We’d booked to stay two nights at the lovely Lake Garda campsite. Weather forecast was for more storms today but they didn’t materialise (although there were some major ones yesterday afternoon and overnight). So we had a quiet day getting the washing done, having a swim in the lake, walking up to the little village for a coffee, and planning the next week or two.
We decided to drive up the western side of the lake to another campsite. It was the last day the ACSI discount applied so just one night at this new one, near Limone sul Garda. Just as well as it was one of those campsites where they meet you with a grump and then pack the vans in. Anyway we spent the afternoon walking into Limone, discovering the lemon terraces there and associated museum, then being ripped off with a meal at a lakeside restaurant. (We ordered mussels for two and a plate of chips. The mussels were a small portion for ONE, and the chips never came. Left a review on Google. Hmph.)
Time to hit the road and head further north. We drove along the lakeside to Riva but did not stop there (no parking for campers that we could find). On towards Trento, and then onto the Wine Road. This was very pretty and we stopped in a couple of villages for coffee and a look around. In one we went to a vineyard and did some wine tasting, followed by wine buying. The member of staff who served us was very friendly and informative, telling us about the history of the region. It’s all mostly German speaking, and had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the 1920s. Mussolini tried to ‘italianise’ it, but now outside of the main towns most people speak German rather than Italian and the German place names are more widely used.
We reached Bolzano (Bozen) and parked at a camperstop near Bolzano South railway station, and took the train into town. We quickly realised that this was a town well geared up for cycling with good cycle paths everywhere, and although surrounded by mountains the town itself is flat. So a plan for tomorrow quickly formed.
Bolzano is famous for its archaeological museum which houses “Otzi” – the mummified iceman found in a glacier twenty years ago. We bought museum cards (amazing value – 80 museums in the area plus train and bus travel, and some cable cars, valid 7 days, only 34 euro!) and found the Otzi museum fascinating. It tells the story of his discovery as well as the research and science done since. He is 5000 years old, was perfectly preserved, and his clothes and contents of his backpack etc have told us so much about how these people lived. Amazing.
Had a meal out then took the train back to our car park, to plan the next couple of days in this town.
The bike paths had looked so inviting yesterday we took our bikes into town and out the other side, to Castello Runcolo (Italian), or Schloss Runkelstein (German name). We decided we like the name Runkelstein but prefer the word castello. Perhaps we can mix and match… This castle has lots of impressive medieval secular frescoes inside, depicting scenes of hunting and dancing and flirting. From there we went for a walk – up the hillside, around and down, and ended up at the foot of one of Bolzano’s cable cars, only to discover it was on a 3-hour lunch break (thus reminding us we are still in Italy). So we walked back to the bikes, cycled back into the town centre for lunch and a look at its cathedral, then cycled back to the cable car in time for its reopening.
This took us up to about 1100m, to a village with some spectacular views over the mountains. There are lots of walks, mountain bike paths etc here but we just had a coffee and came back down. Already tired from our earlier walk!
Cycled to the two other cable cars. The first was a little uninteresting, but the second (to Renon) was fabulous. This is the longest cable car in Europe, with the largest height gain. At the top it meets a narrow gauge railway which we hopped on with no idea where it was going (included in our museum-ticket!) At the end of the line we realised there was a 30 minute walk to look at some weird rock formations so we did that, then retraced our steps back to the train, down the cable car, back to the bikes.
Next stop, still by bike via the wonderful network of riverside bike paths, was the Messner Mountain museum, housed in an old castle on the south side of town. Reinhold Messner is well known for being the first (with Peter Habeler) to climb Everest without oxygen, and for doing the first solo ascent, and many other adventures. Now he runs these museums- there are 6 in the area.
And what a fabulous museum this was! It focused on man’s relationship with mountains, and made brilliant use of the castle’s towers and the crag on which it stands. We really enjoyed it and hope to get to another one or two of the mountain museums in the area over the next few days.
Finally, exhausted, we cycled back to a very hot Gertie (36 degrees!) and our 3rd night in what is a grotty car park in a beautiful town.
Time to move on, and properly into the Dolomites. We had planned to drive the Great Dolomites Road spread over two days. On this route the scenery just gets more and more spectacular as you go over mountain passes of over 2000m. Lots of motorcyclists and also people on road bikes on the route, and a number of tour buses. The roads are pretty good though obviously very twisty. We found a nice little layby with a great view for our lunch stop, and then ended the drive at a camperstop with an even better view. I went for a walk – basically was walking up a ski run to a col. Lovely and cool up here. I’d stay for a week only we have to meet our son Fionn in Bergamo on Monday…