20 JUN 2019: Our motorhome adventure in Italy was rapidly drawing to an end. So, with just a few days on the rental left, would we have enough time for a quick visit to Verona and a glimpse of the Italian Lakes before we were due for a family get-together in Milan and the relinquishing of our motorhome in Monza? Without spoiling our days too much by rushing we would try.

‘Fair Verona’ is worth far longer than a visit of a few hours, but even those hours were worthwhile for a glimpse of the beautiful architecture and the elegant piazzas surrounded by palaces, guild houses and, of course, inviting patios and restaurants. Should we stop in one for lunch? We decided not to, and found a pretty place to park by the River Adige for a homemade sandwich.

With Verona high on our list ‘for another visit’ we drove the short distance on to Lake Garda. How beautiful it is: sparkling waters, sumptuous villas and distant snow-capped mountains. Even the campsite was lovely, though already busy as obviously this is a very popular spot. The sites are on terraces, so each has a westward lake view and even an Italianate statue - perhaps a Venus, perhaps merely an ornate urn - at each grassy ‘pitch’. Steps are set at intervals for access to the walkway along the shore.

This is deluxe motorhome camping. Fortunately there was room for us and we enjoyed our late afternoon and evening here which included a stroll and a glass of wine while watching a gorgeous sunset.

The following day we were on the road again to drive around the lake. The scenery is splendid at every twist and turn. No wonder the Italian lakes are so loved. We stopped for a typical Italian lunch in Trento, completed the circuit around the lake and then joined the motorway into Milan.

My husband’s niece lives hereabouts. (She is the daughter of my husband’s English sister and her late Italian husband.) For many years we have known that niece and family live ‘near Milan’. With modern electronic communications we often do not know people’s actual addresses these days, so it wasn’t until we were told to head to Montevecchia, near Lecco, about an hour’s drive north-east of Milan, that we began to suspect that our destination was not a mere Milanese suburb! Far from it. As the land began to rise, as the road started twisting and turning and as the scenery became lovelier and lovelier we realized we were heading somewhere special.

Montevecchia does not appear on our oversize Michelin map of Italy. It is a tiny, sleepy hilltop village with vast and wonderful views in all directions. Yet at the foot of the hill there’s a train station with quick connections back into Milan that we utilized on the day following our happy family reunion.

We had been in Italy for two months and had only one day left for Milan. Not good planning, but we were determined to make the most of our day. A good Italian coffee in the elegant Galleria Vitterio Emanuele, right beside the towering cathedral, was a good place to start since Milan is such a fashionable city and people-watching is part of the experience. Thus fortified (and impressed by the elegant people we had seen) we were ready for the cathedral, known as the Duomo.

Our guidebook had told us that this is the third largest church in Europe (after St. Peter’s in Rome and Seville Cathedral) so we were somewhat prepared for its magnificent soaring architecture and over-sized art works. The church holds 40,000 worshippers, so even the large tourist groups seem much diminished and there’s plenty of space to enjoy the thousands of marble statues and many stained glass windows. One of the highlights is access to the roof with its many marble spires, statues and glorious views over the Piazza del Duomo and the city.

Beside the Duomo stands the impressive Royal Palace (Palacio Reale) which has served as home to rulers and governments since the middle ages. Today it is a major cultural centre with works of art adorning its many magnificent halls and courtyards. We had already spied banners advertising the current exhibition entitled Manet and Paris and couldn’t resist, though of course an Italian artist and an Italian city would have been more appropriate for us visitors. But it was, of course, lovely.

Our final hours were spent just walking through this handsome city, admiring the facades of palaces and other fine buildings, including the famous La Scala Theatre. The hours had flown by and soon we were back in Milan station - which by now was becoming familiar to us - and our train journey back to Montevecchia and another typical Italian dinner with our family.

We were busy the following morning with last-minute packing and the tidying-up of our motorhome before it was due to be delivered back to the depot in Monza, just a short drive away. Such activity prevented us from pondering over how sad we were our journey was at an end; but we were quiet, both of us wondering if we would ever again spend two months in Italy.

Then it was back to Milan station and the train to Paris and then on to Antwerp, where our boat was awaiting us. It was a day experienced quite often by European travellers: breakfast in Italy, lunch in France and dinner in Belgium. There’s a fine restaurant right in the Gare de Lyon in Paris, but it was quiet (and expensive) so in the couple of hours available to us as we awaited our connecting train we crossed the forecourt of the station and enjoyed lunch at the bar at Aux Cadrans, a busy restaurant where the friendly staff are used to storing travellers’ luggage.

Our Italian odyssey was over, but later that day we were happy to be back on our floating home in Antwerp’s marina and popping out to our favourite pizzeria for a late supper. We had had a wonderful time in Italy, but more adventures awaiting us as we prepared for the next phase of our travels through Belgium and back into the Netherlands.

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Ann Wallace

Ann Wallace is living a writer's dream currently writing of her adventures as she and her husband sail their boat around Europe.

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