|Italy May 2013|
Driven by the fact we had visited many of the countries that surround Italy, but had still never toured there, and the frequent praise the Italian Lakes receive, we thought it was time to see for ourselves. We therefore planned a Continental tour for 2013 through five countries which included a stop over on the Eastern side of Lake Garda of about a week. As it turned out, the weather disrupted these plans a little and we ended up spending 3 nights on the Italian Riviera at Albenga, 4 nights on the eastern and 2 nights on the western side of Lake Garda and one night at Vipiteno in northern Italy while on route to Austria.
Like anywhere else, Italy has it's good and bad points. We did like the lake sides of Lake Garda but not the awkward campsites with poor pitch access. I am sure, had the weather been better, we would have had more praise for what we encountered. However, we did not really visit anything truely inspirational during our short stay and on balance, while we will probably make another trip to northern Italy, we will not be rushing back. To some extent, it maybe the visit was diluted by the many Italian experiences you can have in the UK!
I kept a blog of the whole trip and all of this can be read here
Albenga while interesting, especially the old town, was little different to many other old towns previously visited. However, it had a working feel to it rather than being just another of the many tourist resorts we later passed on our journey along the coast to Savona and Lake Garda. The beach was also stony which we didn't particularly like. We found three nights at Camping Delfino just about right for visiting this place.
Camping Delfino - A quick inspection revealed most pitches were located under artificial canvas shades supported by iron work too low to allow my motorhome beneath. I estimate most were about 3 meters high. However to the rear of the site was a nice open grassy area where larger vehicles could pitch in the sunshine. It is unfortunately close to the railway line which is used regularly even overnight and the pitches can be noisy There were less trains on the Saturday and Sunday nights, either that or I did not hear them all! However there is a Discotheque about half a mile away and on Saturday night from 2100 hours until the early hours of Sunday morning the sound of the base notes was very irritating. This and the railway ruins an otherwise good site which also has a small restaurant and shop. Toilet facilities are clean, however, there is no hot water except in the showers which were coin operated.
Lake Garda is huge, 34 miles long and 11 miles wide at its widest point in the south. The lake side in the south is flat but in the north it is mountainous. We spent 6 nights on it's shores, 4 nights on the eastern shore based near Bardolino at Camping La Rocca and 2 nights on the western shore near Manerba del Garda at Camping Baia Verde. We much preferred the eastern shore with its lake side level wheelchair friendly made up paths, cafes and restaurants. The Lake is one big tourist area and even in May we found it quite busy. We thought the south eastern shores more rural with the south western shore more urban. Unfortunately the weather was none too kind to us and whilst we enjoyed our stay, we probably did not see the area at it's best. We did manage a day trip in fine weather from Garda to Sirmione using the ferry to cross the lake. Some of the smaller ferries did not look particularly wheelchair friendly and boarding them was via steep ramps. The larger ferries were much easier to use. The journey across the lake took nearly an hour. Sirmione was bustling and like Bardolino and Garda very touristy. We left the area by driving north up the western side of the lake. Not a journey I would like to repeat in a large motorhome. There is a video of this journey on Day 26 in our blog of the trip.
Camping La Rocca - A large sloping full facility site located on both sides of the road. The lakeside area is the touring area, statics are located on the terraced hillside across the main road as is the swimming pool and sports facilities and both areas are linked via an underpass. We found driving around the touring area very tricky due to the trees which line the narrow avenues. Three sizes of pitches are available and the 50 allocated to the ACSI discount scheme are the smaller less accessible ones. Nevertheless they were in much demand. There is an onsite supermarket but we thought it poorly stocked. There are two facility blocks, the one by the ACSI pitches looks the newer and is excellent whilst the one at the opposite end of the site near the super pitches is slightly more jaded. The lakeside cycleway runs past the front of the site and can be accessed via side gates. Bardolino’s center is about 1 ½ miles away and Garda slightly closer at one mile. Lakeside cafes and restaurants are closer still. WiFi is available and 5 hours access costs 4 euros.
Camping Baia Verde – A level grassy ACSI site, good sized serviced pitches with good access, excellent clean facilities, swimming pool, restaurant, small shop and MV service point. We found the local area a little limiting and considered this site better for those with their own transport. Be careful when arriving and leaving the site, do not slavishly follow a sat nav, there are some very narrow awkward roads in the area.
Vipiteno is close to the Austrian border. We just night stopped here on the Auto Camp. However when we left we drove through Vipiteno which both of us thought very Austrian rather than Italian.
Autocamp Vipiteno – Located just of the autostrada as part of the Autoporto, this hard standing large stopover area is for both caravans and motorhomes. It is an excellent night halt for 13 euros which includes 3 amp electricity, water points, MV service area, free toilets, showers and a small shop located in an adjacent building. The restaurant was closed during our visit, this appeared to be permanent.