A Road Trip to Italy – May 2024 (Month 122)

There is very little to report this month outside of the trip that Klaus and I took to Italy. At the very end of May I went to England with Gudula and Frank but I will report on that next month. So this month’s report is all about Italy – and cakes!

Two years ago Klaus and I did a road trip in Zuzanna the BMW Z3 to Italy, which included staying two nights in Riva del Garda over my birthday.

This year we were meant to be flying to Canada for Klaus’s birthday in May but we had cancelled this as Lara was no longer in Canada and neither of us were particularly keen to travel all the far. We had non-refundable flights so had to suck up that particular expense (we should get the tax back each, eventually) but decided instead to return to Riva del Garda and also to have a couple of days in Venice.

The first day of our Road Trip would be Klaus’s 57th birthday.

Road Trip to Italy

Saturday 11 May – Kempen to Geislingen

Happy Birthday to Klaus! He was awoken by me singing happy birthday to him which is as traumatic as you can imagine.W

Klaus loaded up Zuzanna with our luggage whilst I emptied the bins and prepared the flat for 9 days without us. Poppy would be looked after by Gudula and Frank, of course.

We set off in the sunshine, with Nessie the Loch Ness Monster still in prime position on the dashboard,

We kept the roof up as we were doing motorway driving to start with and we headed to Mannheim to see Klaus’s father, who had made us some soup with Dampfnudel for lunch. He also had a bottle of wine for Klaus but we decided not to take it with us in Zuzy (not much room) but as he was seeing Lara later that day (she was holidaying locally) he would get her to take it home for us, which was a better option.

After an hour or so with him we carried on as we had another two hours’ driving that day – it was a long stretch today as we were heading to Geislingen.

We were stuck for half an hour in the obligatory traffic jam that Klaus said he used to always be stuck in when he lived in the area, and that was a 30 minute delay, but we arrived in Geislingen an der Steige at 16:30 so went straight to visit Oliver and Iris, Klaus’s friends from college days.

Iris had bought a cake for Klaus as it was his birthday – however, she said that the only cake choices in the bakery were for Mother’s Day so Klaus had a Mother’s Day cake (and some pastries).

We had a good chinwag with them and caught up on some of their news, They had booked us a table at a favourite Italian restaurant for later, so Klaus and I headed off to check in to the hotel and freshen up.

The restaurant was a 10 minute walk from our hotel so we went there on foot and sat out on a nice terrace with views to the hills around Geislingen.

Dessert was Tiramisu of course!

The meal was good although the service was a bit patchy. Oliver and Iris knew this, but the price is very fair and we had a good evening so it was worth eating there. We said goodbye to them and walked back to our hotel.

Sunday 12 May – Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck

The next morning I enjoyed my treat of a buffet breakfast (Klaus and I don’t normally eat breakfast) and then we got on the road again.

We had a three hour drive to Innsbruck from Geislingen on the motorways, or four hours on A roads. We decided to go for the A roads so we could have the roof down, and this turned out to be a great decision as it was a lovely route.

We decided to stop for cake at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I knew I had been there before, Klaus wasn’t too sure if he had been there. When we got there it seemed familiar – and Apple Photos showed us pictures of our last visit, as we had been there with Lara as a day trip when we were staying in Saalfelden in Austria.

We chose a different café for our cake though. We both had cheesecake.

We then had a bit of a walk around Garmisch.

We needed just under an hour from Garmisch to Innsbruck and just before we left Germany we needed to fill up. Petrol prices near the border were really high, 2,07 € per litre, so Klaus spent 78 € on topping up Zuzy after 420km.

We crossed into Austria and immediately saw that fuel was much cheaper, around 1,60 € per litre, so were annoyed that we hadn’t pre-checked this. Oh well, we would know for next time!

Our route now included going over a pass. I was driving at the time and had to concentrate a fair bit on the downhill of the pass which was 5km at 14%. It didn’t help that I had a massive German Audi right close to my rear bumper the whole time. What that meant was I didn’t pay enough attention to the SatNav and missed our turn-off just before Innsbruck (we needed to avoid the toll section of the road) but we were able to get around this problem with a bit of map route finding.

We arrived in Innsbruck and the route to Hotel Zach was different to last time as the roadworks had now moved. Apple Maps was not up to date and tried to send us the wrong way down a one way street but we followed the official diversions signs and got to the hotel where we offloaded our luggage and then Klaus drove to the underground car park.

