Week 6 – Florence to Lake Garda


We started week 6 in a typical fashion – a 10 mile run along the river into Florence past Ponte Vecchio and then back through a nice park. For some reason these 10 miles were quite tough – we think we forget how much activity we do on “quiet” days! Leaving Florence we headed Arezzo for just a stopover before heading further east. We weren’t expecting much, but the provided Aire was really quite good – full facilities and very modern and clean. The town itself was a mix of old walled medieval and new, with the old part being quite large. Pretty much deserted off season though pretty interesting and too big to fully explore with our aching legs. We settled for another large ice cream and a nap.

From Arezzo we headed via the back roads to San Marino. The roads were actually quite good, but after a couple of hours of constant turns and hairpins it was quite tiring! The view of the countryside was rather good and reminding us of the Lake District in places. In San Marino there is a free place to camp but it was deserted and felt like we’d be asking for trouble, so we moved to a busier spot to park up. Wandering up to the castle was interesting but felt like the entire place was a tourist magnet and pretty much everything was geared as cheap duty items, air-guns and knives that presumably aren’t restricted here. Unfortunately its so high up the clouds made any views a white-out which was a little disappointing. In the sun we can imagine the alfresco dining along with the high perspective views would make San Marino worth a visit.

In the morning it looked really misty and like things hadn’t improved so we planned to go to the coast geared up to have a run. Then we opened the door and realised the morning mist was actually just external condensation on the windows and it was in fact becoming a sunny day. DOH! With running in our minds we dropped down the San Marino mountain and stopped at Rimini which was as flat as a pancake. We found a nice spot overlooking the beach, parked up and did a reasonable 15 mile run with Mel doing her best half marathon time this year.

Rimini is a tourist beach town but much better than Benidump – even so for 6 miles of our run it was constant hotels and bars. In April it was very pleasant but can imagine it being hellish in peak season. There is supposed to be a medieval part of town but we couldn’t find it and decided we’d walked enough.

In the morning, after waking with sunburn from the run, it was raining cats n dogs so we decided to leave the beach and explore some more towns. We headed to Ravenna for a look around, and whilst it appeared a reasonable place it wasn’t “happening” enough for us, so we just stayed for lunch and headed off to Ferrara.

Ferrara was a pleasant surprise. The town has a medieval history and has a great central castle, city walls, market squares and loads of other 1000 year old buildings dotted around. There are signed walks around which give a good view of all the different buildings and squares. We got into the castle and wondered why everyone else looked dressed up and realised we gate crashed a wedding. It was a tough call but we decided to walk away from the free bar and escape – hope the groom knows slim sexy Italian women change once married… After a rather good beer in the square we headed through the bustle of the market and back for tea with 1 kg chocolate bread cake. Yum.

From Ferrara we planned to visit Venice, but we had been tipped off with a place called Treviso which is a 30 min train ride away which also saves the hassles of getting into Venice. We weren’t expected much, so we arrived and found their free aire and had a brief wander round. As we were on our underwear reserves we did a load of laundry in their laundrette, had lunch, and then had a good wander around the town. It was actually mightily impressive. Bustling on the Sunday afternoon we found a sort of folk festival and just explored and soaked up the atmosphere. We then opted for a fast and short run which was challenging to say the least and ventured back into town for supper. A glorious day, warm outside till about 11pm which allowed our first late alfresco meal in ages.

In the morning we ventured into Venice. We were expecting to be disappointed with a tourist-tat place failing to meet expectations. However, Venice is a gem with realistically priced ice-creams! We didn’t see any flooding or signs of it, and we didn’t have any smells. We did have 25’C of pure sunshine and the whole of Venice as our playground. The tour guides can detail more than we ever can, but Saint Marco Square was mightily impressive as are numerous other buildings. Unlike most we ventured deep into the real residential Venice which really was genuine in its character and the whole place just seems pretty much unspoilt. The water bus is a reasonable but fast way to see the Canale Grande and its many buildings. Overall – Venice has been added to our short “Absolute must see” list.

We would have loved a second day in Venice just chilling, but we’d already made plans if the weather was good. We headed towards Lake Garda via Verona – having lunch in Verona in the Piazza Bra next to the arena. The castle and Ponte Scaligero were mightily impressive as was the main plaza. Juliette house was, well, packed with tourists, but overall Verona was a good place to visit.

Finally arriving in Lake Garda we planned to have a “holiday” and stay at a real campsite (!) for a couple of days allowing us to camp right on the lake with snow-capped mountains in the distance. With 240v again we were able to have a much needed haircut with a long shower without worrying about water. After a lovely walk along the lake to Peschiera del Garda the nearby village we contemplated the week.

Week 6 has been superb from a tourist point of view – superb places to see, amazing sites, and a thoroughly good time. It has been overshadowed by the earthquake in L’Aquila where over 200 people died and the town in devastated. We were there only last week and really enjoyed the city. Its people were friendly and it put us back on track with a run and cycle ride in the mountains. A lovely place, very motorhome friendly. We hope L’Aquila and its people recover well

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