It was so nice to see my folks. Meeting them had been something we’d known we were going to do from the outset so it was one of those long term things we’d all been looking forward to, like the weeks we spent in the Black Forest with the Robbos and Hanlos. It’s nice to have some longer term things coming up as our planning is so short term, only up to the next few days (or maybe that afternoon!) and the bigger things give something longer term to look forward to.
Anyway…we met the Gramps at Mario Village (not Nintendo themed sadly!), chosen more because we could all get there in a day’s travel from where we were. First impressions were of a little holiday park that was taking itself a little too seriously for the end of season…fabric wristbands, three pages of paperwork on check in, but it turned out to be lovely. Right near a lovely lake, half empty, and best of all, a beautiful heated swimming pool! The pool was a real bonus as the kids had missed out for a while and it was perfect for them. The kids were so excited to have their grandparents with them, and lets not forget Fizzy (the wire haired fox terrier) who is now a good size for Aidan to hold his lead….alllll the time.
We had a good few days there before heading towards Lake Garda, a few highlight were:
– First night pizza in the campsite restaurant, basic but perfect, cheap pizzas, cheap wine…lovely!
– The pool…with worm slide…yes…worm slide!
– The kids making fruit pizza with Grandma, appropriate but unorthodox, fruit and yogurt on a water melon base.
– Cycling, Dad and I got out for a lovely ride, only marred a little by me having a slight altercation with a wing mirror (gained some good arm scars though!)
The plan was to spend a few days moving south and around Garda before meeting my cousin Peter for the weekend. Our first step was a lovely drive through the mountains to the north end of Garda, which is VERY dramatic, all kinds of geology going on all over the place. We drove a fun rode down to and along the easten edge of the lake (the road on the West side looked even more fun but sat nav clocked it as about two hours longer).
The stop we’d chosen was at Macalsine was really tight and right in the olive trees. We had a walk down to the water and saw about fifteen members of the Macalsine paragliders club come into land on a tiny patch of land reclaimed from the lake. It was, however, a little disappointing when they all got down cleanly…although I guess not for them! That evening Dad and I snuck out to a place right next to the campsite called Speckstube which was a german style beer garden place, nice to get a final weisse beer before getting too far away from the border.
The stop wasn’t really worth another night so we moved on the next morning, although it was a bit of a shame we didn’t get to explore Macalsine as it looked lovely. We decided to head to the south end of Garda but with a stop at an Olive Oil producer on the way. The drive was a bit crazy as I still wasn’t used to the Italian roads. We got there not sure what to expect but we had a look round the olive trees and after the really spendy tourists had left the owner talked us through the olive oil producing process and showed us the machines. We were a month before havest so they were gearing up but he talked us through a tasting of the oils they produced which were awesome. There is somthing odd about drinking oil out of little plastic shot glasses but it was reaally tasty. We grabbed a few bottles for the journey (which we’re already thinking was too few) and headed for the planned campsite.
Again initial impressions of the place we stayed weren’t great, muddy pitches, a big site, pool closed (we think), but again we ended up having a lovely time. The site was big and not the sort of place we are usually drawn to, but we had two pitches next to each other, and we could be on the edge of the lake in a couple of minutes. Looking back from where we are now (yes, yes, we’re massively behind!!) we now know that Italian campsites are a bit different from the campsites we’d seen up to this point. You generally get less space for your money and so we kept having the feeling we were properly cheek and jowl with people. Not always bad but on a bigger site can feel overbearing. Enough waffling…we had a very chilled few days with a trip to the beautiful but packed Sirmione, and every evening with the kids watching the sun going down over Lake Garda which isn’t something many campsites can give you!
We left Garda on the Friday to move onto the next bit of family in the FAAAAMMMILY FORRRRNIGHT (please read in spooky voice)….meeting my cousin Peter!
Peter has lived in Italy for more than a decade now and we’ve never been over to visit him which makes us LAME. He has a house near Verona from when he worked there and it’s about five mins from the town of Soave and bang on the border between the Soave and Valpolicella wine regions (I know…sickening isn’t it ;O)). We left the Garda campsite on Friday morning, to make our way to Soave. A short stint on the motorway and we were parked up next to a big town fortified wall. We had a little walk through the town and it was beautiful. Picture what you would expect from this sort of place, on a hill (but not too hilly), few people about (but not too busy), hot (but not scorching) it was lovely. We had a wander up the hill to see the castle and then back down for a coffee. All very pleasant and chilled.
Since this was Friday Peter and his partner Anna wouldn’t be arriving from Florence until later on so when we left Soave we got ourselves camped on the drive (feeling a bit bad that our van blocked out most of the neighbours light as well as Peter’s!). We had dinner and got ourselves sorted to de-camp for…wait for it…a real bed for only the second time in three months. Mum and Dad stayed in their van so we could have the spare room which was really nice as the kids loved being in the house.
We had a few drinks when they arrived but all crashed pretty early after a long day. The next morning Dad, Peter, and I went out for a bike ride around some of the area. It was harvest time so while we were riding all the farmers were busy bringing in the grapes and we saw a few of the wine co-ops where they were lined up with their tractors waiting for their turn to have their trailer full crushed. That evening Peter took us to the local Pizzeria, lively and some of the best Pizza I’ve had, and frankly, I’ve had a lot!!! Although with a lot of vino, and limoncellos to finish, the end of the night is a little fuzzy!
Sunday we had a nice lazy start, a quick trip to the local wine co-op, then a walk nearby up and through the vines to enjoy the view. This was followed by an awesome lunch at the local agriturismo which is a family run restaurant where they grow about 80-90% of what they serve on their land. Including making a lot of the wine as well. The food was fantastic, even allowing for the fact that we’re awkward veggies so couldn’t take full advantage of the pigs “out back” (Peter made up for us though!). It was a really cool experience to go to a local place like this as we would never had known about it or whether we’d have been able to eat there if Peter and Anna hadn’t taken us and held our hands!
Then the exodus began, on Sunday evening Peter and Anna had to head back to Florence for work on Monday (Work…I remember that I think?!) followed the next morning by my Mum and Dad who were off to wend their way back north for their ferry. It was all a bit sad for a while, a bit like the end of the black forest time. The kids had loved having their Gramps around and were very sad when they left. They loved the times reading with Grandma, washing up with Grandad, and being pulled along by Fizzy!
We were kindly allowed to borrow the house so we stayed on soaking up the area until Thursday before we decided to move on…back to snailing along just the four of us again!