After chilling out we went in search of something to eat. I fancied an ice cream as it was reasonably warm and we found one. There were no tables free so we had to eat on the move which is less enjoyable.

We had a bit of a walk around but as it was Sunday the shops were shut (except for food shops).

We had pre-booked our evening meal at “Die Pizzerei” which is a restaurant we had eaten at during our last visit. We had another good meal there, and finished off with Chocolate Brownie and ice cream.

We had done a lot of travelling over the last two days but Zuzanna was working perfectly and I was better able to tolerate her seats for long distances (I have been using an extra memory foam seat cushion for the last year – it makes a huge difference!)

Monday 13 May – Riva del Garda

We were woken again by the building works outside the hotel which had also woken us when we stayed there last November. We got ourselves showered and dressed and headed down to breakfast which was once again very good (I had a nice croissant!)

We were ready to leave by 09:00 and so Klaus went to get the car from the underground garage and I waited with the luggage. As there were building works going on around the garage he had an incredibly convoluted route to get out but he eventually arrived, was able to park outside the hotel and we loaded up.

Our route today would be over the Brenner Pass and Klaus had prepaid for the Austrian bit of the Pass; the Italian bit is paid after you leave the motorway. However, we did not have a Vignette for certain toll roads in Austria as we could avoid those – but heading for the Brenner this was a bit difficult as several approach roads need the Vignette. Klaus had set up the route in Apple Maps to avoid these roads but it had recalculated because of his weird route getting out of the parking garage and he thought we might be being directed to toll roads. In the end he set the SatNav to avoid Tolls and Motorways and headed to a petrol station just before the start of the Brenner section, from where we could join the road we had paid for. And at this point the copilot (me) could reprogram the route and tell it that it didn’t have to avoid motorways and toll roads.

All worked OK and we were on the access road to the Brenner Pass. As soon as Zuzy starts travelling at speed I find the noisy rumble from the back tyres starts to annoy my hearing so I put my AirPods in, with noise cancellation switched on. This helps a lot.

When using the AirPods I put the case in a little tray area next to the handbrake. When I tried to put the case in that tray there was no space – because the tray was full with the special electronic key for the parking garage at Hotel Zach! Unfortunately we had forgotten to return it to the hotel.

We made a quick decision to drive back to the hotel and I got my SatNav to work out a route, which was only 18 minutes back to the hotel so not too bad. However, we had passed some of the cameras for the Brenner Pass so Klaus went to a cashier and told them we had to return and had our prepaid 11€ ticket for the day already been used? The chap said he would reset it.

So we drove back to the hotel, I dropped off the garage key and we headed back again, an hour later than the first time, to join the road to the Brenner Pass which avoided the toll-required bit which needs a Vignette. We made it! We checked with the cashier when we joined the toll section and she said that our previous journey had indeed been cancelled so our prepaid 11€ was still valid. Phew.

It was raining quite heavily and I found myself feeling a little bit non-relaxed with the journey, which was weird as the road was wide and straight. As the weather eased off I felt a bit better but it does seem annoying that I am getting more and more anxious as a passenger.

Nevertheless we crossed over into Italy and then followed the motorway towards Trentino, including quite a lot of tunnels.

Klaus and I swapped driving after two hours and I did the final hour, which involved me taking a wrong turn 10 minutes out of Riva (a complex roundabout where Riva del Garda was signposted on a road that Apple Maps didn’t actually want us to take). In the end that only added 5 minutes to the journey so it wasn’t too bad.

Our accommodation is within the pedestrian part of Riva but cars are allowed if pre-booked, which had been done for us, so we could drop off the luggage. You find yourself driving through narrow streets, through various stone gates and dodging the tourists. We missed a really narrow turning but were able to find our way to the apartment and the host Alessandro was able to let us in to the apartment, show us everything and then he and Klaus drove to the underground car park (a different one to last time). I unpacked my things and had a cuppa whilst Klaus and Alessandro were walking back.

Once Klaus arrived we decided it was time for lunch cake (it was actually nearly 3pm so that is a very late lunch cake) and we wandered around a bit not sure what we wanted to eat and then Klaus’s cake radar kicked in and he found us a very nice café where they had a good selection of German-style cakes. I enjoyed a pistachio cake, Klaus had a Tiramisu cake.

We then walked to the local supermarket and got some milk so I could have a cuppa.

