For the last 6 days we have been driving around Italy in a cute little Peugeot Rental car! To say the freedom of not adhering to train schedules and being able to spread our gear out is nice is an understatement! To passers by our car looks like 2 reasonably well off hobos live in it... To us it's a tiny mobile home; with clothes drying on the back seat, sandwich ingredients in cold bags and multiple miscellaneous items strewn throughout the car... We are in backpackers heaven!
Leaving Venice Monday with the hire car and heading to lake Garda was a fast, high pressure lesson in Italian driving. The driving culture of Western Australia is not welcome in Italy; here we merge properly and confidently at top speed, move into the right hand lane AS SOON AS you have overtaken a vehicle and rarely drive under 130kph. It is both terrifying and refreshing. Traffic bottle necks are rare and you are forced to get confident immediately with how the other side do it. At the same time drivers drift between lanes on motorways, talegate within seconds of pulling out and use a lot of hand signals and profanities at you if a truck drifts in front of you at over 150kph and you don't try to squeeze between it and a concrete tunnel.
Our first stop in our freedom week is at lake Garda, a quick serene lunch break on the way to Turin (the home of the 2006 Winter Olympics)!
From Turin we headed north to Gran Parsdiso National Park where we "camped" in a caravan in the valley of the Italian alps at Rhemes Saint George. We thought the views at our camp site were pretty great; sitting drinking wine by a river and looking up at mountains but after driving 10 mins further into the mountains and hiking a couple hours deeper into the national Forrest we were absolutely blown away by the scenery. Snow capped, breath taking rolling mountains with waterfalls and streams flowing through them surrounded us at every turn. Marmots running and playing in the grass and a single overnight hut / restaurant at the peak made this one of the most remarkable and unspoilt places I have ever visited. For anyone traveling to the North of Italy or who has a penchant for hiking and mountains this place is not to be missed!!
Leaving GPNP (not easily) we headed for Cinque Terre where we were greeted with a very different kind of views that will take your breath away. After doing to Cinque Terre hike trail (not all the way as some was closed due to rock falls) we then headed for Rome (via Pisa) to do the required tourist spots. Interestingly, loving the car so much in the countryside, returning it in Rome was a relief! Steve (our much loved GPS) sent us up one way streets (the wrong way), gave us mis leading suggestions and sometimes decided to let us choose the way when it was chaotic and we were in peak hour traffic in cities! Something about the structure of a train line is immensely settling right now :)
A few Vinod tonight and we are back to the train tomorrow with a ride down to Bari, a sea side town on the coast of Italy, in the hopes that we can get a ferry ride over to Greece.... Fingers crossed xo