, notice a stark difference between these parts of northern Italy, and the norm further south. Here the streets are clean and well kept. There is no rubbish lying around, and if it is, it is quickly cleared away. There is clearly much more wealth in this part of the country. The miles upon miles of olive groves have given way to rich pasture and arable land, and plenty of vineyards.
Our drive along the motorway past Padua and Gerona was grotesque. It was wall to wall with lorries trundling along the main artery route out of Croatia, Slovenia and Northern Italy. I took to reading, since I couldn’t bear to watch the road, but just after lunchtime we arrived at Lake Garda. We are staying at the southern end of the Lake, near Sirmione. Since we were in good time, we opted to take a look around the ancient town of Sirmione, which sits on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the southern shores of the lake.
In my guide book, it tells me that Sirmione is the prettiest of the towns bordering Lake Garda. It has walls and fortifications that date back to the 13th century.
When we arrived, we couldn’t believe the crowds! Bearing in mind it was a Monday lunchtime in late April, we were stunned by the numbers of tourists. First pass by the car park, we were waved on since it was supposedly full, but when we returned five minutes later, the attendant waved us in, and we parked up next to the Big Whites, which absolutely dwarfed us.
We then had a pleasant wander around the town, stopping for pizza and salad at the quietest restaurant we could find. I also had a small glass of the local white wine, Lugana, which apparently is only grown in a very small area around the southern part of the lake – very nice it was too.
After lunch, we took the scenic walk around the periphery of the town. At one point we stopped to look, as tourists queued to have their photograph taken under a sign that read ‘Kiss Please’ – most odd!
We then headed on to our campsite a few miles along the road, besides the lake. Since we’re only here one night, we opted to pay an extra 3 euros, and get a pitch overlooking the lake. We struck gold! The pitch we have looks directly out over a small lagoon in front of the reeds, full of birdlife. There are currently about ten pairs of grebes, reed warblers, jumping carp, and to our astonishment, a large water vole type creature called a Lake Garda Coypu.
I sat mesmerised by the wildlife for at least an hour, telephoto in hand, but sadly no real good shots – everything was just that tadge too far away. I will try again on the morning maybe, before we leave. Of course, the main disadvantage of being camped right by the lake are the flies. Now it is dusk – they are out in force. So Howard and I are sat here, trousers tucked in our socks, lathered in midge lotion, burning a large Citronella candle. We also purchased some strange citronella joss stick type things from the campsite shop, and as I type, Howard is sat with joss stick in hand. He just commented, “It’s just like being back in the sixties!” He has also moved on from people watching to grebe and jumping carp watching – so easily pleased! However, I can barely see the wildlife now through the fug – if anything gets past our defences, it’ll be a very plucky mosquito indeed!