From Austria to Italy, the transformation was obvious. Green hills rolled into vineyards, castles appeared and the ski slopes slid away; small pristine villages became a more run down version and the cars fancier by a mile. Italy greeted us with colours, warmth and beauty. Lake Garda sparkled under the warm sun throughout our 4 day stay, so pristine it resembled an ocean. For a reasonable price we were able to camp by the side of the lake overlooking Salò at “Salò Parcheggio Sosta Camper” (this is the link- we use Park4night) The town vibrated in hues of orange, yellow and green with old churches and walls adding character within.
Mid October yet the lake was warm enough to swim in with majestic swans gliding above the ripples and no tourists disturbed our peace.
On Sunday we left the van in our usual clothes -thoughtless and the usual- to be met with dozens of local families dressed (for autumn) in their Sunday best promenading in the afternoon sun with melting, flavoured ice creams.
Even though we had only been in Italy for a few days we soon came to realise how friendly and open the Italian people are. It finally felt as if we were catching up with the weather and being greeted by the Mediterranean as Jasmine (and pizza) penetrated the air and mermaids kissed the full moon.
We drove far South to the famous Cinque Terre for some much needed beach and ocean.
The drive to the motorhome camping “Il Poggio dell 5 Terre” was the worst yet as the coordinates were wrong and we ended up on a steep and extremely tight, hairpin after hairpin mountain road that led to the ocean. The outcome was stopping traffic on a bend to much chagrin and banging the bumper bar badly to reverse onto a private piece of land but we managed! Vanlife is not always easy especially when it is 7.7m on Italian roads made for scooters. My advice would be to ignore the sat nav when arriving here! The campsite (this is the link for it) overlooked the ocean and the owner was helpful and cheerful; driving campers up and down the tight mountainous roads to Monterosso al Mare town like it was a motorway. Booking train tickets allowed us to travel between all 5 towns along the Tyrrhenian Sea coast.
Each village had its own visual attraction whether that be a castle, cobbled streets or beaches. All the houses stretched down to the sea as if they couldn’t stand being too far away from the beautiful intensity.
The only smell which penetrated the air was pizza, pine and the ocean. Walking between Corniglia and Vernazza under the strange warmth of the October sun allowed us to escape the hovering tourists and take in the landscape from atop the rolling mountains, looking down on the far and wide ocean that appeared to be dazzling with secrets; cacti, vineyards and butterflies accompanied us.
After an hour or so of peaceful coastal walk we arrived at Vernazza and cut through an unauthorised barrier (seeing other people do so) and through a natural archway that led us straight onto a welcoming beach, hidden from prying eyes by the cliffside.
The sea welcomed us into it’s depths and we found ourselves bathing in October, warmer than the Baltic was a couple of months ago.
Atop Castella Doria (fortress above Vernazza town) we were awarded with a piercing undisturbed sunset, setting everything aglow, marking the end of an amazing day.