06 – italia here we come

The next morning we continued south until we encountered the Swiss Border Crossing. Here we purchased the required “Vignettes” or toll stickers, to travel on the Swiss motorway system. Approaching Basel we followed the curious subterranean route below the city streets. Before long the motorway took on the most scenic of routes as we passed steep, pine-clad slopes, fresh green pasture lands, charming chocolate box villages and farms, funicular railways, spectacular gorges, cascading water torrents and boulder strewn steams.

The landscape steadily became more wild and rugged and at Lake Lucerne the road skirted its beautiful shoreline treating us to some breathtaking vistas of the snow capped peaks of the majestic Swiss Alps.

#

As we continued to climb steadily the weather once again turned for the worse, as we drove through slippery sleet and rain before entering the renowned  San Gotthard Tunnel which leads through the bowels of the mountain that bears the same name. I was more than relieved to eventually see the light of day at the end of its mammoth 10 mile course, yet we still had to negotiate a succession of “Swiss cheese burrows” before triumphantly emerging into the uplifting sunshine of south eastern Switzerland. From here we slowly descended to Lake Lugano with its picturesque backdrop of formidable mountains before finally crossing the frontier at Chiasso into the Lombardy territory of “Bella Italia”.

We realised that we had been somewhat over optimistic with our planned schedule, and decided to rest up for the night somewhere near Lake Como. Thus we faced the challenge of finding a campsite at short notice, so we slowly convoyed into Como’s city centre, during what turned out to be the busy afternoon rush. We needed to find somewhere to pull off the road, so impulsively Paul turned sharply into a car park only to find that it was far too small to swing a cat, let alone manoeuvre a sluggish caravan. This resulted in the caravan taking a slight knock, but thankfully did not result in any serious damage.  

I decided it would be a good deal safer to proceed on foot and eventually located the tourist office and was given directions to a small campsite on the western side of the lake that was open that early in the season. We crawled along the road edging our way precariously through charming but very narrow, winding streets of pretty lakeside villages, we all breathed in deeply, just wishing that the caravan was just a few centimetres less broad. We eventually limped, mercifully unscathed, into the grounds of the small campsite, where we unanimously elected to stay for at least two nights, before venturing further south.

The next day the weather was crisp but clear and we spent a very agreeable time exploring the picturesque shores on the western side of the lake, adorned with opulent villas and ornate gardens embellished with pavilions, statues, grottoes, cascades, topiary hedges, spring blooming azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, mimosas, flowering fruit trees and trailing wisteria. We drove to the northern reaches of the lake, and enjoyed the splendid views of the lake ringed with snowy alpine peaks.

We stopped to investigate the port of Gravedona and particularly liked the resort of Menaggio with its tree lined waterfront promenade, and its eye-catchingly cheerful flower beds.

From here we admired the views across the shimmering lake and watched the various ferries traversing back and forth.

# public domain photo 

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Chapter 7  –  onwards to florence

 

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