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Europe 2015 - Lake Garda to Milan Expo

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Lake Garda to Milan Expo

We spent a few days on the western shore of Lake Garda although it isn't our favourite Italian lake as it's quite built up with busy roads around the southern end. Camping Ca' wasn't very busy and we had a good terraced pitch with some shade overlooking a lakeside promenade which stretched for a couple of kilometres in each direction. From there we drove out for the day on the busy main road to Salo and up the western shore to Gardone Riviera where we parked at the amazing Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, home of the eccentric poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. After a stroll around the small resort with its pleasant promenade, we entered the grounds of the villa with its interesting statues and bizarre collection of artefacts including a biplane suspended in a theatre, a motor torpedo boat and a large concrete replica warship among the trees. Also dotted around the villa and gardens were colourfully upholstered armchairs. Altogether a fascinating place to spend a few hours. We spent another day enjoying the warm sunshine just walking along the lakeside to Moniga with its castle overlooking the old town and visited a garden centre near the campsite. 

Il Vittoriale biplane
Biplane in the theatre
Il Vittoriale colourful chair
upholstered chair
Il Vittoriale motor torpedo boat
Motor torpedo boat

Il Vittoriale statue
Interesting statues
Il Vittoriale concrete warship
a concrete warship
Il Vittoriale blue horse statue
and a blue horse

We continued heading west on minor roads through villages with lots of 30km limits, humps and frequent speed cameras, then took the Brescia tangential (bypass) and a short drive on the main road to Lake Iseo and the lakeside site of Camping Cavelo which was nearly full with mostly Dutch caravanners and a few British motorhomers. It was about two kilometres from the centre of Iseo town so we walked there the next morning to look at the lakeside and do some food shopping. 

Iseo historic steamboat
old steamer on Lake Iseo

The warm weather now broke so it was overcast when we set off the next morning to Bergamo, a small city in the foothills of the Alps. We found some free onstreet parking as it was a Sunday, some distance away from the main tourist area where there were several people loitering around, and headed up the steep path and steps to the gateway into the old city centre. It was quite busy with tourists and churchgoers as we explored the maze of old streets with the Duomo surrounded by tall buildings so rather closed-in compared to other Italian cities, not that we have visited many! Just as we set off back to the van the heavens opened and we got soaked. Taking the route to Milan we joined the autostrada just as another torrential downpour started. Cars were pulling over to shelter under the bridges but one pulled out immediately in front of us. As we were only crawling along we luckily managed to swerve into the empty outer lane and decided to get off the motorway onto flooded roads and parked up for twenty minutes until the rain eased. Once we had recovered we continued on slow main roads passing through Gorganzola but with no cheese aromas, and joined the very busy Milan ring road with several stops to pay small tolls. We eventually reached new roads, not on the satnav, to Rho where we had booked a pitch at a temporary sosta operating for the Milan Expo. Although €25 a night they ran a shuttle minibus to the exhibition site about five kilometres away.

Bergamo gateway
Bergamo gateway

Fortunately the weather was again sunny the next day as we visited the large Expo site visiting the pavilions of many countries. There was meant to be a theme of food sustainability but that wasn't always obvious from the displays. Several had long queues, in particular Brazil with its large rope netting walkway although it wasn't so busy at the end of the day. We enjoyed the well presented and informative Ecuador and Czech exhibits but other countries made less of an impact and we thought the British pavilion was rather low key with its bee theme. There was some free entertainment with bands playing occasionally and a twice daily parade of people dressed as fruit to entertain the children, but virtually no freebies or handouts. The Tree of Life fountain only operated for short periods but was apparently spectacular when floodlit at night. Food was mostly expensive from snack bars or restaurants but we found a Co-op mini-market on the site to buy our picnic.

Milan Expo main concourse
Main concourse from Czech pavilion

 Milan Expo Brazil pavilion
Brazil - popular climbing net

British pavilion
Great Britain (bees theme?)

Returning to get the shuttle bus after a weary but interesting day we got confused by the signage, ending up in the depths of the railway station, and just made it back to the pickup point as another terrific thunderstorm started.

   Gardone Riviera promenade    Gardone Il Vittoriale villa
Gardone Riviera - promenade                  Il Vittoriale villa

Lake Garda Padenghe
Lake Garda near Padenghe

Bergamo Piazza
Bergamo piazza

Bergamo Duomo
Bergamo Duomo

Milan Expo Ecuador pavilion
Milan Expo 2015 pavilions - Ecuador
China pavilion
Turkey pavilion

Russia pavilion

Milan Expo tree of Life feature
Tree of Life - more impressive at night

Milan Expo parade
The twice daily fruit themed parade


We slept well that night after being on our feet all day and decided to head back to France so after a slow journey through rather run down western suburbs of Milan we reached the main road to Novara. Often these main roads between towns are built up with factories, many now derelict, and sprawling developments of flats and occasional old villas. We headed for the well stocked CampSport motorhome and camping accessories dealer on the edge of Magenta, and bought a few bits and pieces not available in the UK, before joining the autostrada towards Turin. We noticed several "bus stops" on the autostrada for an express coach service between Milan and Turin and their TAV high speed train also runs alongside. Although we prefer driving off the motorways it can be slow with often confusing and frequently changing speed limits (mostly ignored by local drivers), and we found the tolls to be reasonable (about €12 for 100 kilometres). We made good progress to reach the free sosta at Avigliana for our last night in Italy before the steady and easy climb over the Col de Montgenèvre to reach Briançon high in the French Alps.