We decided to go out for a bit of a walk and an explore and so headed first to the lake.

Photo by Klaus

We had signed up for the “Trentino Card” which gives special prices and a few freebies, one of which was a funicular railway up the mountain beside Riva so we decided to give that a go (it had been closed on our last visit). The view from the ruined fort at the top was good!

Photo by Klaus

Rather than taking the Funicular down we walked instead, a nice hairpinny path which took us down to Riva in just over 1km walking. On the way down we had discussed our evening meal and decided we would buy a salad from the supermarket and eat that, rather than eating out. So we headed to the supermarket and got salads, ciabatta, butter and chocolate. Oh, and a bottle of wine for Klaus!

After our evening meal we decided to go out for another walk around Riva and ended up at an ice cream café beside the harbour.

We were certainly eating well on this holiday! And the views weren’t bad either!

Tuesday 14 May – Riva del Garda

We both slept really well but got up fairly early as we had decided last night to go on a boat trip the next morning. We had previously done this trip (hop on, hop off from Riva to Torbole, Limone and Malcesine and back to Riva) and wanted to do it again. Last time we stopped for a very short time at Limone and didn’t get off at Malcesine as we had a meal booked and had to get back. We had booked a meal at the same restaurant (Alt Volt) at 19:00 so wanted to ensure this time we got on the boat much earlier.

So we were ready and waiting for the boat at 8:50, dressed for warm weather (the forecast was for sun with possibly a bit of rain early afternoon). We had decided to do the boat trip today as there were lots of severe weather warnings for the next day (thunderstorms and mega rain) so we knew we would probably have to stay close to the apartment to dodge the rain showers!

The boat was reasonably full with lots of people kitted out in hiking gear (boots, rucksacks, walking poles). Klaus and I thought we might do the walk back from Torbole on the return leg of the trip if we felt like it and had enough time, but in the end we got a boat which didn’t stop at Torbole on the way back so that didn’t happen.

The boat headed off south away from Riva, this was the view back at this lovely town.

The boat stopped briefly at Torbole and then continued on to Limone, where we got off.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

Last time we had about an hour in Limone and had just walked up the hill a bit and then back.

This time we did a bit of window shopping and exploring of the narrow streets – there was a TukTuk driving around, also a golf cart (for disabled people?) and we saw a couple of Fiat Panda 4x4s there too – these were probably the only vehicles that would fit the narrow streets!

We then stopped for a coffee and tea by the lakeside. Klaus had a croissant but I decided not to eat anything, but my English Breakfast tea was drinkable!

Although it had been warm and sunny earlier the weather was slightly changing, there were clouds over the mountains the other side of the lake.

Limone was very lovely and I enjoyed nosing around some of the jewellery shops but I managed not to buy anything

Photo by Klaus

After an hour and a half in Limone the next boat arrived which would take us to Malcesine. This was a former car ferry so it had a huge open bottom deck with ramp and then several storeys of seating area for passengers. It was fast too.

We arrived in Malcesine and I fancied lunch so we walked around a bit to suss out the options. It was another pretty town with narrow streets and quaint little shops.

Photo by Klaus

We found an Italian restaurant which had some good value salads and had a salad each, some pizza bread, a Diet Coke and some water, and a coffee, but somehow that added up to 38 €. As the salads came to 19,50 € together I am not sure where the other almost 20 € on the bill came from, but I only realised this later.

Klaus was continuing his usual holiday entertainment of looking at shoes and rather than sneakers he had found some rather nice handmade Italian shoes in different colour leathers. He tried some on, looked at some others, but wasn’t quite in the mood for shoe shopping so we left Malcesine an hour and a half later empty handed.

As mentioned above, the boat we took went back to Riva via Limone but didn’t stop at Torbole so within an hour we were back at Riva. I enjoyed a cuppa back in the apartment and then went out for a bit of a walk around Riva on my own (Klaus was chilling). I had been considering getting a summer leather jacket for a while and there were a couple of leather jacket shops just round the corner from our apartment. I went to have a look at what they stocked and was subjected to the full force of Italian salesman telling me what a lovely figure I have, just right for these jackets, and I shouldn’t worry that Italian sizing means I need a size 52 rather than my normal German size of 40 – that’s quite a difference! Anyway, I found a jacket that I liked but Klaus and I had decided we would use the rainy Wednesday to do some shopping in Riva so I told the chaps I wouldn’t buy today (this was in two different shops). Both of them then reduced the price of the jacket I had been looking at “as today is a slow day for sales”, so it seems some haggling will be involved tomorrow.

