I’m Back In Italy :: Γύρισα στην Ιταλία

As I write this evening it feels like it has been ages since I left home. (3 weeks tomorrow, actually). I only have a couple of days left before I get home and the best part of 1000 miles still to drive.

I woke up late this morning – I slept well after getting off the ferry in the middle of the night.

Taking such a long ferry journey has rather meant I’ve lost track of what the time is. I’m still on Greek time (1 hour ahead of Italy); The ship’s time was Greek time, the crew was Greek, the food on board was Greek and tannoy announcements were done in Greek, English, German and Italian (in that order) – In effect although I left Greece on Tuesday night it wasn’t until this morning that I actually left the Greek world behind – but I’m still thinking in Greek now, so it might take a few days to adjust to the change in language.

Italy – or at least Northern Italy – is a world away from Greece. It seems like the pace of life here is to much faster than in Greece. That’s not necessarily the case but drive for a few minutes on the Italian Autostrada and you’ll know what I mean.

I find the Italian Autostrada a bit tiring to be honest. Truck after truck after truck in lane 1, truck overtaking truck in lane 2. So if you’re in a car the best way of going anywhere at speed is in the fast lane, usually with an tailgating Italian in tow. Pull in to lane 2 to let them pass and someone starts tailgating in lane 2. Find a gap in lane 1 and someone will start tailgating in lane 1 as well. There just isn’t any room to breathe! Not to mention the lack of lane discipline.

Then there’s the language: Italian is totally unfamiliar to me – not an ounce of similarity between Greek and Italian. This means that while I have the radio on while I’m driving through Italy, I’ve not a clue what’s happening on the roads, where the traffic jams are, what’s happening in the news (although I did hear «Theresa May» spoken in an Italian accent on the radio earlier).

The only thing I can vaguely work out is the travel news – the tone which marks the beginning and end of the bulletin, which sounds a little bit like a plane’s Autopilot disconnecting – is the same as the one used by the German-language station I listened to in Italy’s German speaking region – and I can also understand the radio station’s jingle which comes on every half hour or so – variations of people singing «Radio Due» (Italian for Radio 2).

But otherwise, I don’t speak or understand Italian. So…Back to speaking English it is then – for now.

Today was an easy day in comparision to the next 3 days. 2 drives of roughly 90 minutes each. The first was to the Parco Giardino Sigurta – a sort of botanical garden / country park – an interesting place to go for a walk and have some lunch, just to break up the journey more than anything else.

Need any more fish for the pond, Dad?

I left the park right on time – It had started raining and thundering a bit as I walked through the exit. Within 2 minutes of getting in the car it was pouring with rain and there was some lightning to add to the fun.

It was again that sort of rain which means you have to have the wipers on full speed and still can’t see… It is surprising how disorientating this type of rain can be, when you can’t hear anything, can’t really see anything – couple this crazy Italian drivers while trying to find the 5th exit of the roundabout to get on the Autostrada, and it was inevitable that I should get a little lost (thankfully the sat nav readjusted and got me facing the right direction within no time).

It was a surprisngly quick run from there up to tonight’s hotel, in the village of Castro on the banks of Lake Iseo. The scenery was quite nice as I came off the motorway and in to the mountains. There were loads of tunnels though – I lost count of how many but each one lasted for between 2-3km, then maybe 100m in daylight before yet another tunnel. Still – Being on these roads made a nice change to all those trucks on the Autostrada.

Castro, Lombardy, Italy

A long day of driving tomorrow which will see me stop in Bregenz, Austria – just a couple of km short of the German border – Before that I’ll be passing through Switzerland and Liechtenstein (stopping in Vaduz) on the way.

So I suppose, ahead of a day on the road, I’d better head off to bed.

Buona notte,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 165.5
Accumulative Mileage: 2796.9

Journey Map

Second Day In Italy :: Δεύτερη Μέρα στην Ιταλία

I had 2 hours of scenery like this!

When I woke up this morning it was still cloudy but it had stopped raining (hooray)!

I had breakfast at the hotel and got on the road not long after. A fair bit of driving to do but all on motorway, following a relatively simple route, so nothing too difficult.

For the first half of the journey I was following the A22 Brenner Autostrada. It took a good 2 hours before I was clear of the Alps. The scenery looked great – or it would have done had half of it not been hidden by the clouds. I think on this stretch of road, not counting all the trucks (there were hundreds as this is the main motorway crossing the Alps in this region), most of the cars were German.

I stopped to get an ice cream once I’d got clear of the Alps, the Sun had come out and it brightened up. For the second leg of the journey I was following the A4 Autostrada straight in to Venice. On the A4 the Italian driving style was very apparent; Lots of tailgating (in all lanes, not just the fast lane) and aggressive Italian driving. The Italian Autostrada can be crazy at times! I don’t think anyone slowed down to below 100km/h through a set of roadworks, even though the posted speed limit was 80.

When I came off the motorway – A simple drive to the coast to get to my accommodation. Italian roundabouts are a little challenging when I’m sitting on the wrong side of the car for driving on the right. The angle at which some roads met the roundabout made visibility difficult at times.

