ITALIAN TOUR

Sorry another week between blogs, we have been just soo busy!
Saturday 02/11/2013
Left our parking early at  07:30 to avoid the crowds that may developed later as this Festival is probably for the whole weekend although it had started raining which was a terrible shame for all those people in their wonderful costumes. We decided to take the Motorway as they appeared to be not too expensive and yesterday’s driving at 50kph most of the way was just not enjoyable. We were heading for Bologna and yes the Autostrada was just €3.40 for 59 km so probably cheaper than up and down between 70, 50 & 30kph.
Suddenly TomTom took us off the motorway and straight up over the mountains. A very twisty but beautiful alpine drive, very slow at times but delightful views. About 40km from Bologna our road converged with the motorway so we jumped on to it to get there a bit quicker. We arrived at the car park indicated on the CampingCar database to find it completely full with people visiting the nearby cemetery probably over 500 cars so we headed for the next one on the list which was great but just a bit too far out so had a cuppa and a bit of lunch for an hour and headed back to the first one which now it was siesta time was completely empty. We walked the mile or so into the town and had a good time in the main square although the information centre was the most unhelpful we had encountered. But she gave us a map with the main things to see, one of which was the central library which was the meeting place for the Bolognians and it was heaving, on three floors with a large open central area with a glass floor over the ancient city foundations and there were coffee bars etc. and everyone just doing their thing. We found a spot on the first floor and connected to the internet with our iPads for Judy to do some research on some other places to visit and Steve to sort out the picture gallery on the blog which Google has started asking for a sign-in to Google Circles to be able to view it. It looks to be sorted now but if you have difficulty let us know. It was a long walk back to the Van so decided to get the bikes out tomorrow to make sightseeing easier.
Sunday 03/11/2013
Rode into the town via the cycle tracks very nice and easier than walking. Found a good spot and chained them up so as to visit the Basilica which had beautiful paintings and sculptures but there was a service going on so it limited viewing a bit, walked round the square which was full of musicians and other entertainers and walked around some of the roads looking at the very different architecture with ocre coloured buildings and the wide pavements covered by long loggias.  With the odd medievil tower or two everywhere. Basically a University town like Oxford in England, in fact it is the oldest university in Europe but it had a vibrant young feel to the very old town.
Back to the van by 2:30 pm and onward towards Ferrara and found the enormous parkingt place “Sosta” with probably 200 Motorhomes parked who had probably been there the whole weekend. But you could see that many were preparing to leave, there was (paid) dumping and water available which they were queuing for before leaving.
We found a spot and walked into the town. It was heaving with people with a large flea market by the side of the castle. Had a really nice evening just walking and gazing in all the shops a really nice atmosphere. Got back to the van about 7:30 the car park was now nearly empty so decided to move from the dark corner we were in into the centre nearer to the few Motorhomers remaining which was good because there was free wifi there which we couldn’t see on the other side.
Monday 04/11/2013
Woke to find the car park rapidly filling up with workers cars and campers moving to try to fit in the parking bays, which we had read was important in some towns so decided as we were taking up four bays, to move back to where we were yesterday which didn’t have marked bays either by length or width, there were a couple of mini buses there.
The guide book said that there was a city wall like Lucca here which had a cycle path so we set off on the bikes to ride it but found nothing so returned to the town to find the information office but found the whole square blocked by people with a remembrance service going on. Asked a policeman but he just gabbled about the castle. Then a lady tapped Judy on the shoulder and pointed to an alley indicating that we should go down there then following us pointed to another alleyway which took us all round the square missing all the people and found the Castle and information who gave us a map which showed the town wall which we had missed by about 100mtr because it only survived on two thirds of the town. Followed the map and had a really nice ride on the wall but it was not a patch on Lucca which is a must to do next time without the thousands of strange creatures and people. Back to the van and away by 2:30pm to head for Venice we took the motorway but had torrential rain all the way, hope it stops for Venice.
We had read that it was best to stop at a Camper Stop at Punta Sabioni which was just along the road from the ferry terminal to Venice but it was a 70km drive right round the lagoon to the very end of a narrow spit of land so unfortunately we arrived in the dark. The parking from Camping Car Infos turned out to be a coach park and he wanted 15euros to park so we went looking for the Camper Stop only ,to find the gate was shut. There was plenty of meter parking on the road €6 for twelve hours but we decided to drive the few miles back to Jesolo and found a nice quiet bit of blocked off road so parked the night as it would be easier to find secure parking in daylight in the morning.