I had a good walk around and then came back to the flat where Klaus was still chilling. We had a couple of hours before getting dressed up to go out to the meal. I wore a nice pink dress that I had recently purchased, and when we arrived at the restaurant Alt Volt the decor was all red and white so I clashed wonderfully!

We had yet another excellent meal there. As an appetiser we started with Beef Tartar which is of course raw beef mixed with onion. Klaus said “have you ever eaten raw meat before” (as it is a bit of a German speciality) but I had indeed tried Mett before (raw pork mince) so it was less of a shock than he had perhaps expected!

On the other table were a German couple who chatted with us a bit. The sommelier spoke to them in English rather than German and I got the impression the chap didn’t understand it so well. Klaus did and ordered an aperitif wine and then a red wine for the starter pasta.

After some incredibly tasty warm bread with a garlic spread we had a pasta starter each and then my main course was duck leg in a Grand Marnier sauce (very dark!) and Klaus had braised beef. Dessert was an apricot tart with vanilla sauce for me and Klaus had mini chocolate wafers with ice cream inside. They then gave us some free brownies.

Klaus had planned to try a different wine with the main course but the sommelier didn’t arrive to offer him anything so he missed out. However, he did have a special Grappa afterwards (Grappa Ambrosia) which he said was really wonderful. We also had tea and coffee (of course!)

Once again it was a really tasty meal and we can heartily recommend Restaurant Al Volt in Riva del Garda. The price was very fair for such good food.

We walked back as the light was fading. There was no sign yet of the rain.

Photo by Klaus

Wednesday 15 May – Riva del Garda

Having not heard any rain before falling asleep, the next morning there was definitely rain audible! Forecast was for 60mm of rain to fall and it would set in for the whole day, so we were prepared.

We had a very lazy start to the day, just chilling out and watching the rain fall past our windows.

I am really impressed how beautiful many of the buildings are here. Looking out of the window of our apartment at the building across the way there is really pretty artwork between the windows and also on the underside of the roof overhang. And this is a four storey building.

Today’s plan was for me to look for a leather jacket. I had checked out the two main shops the day before and had found a black jacket I liked. This time I had Klaus along and of course things didn’t work out as we expected.

I tried on a couple of black leather jackets but Klaus didn’t think black was a good idea (too boring!) so we tried on some other colours. Dark red seemed good but the shop we were in didn’t have quite the right shape/style for me in red.

So we went to the next shop which was two doors down and there struck gold with a really nice lightweight red leather jacket. The chap said they usually retail for 390 € but he would give a special offer of 290€. I was sure yesterday that the chap in the other shop had said 180€ for the black jacket that I quite liked so I said to this chaps that 290€ was way too much. He asked me what I expected and I said 200€ which was of course not possible. He then asked if I had cash and I said yes. He then suggested that Klaus also got a jacket and then we could have a special price. So Klaus tried on a couple, and two in dark brown seemed good options, but the problem is that he has two Barbours and they seem to fulfil the same use case. He wasn’t sure and said to the chap he needed to think about it. The chap said we could have both jackets for 450€, with mine at 200€ and Klaus’s at 250€. Klaus said again he wasn’t sure, the chap thought it was all about price but we said no, it was about whether Klaus would have enough reasons to wear it.

I said to the chap that I would be happy to buy the red one for 200€ and Klaus could come back later if he decided to go ahead with a jacket himself, and the chap said yes! So I handed over 200€ in cash and walked out with a rather lovely Nappa leather summer jacket.

We took the jacket back to our apartment and then went out to the supermarket to get some lunch (a salad for Klaus and pumpkin soup for me). Klaus had to finish off his wine from the other night too.

In the afternoon I had a bit of a wander around but not much as it was raining! Klaus and I then went off to have some cake at the bakery we had found two days ago.

My cake (the strawberry one above) was OK but the apparent cream on the side was fairly firm icing. It had a layer of vanilla sauce in the middle. Klaus’s strudel was OK.

We chilled out for the rest of the afternoon as the rain was continuing and it wasn’t very appealing being outside in the rain!

We decided to go to a pizzeria that our landlord had recommended for the evening meal so set out to the restaurant which has a view over the lake – a view of rain mostly.

