The Italian job done, pt 2

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Sep 29, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We are not far from the Swiss border but since we drove round lake Como the dramatic mountain ranges make it feel like we are finally on our way to pastures new, we actually figured out during the last month we will have crossed the Italian border eight times.. its defiantly time to move on, so I will quickly try to summarize our last few days before we hit the final crossing.

Since we left Slovenia our exhaust has developed a hole, not a major problem but a noisy one, we have had the usual problems getting it fixed, the main Italian way to fob you off is send you to the next garage, and then the next and the next until you probably end up back where you started. You get the picture they really don't want to know, it could probably be fixed by welding but as with France and Spain most garages don't actually get there hands dirty these days and other than shiny clean spanners don't have much else in the way of tools.

Once we had dropped Dad off we headed along the coast and then into Tuscany, the region has a deserved reputation and driving the country roads was easy on the eye. We thought we would stop at a lake to check out the free camping situation further north, lake Bolsena. Italy does lakes well, as with the north most of the bigger lakes are larger than some of the small countries in Europe, they are truly massive and seriously make you think they should rename the English Lake District to the small pond area, beware puddles!

It was getting seriously hot now, the days were quickly developing a pattern of hot muggy weather during the day and heavy thunderstorms during the night, the pressure really is building up massively up there, we haven't heard thunder like this since we were last in tropical climates. I know we want to eventually live in a hotter place but its hard to get any air living in the van and we just had to keep moving on just to be able to breath and stay a bit cooler.

We did the touristy thing and visited the usual sights of Pisa, Florence and Siena. We ticked all the boxes in the tourist spots in the region but flatly refused to stand next to the leaning tower with a photo like we were leaning on it, people were actually lined up to take the same shot again and again, or trying to punch it down like one Aussie was, never mind they all can't be nuts?

Free camping was getting much easier and safer in the north and if there weren't many in our book we found good safe neighborhoods where you could lay low for the night. We found such a place in Florence and with only a leisurely bike ride right to the center it seemed a great stop. When we got back from a long afternoon sight seeing we didn't really have the energy to move on so hoped we could just lay low, curtains drawn and tea on the go we settled in. Then all hell broke loose, a car sped onto the estate and crashed into a poor lad sitting on his parked motorbike two cars away from us. If we were going to get noticed it would be now, the police came, the residences came the ambulance was parked behind us, all this was going on in typical Italian high, draw out drama with up peeping out of the curtains praying not to be noticed! Amazingly they didn't even seem to care we were there so after the entertainment we knew we would probably be ok.

Since we have had no luck getting anyone to look at the van we have had to plan a route that will maximise our chance of finding a mechanic and not putting to much pressure on the engine, which when your surrounded by the Alps is a challenge in itself! We eventually decided to head towards Milan if we couldn't find a mechanic there then we had probably better try another country.. They couldn't as you probably have gathered, though special thanks go to a VW dealer in Milan who bent over backwards to try and get us the part as he could not weld it, I take it back not all dealers are bad but apparently there was no stock of the part in the whole of Italy and it would take five days to import.

As much as Italy has grown on us another week here may finish us off, if they could have done it we may have visited Milan, but as they couldn't we decided the the Italian lakes and the Swiss countryside may at least have a calming effect after Italy's built up towns and cities. So thats the plan and why we are here in Como with what looks the easiest route through the Alps to the vans original home in Austria. If they can't help us there we may as well head back!
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