It has clearly been too long between updates, and this one is not going to satisfy either, I’m afraid. We ended up not having any real internet connection after leaving Verona. The B&B in Localita Caiar had WiFi that didn’t reach anywhere that I could sit, and that happened to correspond with a network outage at home… The (lovely) B&B near Coccinato never claimed to have any internet access, and it didn’t. The B&B in Saint-Martin-Sur-La-Chambre had WiFi but I wimped-out after a very (very!) nice dinner. Vertrieu had WiFi but was too weird to blog from (more later.)
So, a not-quite-complete catch-up follows. I’ll try to sort and add some photos later.
Mantova was as beautiful as ever, but it rained continuously and was quite cold. Not conducive to photography, although I believe that Greg and Cath managed a few. The highlight was lunch at the Tiratappi, which was at least as fabulous as it has ever been. Possibly better. Stunning food.
Sirmione, at the end of an isthmus protruding into the southern end of Lake Garda, was delightful. We arrived in heavy fog, which allowed some interesting photos with no separation between the surface of the lake and the sky. It would be a ferociously touristic place in warmer, sunnier weather, but in the cool spring it was very pleasant. The view from the castle tower of the lake and the old town was grand. Lunch was a bit pot-luck: we chose the only place we could find without a picture-menu, and its little garden was a pleasant enough setting, but the food was only OK.
Easily the best part of the stay at Poggio Caiar was the local Pizza restaurant (in Gaon): the pizzas were excellent (as was the gnocchi), the staff were plentiful, friendly and attentive (all family, I believe,) and the beer and wine just right. On the first night we walked the 500m up the hill, and passed a house that had a plaque proclaiming that it had been occupied by Enrico Fermi (of Nuclear Physics fame.) On the second night we drove straight there from Malcesine, as we were running a bit late.
A word of warning: when approaching Gaon or Caiar from the Riva-del-Garda end of the lake, and accepting the advice of a Garmin GPS, do put in a way-point near the town of Garda: the extra distance will cost hardly anything in speed and avoid a very amusing (to the driver) mountain pass of single-lane (but two-way) roads clinging to the rocky cliff, full of first-gear corners and similar diversions. Technically a shorter route, but not to be taken in rain or at night or if it can be otherwise avoided, really…
Malcesine itself was a gorgeous little coastal village, full of twisty cobble stone streets, and Cath’s idea of catching the ferry across the lake to Limone was an excellent one, as the trip afforded a different view of both towns, and we had previously only driven past Limone on our way around lake Garda. It too was a beautiful, twisty village, perhaps a little more touristic than Malcesine, but there wasn’t much in it.
On Monday the 8th we packed up and drove to lunch at Del Belbo Da Bardon, just outside San Marzano di Oliveto, which was fabulous, but to which we were a little late because the drive from Garda was a bit more than the 3.5 hours we had given it. (Another GPS tip for eager travellers: always check the map of the route! It turns out that the street that the restaurant was on was very similarly named to one in the middle of a disused industrial estate in the middle of Asti. We were in plenty of time until we made that discovery.) From there we headed to our B&B (Sotto la Luna Bruna) in deepening dusk and fog, and ultimately got lost, the Garmin seemingly unable to locate it. Eventually we stopped and rang, and discovered that we had passed it in the fog some considerable way back down the mountain. Sotto la Luna Bruna, it’s proprietors Bernadetta and Paolo and Piemonte have been a genuine highlight of the trip, but will have to be a story for another night: time for bed now…