We weren’t the only interested guests though – these two tried twice to get a table but were shooed out.

We enjoyed pizzas with dessert and Klaus had a wine and a grappa and a coffee.

The next day we would be travelling to Venice and we pre-planned the route we would take (without tolls but not going over any scary passes). Due to the problems with Apple Maps recalculating when leaving Innsbruck I plotted a fixed route which we then loaded into GPSTracker which is a special piece of software I had for the Scotland Tour last year – this gives you the route to follow and doesn’t recalculate if you go off track. It doesn’t know about traffic jams but is a useful backup.

Klaus had prebooked parking at Terminal Fusina on the mainland near Venice and we would get a ferry from there to the island where we would hopefully be able to walk easily to where we were staying. The forecast was rain all day again but the following day looked to be fair.

Because of having to carry our luggage on the ferry and then walking in Venice we decided to pack a smaller rucksack with what we needed for the two days, rather than taking all our luggage. We could leave our bags with the rest of the stuff in the car. This involved having only one pair of shoes for the two days which at the time didn’t seem like an issue but future events showed this was unwise.

We have had a very nice time in Riva but today’s rain did rather cut short the exploring – but we have still managed to do a lot while we were here. It’s always worth a visit.

Thursday 16 May – Venice

We decided to go out for breakfast as we were ready very early. We went to a place just up the road from where we were staying and ordered filled croissant. I had expected mine to be the one filled with vanilla cream, but in fact it was filled with Nutella, but still tasty.

After this we walked to the underground parking garage to collect Zuzanna and then drove through the pedestrian precinct again to the apartment so we could pick up all our luggage.

As we would be taking the ferry to Venice and then walking to our apartment, we didn’t want to bring all our luggage with us, so we packed a rucksack with enough clothes for two days and gadgets, charging cables and toiletries. With two iPad pros, one iPad mini, a battery pack and various chargers we had quite a lot of weight of gadgets but that’s how we roll! So we had our normal bags in the car boot and then this rucksack ready for us to take when we got to Venice.

Klaus started off driving today and we had planned a route which didn’t involve any too scary roads but also avoided tolls. This would mean the journey time would be about 3 1/2 hours which was fine. It was actually a very scenic route, we drove up to Trento and then followed a winding twisting road that went through the mountains and through several tunnels heading towards Padua.

From there we found ourselves in the flatlands at Grappa and the road surfaces were very poor, with lots of potholes and heavy grooves in the road surface which tend to make the car want to drive in them. That is the disadvantage of the big fat wheels in the Z3. The speed limit was 50 km an hour for this area so it felt quite slow.

We were making our way towards Venice and had pre-booked parking at the ferry terminal at Fusina. We had arrived an hour before our booking but that seemed not to be a problem and we checked in, bought our ferry tickets and had an ice cream while we were waiting for the ferry as we had missed it by a few minutes, and it ran hourly.

It had been a gloomy weather forecast for today, but actually most of the time it was okay, we didn’t have much rain, but we could see dark clouds as we started approaching Venice by ferry.

Ferry almost empty

It was just a 10 minute walk from where the ferry alighted to our holiday apartment which was very pleasant. It was on two floors but the main bedroom and bathroom were downstairs so we don’t see much reason to go upstairs. What is weird is the sofa is upstairs in the second bedroom, you have to sit on a kitchen chair to watch the television in the downstairs. Which we are unlikely to do.

We had a very tasty meal and as we were finishing (I had a cheesecake) the rain began.

My weather forecast app said there would be a lot of rain for over an hour, so I decided to go back to the flat in the rain. Klaus wanted to wait for the rain to stop, which my app said would be in over an hour’s time. So I left him standing under an awning outside the restaurant and headed on the 7 minute walk back to the apartment.

This photo was taken at the beginning of the rain.

However, it started raining stair rods and very soon the puddles were getting very deep. Not only that, but it was hard to read my phone screen to work out where I should walk as the rain on the screen made things not work properly.

And then I found my way down a small alleyway barred by a waterfall coming off the roof into that alley. I sheltered under an awning trying to dry off my phone so I could plot an alternative route – eventually I worked something out.

By now the water was ankle deep along the paths so my feet were sopping wet. But I arrived at the flat with soaking jeans, socks and bag – my waterproof jacket had kept my top half ok. So I hung up my clothes and later tackled them with a hairdryer.