I arrived in my accommodation at 2; Tonight I am staying in a self-catering caravan in Fusina, where the waterbus goes once an hour to (and from) Venice. As well as the caravans here, there are plenty of pitches so that travellers coming with their own caravans and mobile homes can park up and stay here for their holidays.

I had a walk round to investigate; There are a lot of Germans, with the German border only being a few hours drive away. A few Dutch, one or two French, one British motor home, and I’m parked next to a Belgian car. I’ve also seen a Czech, Lithuanian and Ukranian car around the campsite. No Greeks, but I did overtake a coach on Greek number plates on the Autostrada earlier.

After settling in to my caravan, I went out to get the waterbus in to Venice. A 20 minute boat ride later, I was in the middle of Venice, walking next to the Grand Canal towards St Mark’s Square.

The Grand Canal – Think M25 but with boats
St Mark’s Square

I didn’t really have lunch so had a late lunch/early dinner in Venice, sitting at the waterside eating Spaghetti Bolognese, the Italian way. Quite expensive, but it filled me up so I won’t need to eat later, and I didn’t spend anything at lunch time so effectively it was 2 meals in one.

A cruise ship (and 2 tugs towing it) passing while I ate next to the Guidecca Canal.
Venice – Guidecca Canal – As seen from the waterbus

I’m back in my room now and am going to try and get a little bit of rest before I set off for the ferry terminal in a few hours. The ferry leaves at 04:30, I’ve got to be checked-in 2 hours before departure (so by 02:30), the check-in opens 2 hours before that (at 00:30).

I’m thinking, on the basis it is less than 2-3 minutes drive from here to check-in, that I don’t need to be there too early – but I also don’t know what it will be like in terms of volume of traffic taking the ferry, how long it takes to check-in etc. (this is a bigger ferry than the Dover-Calais ones) so I don’t want to leave it to the last minute either. So I’m aiming to leave here between 1 and 2am, certainly no later than 2.

I believe the ferry gets in at about 1 and once unloading from the previous journey is complete then boarding will start straight away.

Buona notte,

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 210.8
Accumultative Mileage: 1179.4

Journey Map

Mountain Driving – The Alps :: Οδήγηση στα Βουνά: Οι Άλπεις

The view from my hotel room in Sterzing

I got up this morning and had breakfast with Alison and Dieter at their house in Sindelsdorf.

After breakfast we got out the road maps; the 1995 UK road atlas so I could point out to them all the points of interest – Cirencester, Fairford, and the route I take to get to London to visit the family. We also got the iPad out and looked through some photos of the extended family in New Zealand.

At about 11, my time in Sindelsdorf was over. It was only what the Germans call a ‘Blitzbesuch’ (the German way of saying ‘flying visit’ – I think it sounds bette in German than it does in English) – but I enjoyed my visit to Bavaria.

This weekend has only been by second time in Bavaria: The last time was when I did a long weekend in Munich in 2014. I keep saying I’ll go back to Munich, I liked it a lot, but I haven’t made it yet.

It was pouring with rain so no fast driving today. There wasn’t that much Autobahn left anyway – less than 20 miles, then the motorway ends at Garmisch-Partenkirchen and it was single-carriageway mountain road driving until I met the Austrian Autobahn just outside Innsbruck.

It took me about an hour and a half to get to Innsbruck, where I stopped at the Ambras Castle for a walk about the castle and gardens. View more photos.

It was lunch time to I also went in to the cafe and had bacon dumpling soup with some bread for lunch – very filling!

Crossing from Germany in to Austria, the border wasn’t noticable but it does have a very different feel compared to Germany; Perhaps its because the road signs and markings are different to the ones I’m used to in Germany!

From Innsbruck it was a short drive to the Italian border and tonight’s overnight stop of Sterzing (Vipiteno in Italian), located in the Alps in South Tyrol, one of Italy’s 2 Autonomous German speaking provinces. Geographically I’m in Italy, but culturally I’m still in Austria. The language border is further South.

The village is very popular in the Winter, when skiers come to stay. Higher up there is still snow on top of the Alps, but it was too cloudy today to see that.

My hotel for the night is the Hotel Brenner, next to a truck stop on the motoreay but also accessible from local roads. It’a short drive in to the village itself, which is where I went for my dinner.

I might be in an ‘Austrian’ part of Italy, but as far as I was concerned, Italy is Italy – so for dinner tonight I went for a pizza. I have to say the South Tyrol accent was qite noticable at first in the restaurant, but the accent was toned down a bit after I started speaking (clearly I didn’t come across as local but I must have sounded German enough for them not to switch to English).

It was still pouring with rain and while I did get a couple of photos in the village centre, I did also buy a couple of post cards showing how it should look, if the Sun were to be shining.

I drove back to the hotel and put the TV on for a bit – It was only a short drive in terms of distance today but on single carriageway mountain roads – and in the rain – quite tiring.

A fair bit of driving tomorrow to get to Venice – The Sat Nav estimates 3hrs 22min but I will probably stop on the way. Rain is forecast here again tomorrow but once I get clear of the Alps I should find the Sun comes out…That’s the theory anyway!

For those in to Dashcam videos – here’s a selection of clips showing my drive through the Alps, condensed in to 15 minutes…

Gute Nacht.

FH.

Today’s Mileage: 102.2
Accumulative Mileage: 968.6

Journey Map

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