Pisa, Cinque Terre and the Italian Lakes

Cinque Terre - Vernazza

Joy and I arrived in Pisa late Saturday night and parked up in a free sosta with two other motorhomes. Being tired we decided to get a take away pizza rather than cook. The pace of the tour was beginning to catch up with me. Long drives, difficult roads, the heat, and bugs were all contributing to my low mood. On Sunday we booked into Camping Torre Pendente which is walking distance from the centre of town. After catching up with some laundry we visited the famous leaning tower and did some grocery shopping.

Pisa

On Monday there was just enough time to visit a Decathlon store to buy one of their Quechua 2 second tents before collecting Steve and Gabi from the airport. The tent has proved to be one of the best purchases. It really does only take 2 seconds to put up and it can be taken down in about a minute too. The one we bought is classed as a 3 person tent which is very comfortable for 2 and my double airbed fits perfectly with room to spare for some luggage.

Once we had collected Steve and Gabi we returned to Camping Torre Pendente. Gabi had very kindly answered our distress call and brought over some extra mature cheddar, some Ponds Cold Cream for Joy and a GB sticker for the motorhome. For the remainder of Monday Joy showed them the tourist sights of Pisa where bookings were made to go up the leaning tower the following morning.

We left Pisa on Tuesday headed for the Cinque Terre. Our intended campsite had been Camping La Sfinge but when we arrived it was full so we checked into the nearby Camping Valdeiva and booked a free transfer to the coach station for the following morning.

Early Wednesday morning the minibus dropped us at Déiva Marina train station where we boarded a train to Riomaggiore, the furthest away of the Cinque Terre towns. The Cinque Terre area is classified as a national park and charges an entry fee. The fee includes free entry to some museums and I believe discounts on purchases made in some of the shops. From Riomaggiore we walked to the second of the Cinque Terre towns, Manarola. This first section is often known as Via dell’Amore or Lovers’ Street. The reason for the name relates to all the love padlocks that you can find where couples add their names to a padlock and lock it to a fixed object to signify their everlasting love. The tradition can be seen elsewhere in Italy, for example we saw these padlocks near Ponte Vechio bridge in Florence. The tradition of love padlocks is thought to have started after it was mentioned in an Italian book called ‘I Want You’ and also a film called ‘Ho voglia di te’.  Besides the padlocks you also see love messages scratched into cactus plants and graffiti on walls.

Via Dell Amore

The other three towns of the Cinque Terre are Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, each one differing in size and photo opportunities. The Cinque Terre is popular with many nationalities but we could not help but notice how many Americans were walking the route the day we were there. It was a hot day and I was glad to make a couple of stops for a lemon soda.

Boat
Vernazza

We arrived at Monterosso al Mare as the sun was getting low in the sky. We watched the sunset as we waited for our train back to Déiva Marina where the minibus collected us and took us back to the campsite.

On Thursday the weather was overcast as we headed further along the coast to Portofino. The town is not motorhome friendly so we parked about a 15 minute walk away.

Portofino

After about 3 hours in Portofino we left the area and headed for Lake Garda. Our intended accommodation was Camping Romantica in Manerba del Garda but I was shocked to find they had a 4 night minimum stay so they lost our custom and we checked into Camping Belvedere instead.

Friday the weather was showing no signs of improving as we briefly visited Desanzano before making our way to the Eastern side of Lake Garda where we checked into Camping Lido Pacengo where we bought supplies for a BBQ. The plan Saturday had been to either hike up or get the cable car to the top of Monte Baldo but the low cloud meant we would not get to see anything so instead we visited the town of Torri del Bénaco. Rather than spend another night on Lake Garda we decided to head to Lake Como, stopping at Bellagio where we collected some information on campsites and activities from the tourist information office. We decided we would visit Bellagio again in the morning and so began what transpired to be a LONG search for a campsite close by. One campsite was full, another with a lake view had impossibly narrow access and so finally we headed up into the hills, the fuel tank reading empty. We finally found the campsite after Gabi had to ask a local but were surprised to find no other tents or motorhomes. The site seemed to be for fixed caravans only and the owner did not speak English. We were invited to park on a small play area where the grass was muddy in places so Joy decided to pitch the tent on gravel next to the children’s play area.

Sunday the weather finally improved as we left the campsite headed for Bellagio, via a lookout point over the Lake. Once parked in Bellagio we followed a walk through the town. It seemed that a TV show was being made whilst we were there which was attracting a small crowd of local people. In the afternoon it was time to leave Lake Como and head to our final destination, Lake Maggiore. On our last day we intended to visit the Borrowmean Islands. The ferry leaves from Stresa but since there were no campsites in Stresa we booked into a campsite in the next town of Baveno where a number of British seemed to be staying.

Isola Bella

Monday was to be the final day of this particular trip and after parking in Stresa we bought tickets for the ferry. Joy and I decided to only visit Isola Bella whereas Steve and Gabi also visited two other islands as well. At about 5pm we all met again at the motorhome before driving to Milan Malpensa airport where we would say goodbye to Steve and Gabi. Our next destination was to be Sicily and we only had three days to get there. It would prove to be an exhausting experience.

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