It was truly rain of biblical proportions! After another half an hour Klaus decided to venture back as the rain had subsided a bit (the restaurant had given him a free espresso whilst he was waiting). He ended up taking off his shoes and socks and walking barefoot home! The waterfall was still there so he also had to plot an alternative route back.

About five minutes after he got back the rain started again so he picked the right time to come back. Thunder and lightning had been very impressive, but what was most noteworthy was how much standing water there was so quickly.

I haven’t seen much yet of Venice but am looking forward to the next day which should be sunny (according to the weather forecast). Venice isn’t mega busy yet so it’s easy enough to get around.

Friday 17 May – Venice

What a difference a day makes! Today was sunshine and not a drop of rain.

Last night when I plugged my phone in to charge it said it couldn’t charge as there was water in the Lightning socket. I had to just let it dry naturally (no hairdryer or bowl of rice) and this could take up to 24 hours. This was bad news as it was on 40% charge so that wouldn’t last that long. So I turned the power completely off.

I woke at 4am for the loo and tried the charging again – still wet. I shook the phone a little and propped it up, standing it on some kitchen towel. I googled to see if there were mobile phone accessory shops locally (there were) as if it was still not functional in the morning I planned to buy a Qi charger which would work (I have three at home so it would be a rather unnecessary extra item). The good news was, at 7am when I woke again and tried it, it worked! The socket was dry now. Phew.

Today we had the whole day just to hang out in Venice. We started with a visit to a café for breakfast. We had a brioche each and of course a coffee/tea.

Klaus had pre planned a walking route for us which we followed as best we could,(it’s a bit tricky to get a good GPS signal on our watches in the narrow alleyways). We saw lots of sights and noticed more tourists as we approached St Mark’s square.

We had stopped at a mini supermarket to buy some sun cream for Klaus as we didn’t have any with us and it was becoming quite bright.

We walked through St Mark’s Square. As we approached we were in an area with loads of really posh shops, and it was getting very busy.

We made our way out the other side and walked to the Rialto bridge. It was so busy we decided not to cross it and instead took a water bus back to the area near our apartment. We stopped for a panini lunch in a little café and then realised that our water bus tickets were still valid for another half hour. Klaus had wanted to visit the Jewish ghetto which was a fair way away so we decided to get the bus back in that direction, which we duly did.

we sat on a bench in the Ghetto which was much quieter than the streets outside – and also had three police/army chaps there.

We then walked on and made our way slowly back.

The following photos are all images of Venice taken by Klaus.

In the evening we went out for a meal to Osteria Fanal del Codega. We had excellent food, with three courses we didn’t have room for dessert, shock horror! They gave us a grappa each afterwards so Klaus had both, having enjoyed two glasses of wine and a martini, so I was quite impressed he was able to find the way back to the apartment without consulting Mr Google.

I had enjoyed our day and a half in Venice but it was very touristy – and this in May so long before the busiest season. I walked 15.92km today it total, not bad in still slightly moist trainers!

Saturday 18 May – Merano

Klaus and I both woke up fairly early. As we had no breakfast with our apartment we decided to gather all our luggage and take it to a café near the ferry station so we could jump on the ferry after a coffee. In fact we arrived at the Zattere Ferry Stop ten minutes before it was due to leave so decided to get straight on the ferry and have the coffee later.

When we had travelled out to Venice there were six people on the ferry. For this return trip there were four, but as we arrived at Fusina Ferry Terminal there were about 70 people waiting to get on the ferry to travel to Venice. The hordes were arriving!

Zuzanna had survived the mega rain two nights ago and had no water inside so that was good (she is rarely out in the rain so if there were a leak we might not previously have known), There was nowhere suitable for a cuppa at the Fusina Ferry Terminal so we headed off towards Merano.

We had decided to use the Autostrada which has tolls today – the non-toll route would be an extra hour which would also mean extra fuel. We planned to stop for lunch in Malcesina which was on Lake Garda – we thought it would be nice to drive up the east side of Garda (we had driven down the west side on our tour two years ago). So we took the motorway from Venice past Padua to Verona (Cost 11.60 €) and then headed on other roads to Garda. This section was very slow as there were loads of pedestrians and cyclists on the road, and the speed limit was usually 50 or less. We had some lovely views of the lake though.