Tuesday 05/11/2013
Up early to drive back to Punta Sabioni only to find that the Camper Stop closed for winter at the end of October but there was a site nearby €25 a night (cash) but it would be much safer to leave the van all day while we took the ferry to Venice. Parked up and quickly walked to the ferry terminal where we found an Information point with a very nice and helpful lady who took us through our options for visiting Venice. It was only €5 more for three days than two days so coughed up the €70 for two three day tickets so we eventually stopped here talking and on to the jetty to catch the 9:30 boat. We arrived in Venice to find all the squares and pavements under water due to a high tide which obviously happens often as wooden walkways had been set up so people could walk around but the whole of St Marco’s square was under about 50cm of water, a great opportunity for the tat vendors who were selling disposable wellies for €20, we later saw another selling for €12 but still extortion. Especially as it was easily possible to get around on the wooden walkways. We decided to leave the museums and Basilaca etc. until later after we had done a bit of sightseeing. We had listened to Rick Steve’s guide to the Grand Canal last night so decided to get a water bus number 2 along to the station end which only did half the stops to get an overview before catching bus no 1 back and follow the guide which was very informative wandered around for a bit more just soaking up the tiny streets and canals and bridges and boats and gondola’s balked at €1.50 each for a pee so took the water bus to Ca d’Oro where we had seen a poster advertising McD’s did what we had to do picked up emails and had a dreadful latte coffee. Walked back to the Rialto bridge the first and oldest bridge over the grand canal which like the one in Florence had shops on it which were not as expensive as we would have expected. The stalls and shops just continued so we kept walking eventually found ourselves caught up with everybody going home including the Eastern Europeans after a hard day begging and acting crippled now striding along carrying their crutch at a faster rate than we walked! Really the number of beggars and illegal traders we had encountered throughout Italy was disturbing but more so in Venice. What will happen when the restrictions come off next year I hate to think.
Reaching the water bus stop of Roma we decided we had, had enough for the day so jumped on the faster no 2 boat then realised it was going in the oposite direction, Steve heard the ladies in front of us speaking English so asked them and they explained that it was going round the outside which was a bit quicker than through the Grand Canal where they were limited for speed. Got on the homeward water bus and arrived back at the van about 7pm extremely tired but a full and enjoyable day.
Wednesday 06/11/2013
Up early and on to the water bus to St Marco square to change to another as we had decided to visit the Island of Murono to see the glass work. We then realised that if we had just walked across to the other side of Venice about 15 minutes at that part, we would have saved about three quarters of an hour but still it was all an experience.
We spent a very nice three hours or so walking the streets and looking at the amazing glasswork then while in one shop were invited to go out the back to the furnace to see the glass blowing. The skill was amazing especially with the second item he did which was a rearing horse just using a pair of pincers to crimp and shape the soft red hot glass. Back towards the water bus stop and Judy couldn’t wait so just had to fork out the €1.50!
Back to Venice and walk across this time heading for Acedamia where we had seen there was an exclusive exhibition of some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s unseen work from all over some from the queens private collection in Windsor. Passing McD’s Steve took the opportunity of sneaking in and saving €1.50. The exhibition was expensive  but fantastic especially for Judy to see the many tiny intricate drawings sometimes many different ones on just one piece of paper. Unfortunately the audio guide was hopeless which spoiled it a bit. After the exhibition the drawings will be locked away again for a few decades to protect them from the light. So a once in a lifetime experience. After Leonardo’s rooms the rest of the gallery had some very fine paintings as well. It was about 5pm when we got out of the gallery so headed back. Steve bought Judy some beautiful Morano glass earrings and Necklace Ruby Red as it is our Ruby Wedding Anniversary in ten days time. So back to the mainland but decided on the way to stop off at Lido which is on the Long Island which basically with the peninsular of Punto Sabini protects the islands of Venice from the full force of the sea.  We had an hours walk about, it was very different, there were cars and buses for a start whereas the only things with wheels on Venice were the porters sack barrows and the tourist luggage.
On the boat back we suddenly remembered the free walking tour Judy had seen on the web so back at the van Steve connected to the web with the phone and managed to book for the next day.
Thursday 07/11/2013
Up even earlier and didn’t bother to make sandwiches as we had decided we would get a meal in Venice tonight on our last day. Got to the Basilaca by about 8:45 but it didn’t open until 9:30 which wouldn’t give us time to see it properly and get to our walk in time for 10:45  right at the other end of Venice.
We wandered through the streets passing through the Rialto market with lovely fish and vedge and met our guide who turned out to be really good but a bit brusque at first with a strange sense of humour. We thought he was Russian at first but when Steve asked he said he was born in Venice.
We had a great walk through four of the six departments of Venice including the Jewish Ghetto where he pointed out the most authentic but not expensive places to eat and down small streets we would never have ventured down. With our permission he took us all across the Grand Canal on a Gondola Ferry €2 each €0.70 for locals with fourteen of us and one local it was a distinctly unsettling experience negotiating across the Chanel weaving between water buses, taxi’s and delivery boats steaming along and not one life belt. And then a young Indian lad in the party decided he would stand up and step to the other side to take a picture producing a very loud remark from the Gondoliar and the local with us!