We arrived in Malcesine and I had preplotted a route to a specific car park but the town was full and an information board showed us that most car parks were full. There was one that had 8 spaces so we headed there – it was a multi-storey with narrow spaces – fine for the Z3 but probably a bit stressy for people with colossal SUVs.

We parked and then walked into town, stopping for a panini and drink at the first suitable café. We then had a bit of a look around and Klaus tried on a couple of pairs of shoes that he had seen last time we visited Malcesine; unfortunately they didn’t fit properly. Well, perhaps fortunately as they were hand-made so not mega cheap.

After about an hour in Malcesine we set off again towards Merano. This involved more Autostrada (the one that goes to the Brenner Pass) and then we turned off (having to pay 6,40 € toll) and headed along a good A-road until just before Merano.

The hotel was nice and peaceful up a bit of a hill but only a 20 minute walk to Merano. There was a bus (and we had free bus travel) but we were happy to walk.

We arrived in Merano which we remembered for its lovely shops. They were still lovely but they were closed as this was a Saturday in a German-speaking land so they had shut at 13:00. Rather disappointing as I fancied a browse.

Fortunately most cafés were open and we went to the one we had eaten at last time in Merano, where I had a very tasty cake. The choice was different this time but I had a light creamy fluffy pastry thing and Klaus a strudel.

These were very tasty and after filling up with cake we did a bit of window shopping and then sat beside the river and watched a young Labrador on the other side of the river having a great time with a stick.

Klaus had researched a nice restaurant for our evening meal. We were both not that hungry so had just a Pinse (pizza) each and then a tea/coffee. Klaus had a grappa again of course. The food was really nice but my order of hot water for tea with milk caused major brain upset for our server.

We had no room for dessert as we had so recently had the cake so we walked back to the hotel and then sat outside on the balcony enjoying the balmy evening. Yesterday I had walked 17.1km, today I only walked 10.4!

One thing we have noticed in Italy is that they have different rules on tipping than Germany. In Germany if they give you a bill for 13.80€ and you are paying by card you can say “15€ please” and they add that to the card machine. In Italy they are not allowed to add the tip to the card machine, it has to be exactly reconcilable with the meal you ordered (we chatted with a server about this), so the card payment is always without a tip. As we don’t carry cash generally this meant that we weren’t tipping – on the other hand, prices seemed quite high so this has probably been factored in.

Other things we have noticed about Italy – loads of Fiat 500 cars, Garda had almost as many German cars as Italian, but Venice had much more English/American spoken than German. The Italians are all very friendly and their food is excellent. Their observance of the rules at Pedestrian Crossings is slightly less praiseworthy.

Tomorrow we will drive back to Germany, taking the Fernpass which will take us into Austria and then into Germany near Füssen. We will stay overnight near Geislingen/Ulm again and may even get to see Oliver and Iris again if they have time.

Sunday 19 May – Stubersheim/Geislingen

We set off from Merano fairly early after a good breakfast.

Today we had to get from Italy to Germany via Austria. We had originally assumed we would return via Switzerland for a different route but since our last visit Switzerland has been removed from European Data Roaming, which would mean the phones might be expensive if we need them (for example for Apple Maps). We decided it would be better to return via Austria.

From Merano we could have travelled to the Brenner Pass and done the same route back to Garmisch that we took on the way here. However, we had the option of the Fernpass which was to the west of Merano, which would involve going over a different pass first, the Resia (Reschen) Pass which neither of us had driven before. Still it looked fairly straight and had very few hairpins – I have become a very nervous passenger driving on hairpinny roads and so wanted to avoid them.

Showing our route from Merano to Füssen where we planned to stop for lunch

This turned out to be a lovely route and we really enjoyed driving through the mountains to the Rescia Pass. We saw lots of signs to the Stelvio pass as well, but it turned out to be closed. I wondered if that were because of the Giro D’Italia bike race but Klaus looked it up and although the Giro was planning to go over the pass, it was closed due to an avalanche risk. In May!

We knew that before we reached the Fernpass we would have to avoid a tunnel which was part of a toll road in Austria. We set our phones to “Avoid Tolls” and Klaus also did “Avoid Motorways” on his Apple Maps. I was running Google Maps at the same time as we often compare them if one suggests something surprising. We had both seen the area where the tunnel cuts a corner of a mountain and we knew we had to avoid this.

Highlighted route has no tolls

We realised we needed to get a small amount of petrol before going right over the pass as the petrol light was on and, although Zuzy’s gauge is very imprecise, we didn’t want to run out of fuel. We didn’t want to buy too much, though, as the fuel cost in Austria was way cheaper than in Italy or Germany, so we planned to top her up once we got to Austria.

What neither of us realised was that diverting into the petrol station caused our Apps to recalculate and this time to include the toll road, the A12 which is a tunnel through the mountain and then one junction before we turn left to the Fernpass at Imst. See below.

Toll route, only saves 10 minutes of driving

We had rejected the toll route because the Vignette would cost 10€ and this would only save us 10 minutes. However, as we drove along we had not realised that Apple Maps was directing Klaus towards the toll road. I saw a sign for the tunnel and that my Google Maps was directing me there and I assumed this must be another tunnel. So we carried on and found ourselves in a very impressive tunnel. And we both realised this was the toll road.

So of course we wanted to leave at the first exit. As we came around the corner there was an official-looking vehicle waiting in a lay-by and a chap flagged us down. A lady traffic officer then asked us about the Vignette. We said that our SatNav had let us down, and she said the “avoid tolls” does not avoid the Autobahns in Austria. And we needed the Vignette. And the fine was 120€. So Klaus went off to her car and paid the 120€ and we then continued a bit further on the toll road (to attempt to get a tiny bit of our money’s worth) but had to turn off after 6km to go to the Fernpass. An expensive lesson – when travelling in Austria buy a Vignette anyway, even if you don’t think you’ll need it, just in case you get wrongly routed.

So this unnecessary expense put a bit of a dampener on things but we had a good drive over the Fernpass (not scary, lots of tourists going the other way though!) and then arrived in Füssen.

We parked and walked to the town past a restaurant doing Kaiserschmarrn. I was sorely tempted but Klaus fancied something more like cake and the other things at that restaurant were main courses, so we walked on. We found a café that did cakes and crêpes and I had a “Kindertraum” (child’s dream) which was a banana and Nutella crêpe.

Klaus had some Streusel.

The café was nice but, whilst writing this, I am still a bit disappointed I missed out on Kaiserschmarrn!

It was Sunday so all the shops were shut but we did some Füssen window shopping anyway. We had stopped in Füssen on our last tour but not really visited the town centre which was very nice and quaint.

We returned to Zuzy and headed off for the final hour and a half’s drive to the Schwäbische Alb and the small village of Stubersheim. We checked into the hotel which had a very good reputation and was newly renovated (in an old railway station building). There is a historic railway line running behind the hotel which has occasional steam trains and on Sundays and public holidays a heritage railway runs. We saw a train come past whilst out on a walk – you can see the railway also runs through the woods.

Friends Oliver and Iris were able to join us for the evening meal in the Hotel and we had a good chat with them, telling them a bit about our holiday. The meal was back to traditional German food having eaten only Italian for the entire holiday. And finishing off with an ice cream.

Monday 20 May – back in Kempen

We had breakfast and set off at 9am on what would be quite a long distance today. We started with a two hour drive to Mannheim where we visited Klaus’s father. He had some pizza for us from a local pizzeria that he likes (and we have eaten there with him several times). He had some leftovers in his freezer so we ate those, and he had also made some asparagus soup which was very nice. We had a chat with him for an hour and a half and then set off again on the journey to Kempen.

There was some slow traffic and also the junction we wanted to use to get off the motorway at Neersen was unexpectedly closed so we had a bit of a detour and in the end got home at 18:00, having driven probably about 5 hours today. Most of that time we had the roof closed as we were on motorways, but Zuzy is fairly efficient when driving at 100-120. In fact, on our last fill-up in Mannheim she had done 8.99 litres per 100km for the last tank which is pretty good (lots of people with Z3s get an average of 12).

We also saw two other Z3s on the motorway and waved at them (they waved back). One was a very bright yellow and had rather smaller back wheels than Zuzy does, the other was a nice dark green. We had also seen one parked Z3 in Stubersheim but no other Z3s on the entire holiday, none in Italy at all, so it seems they are getting rarer.

It was lovely to be home and see Poppy again, and the washing machine started its sterling work that evening.

We drove 2.443 km in total on this holiday. Food seemed much more expensive than last time but was uniformly good. The hotels and Apartments were also all good. Klaus didn’t buy any shoes which is unusual for him on a holiday, but we have our trip to New York in 3 weeks so he has another chance then!

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