The tour finished at about 3:15 in the Student quarter, a very lively place where the guide said it was best and cheapest to get lunch.
We skipped lunch and headed for the other side of Venice because the guide had said it was worth visiting the Island of Burono which was very pretty with all different coloured houses. We spent a couple of hours there, it was indeed very pretty with many shops selling the intricate lace work the speciality of the island.
We arrived back in Venice not far from where the guide had said was the best plac to eat but a bit early for the Venetians who don’t come out till later so we decided to walk across to the Student quarter  to see what food was available there and  pass by a shop Judy wanted to buy something she had seen that morning.
The Student quarter was very lively but the resteraunt he had recommended for lunch had a party of very loud drunken English in it so we went in search of another and were finally enticed into one by a waiter who took the trouble to explain the menu to us in English the food was fine and very good value but spoiled by a French couple who having finished all their meal and wine decided to complain that it was poor quality and too salty and offered €20 for what the waiter told us later was an €80 meal, yes the law in France says you can do that but they were not in France and I don’t think even in France having finished it all. He even came back to finish the glass of mineral water on the table! So loud English and even louder French spoiled it a bit, we wished we had gone to the ones near the Jewish quarter. 
The water buses were not quite so frequent now so we decided to walk as there was anotherr shop on Rialto that we wanted to go back to and it turned out to be the only one open.
Finally back to the van at 11:45 exhausted but a really good day and the number of water buses we had used we had really good value from our three day pass.
Friday 08/11/2013
A leisurely start sorting out the van and filling and emptying. Paid then set of in the direction of lake Garda. TomTom had a funy half hour and went the strangest route possible to the motorway but on the way we saw an IKEA store so stopped to se if they had the drawers for the hanging wardrobe storage unit we use in the van unfortunately  they did not but 2 hours and €40 later we got out and back on our way. Finally on to the motorway but on exiting our card would not work and by the time Steve had sorted out the cash it wouldn’t let us pay but spat out a foot long ticket luckily with instructions in English as well on how to pay later or suffer a fine but the barrier did not rise and the guy in the control box was yelling something in Italian and Steve was yelling back that he didn’t speak Italian and all the cars behind were leaning on their horns. Finally a guy came stomping across the motorway obviously annoyed to be disturbed from his nice warm office, snatched a small bit of ticket that had stayed in the machine and threw it through the window and stomped off. The barrier then rose so we could get out. The ticket which was almost out of Steve’s reach had obviously torn badly and would not lift the barrier until it was sure you had taken it so you could pay. We have to pay at the next manned toll booth or by bank transfer at a post office. Something to be sorted out later, we have 15 days before a fine kicks in.
Onward to our destination now in the dark only to find the camper stop we were aiming for closed at the end of October. Found another one in the book which was supposed to be open till December and headed off but it was about 37 km. We stopped at a supermarket where there was another camper so we spoke to them to see if they knew anything closer. They thought they had seen a large parking area about two km back so we said we would see them there after some shopping. Unfortunately we never found it but did find a large area behind a block of shops with a lorry parked in it so stopped there quite comfortably except the rain started and continued all night.
Saturday 09/11/2013
A nice quiet night except the noise of the rain on the roof so set off to drive up the western shore of the lake, a pretty drive till we arrived at a tunnel 3.5 mtr no problem we are 2.9 mt. All along the lake the tunnels got longer and narrower with quite jagged edges then suddenly a sign saying 3mt with nowhere to turn or escape oops! But round the corner the 3mtr one went off to the left further into the mountain ours seemed to be the same 3.5, hope the guy that measured was careful with his tape. Kept going through more tunnels and finally saw layby behind a crash barrier so pulled in for a coffee and sit for a bit as driving was difficult in the torrential rain, so time to catch up on the blog overlooking the lake in the rain. Continued after a couple of hours and decided to continue round the lake back to Garda rather than taking the longer route to the motorway. 50kph speed limit all the way with cruise set to the gps speed and just poodled along but two Italian campers shot past us then suddenly turned off into what turned out to be a large Sosta so we followed through an electronic barrier. It turned out to be all wind surfers so We went to look at the ticket machine and it wanted €1.65 an hour for all hours all year so €28 till the morning for a bit of Tarmac, the Italians  didn’t appear to be paying but they were Italian so obviously not worried, but we were not happy so left to find somewhere better. About half an hour down the road there was a parking area by the side of the lake with the height barrier removed and a bag over the meter saying parking free, that’ll do us so we pulled in. There was another camper in there already but much happier than waking in the morning to find the Italians all gone knowing that the warden came round at 8 and a ticket on the window or worse a clamp.
So now sitting with a glass of wine watching the lightning across the lake.
So up to date now, hope you enjoy. 
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