Grado, Italy, Monday 20th July 2015

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The beach at Grado

The beach at Grado

Our first visit to Italy in our motorhome through the Brenner Pass started with stunning scenery in very hot weather and it was only spoiled slightly by the slow-moving traffic on both sides of the border due to roadworks in Austria and the toll booth in Italy, which added over an hour to our journey. The best thing about this snail-pace progress was that I was able to take lots of photos along the way to capture the natural beauty of the area.

Cable cars nearing the Brenner Pass in Austria

Cable cars nearing the Brenner Pass in Austria

Enjoying the lovely scenery in slow-moving traffic

Enjoying the lovely scenery in slow-moving traffic

More lovely sights on the road

More lovely sights on the road

We finally stopped at the motorhome aire of Brunico at around 2.30pm, but there is no overnight staying here, so we had lunch and took Beano out for his walk and were on the road again at about 4.30pm heading for the aire in La Villa/Stern, which hosts a first-class aire with a pristine toilet and shower block, of which we made good use for a mere 50 cents for a 2-minute shower or 1 for 4 minutes. We found that 2 minutes was ample time just to cool down with a cold shower and save the water in our tank. The aire also offers free WiFi, with the user name and password displayed on the electronic board. After such a long and hot day on the road, we just chilled outside the van and admired the impressive view of the Dolomites. This aire, brilliant as it is, is the most expensive aire we’ve been to in our 6 years of motorhoming, costing a steep 26 a night, more expensive than most campsites we’ve been to. Still, we needed to stop somewhere and the location was really special.

View of the Dolomites from La Villa/Stern

View of the Dolomites from La Villa/Stern sosta (aire)

Yesterday, we stopped briefly just outside Cortina D’Ampezzo by a free motorhome aire on the S51 to take even more photographs of the breathtaking views of the Dolomites. Truth be told, I kept clicking away for quite a while along the road and I really had to force myself to put the camera away, as every bend, of which there were many, was a photo opportunity not to be missed.

Dolomites from just outside Cortina D'Ampezzo

The Dolomites from just outside Cortina D’Ampezzo

A free sosta outside Cortina D'Ampezzo

A free sosta outside Cortina D’Ampezzo

This road is definitely NOT for the faint-hearted due to the numerous hairpin bends and uphill climbing. Neither of us had ever been so high up on a road before (2,100m on R48 west of Cortina) and once again, the driving was slow and arduous and we both felt grateful for our new Hymer’s bigger and more powerful engine, as we don’t think our beloved old Elddis would have made it all the way up there.

Spectacular views all the way

Spectacular views all the way

Looking back on a windy road

Looking back on a windy road up in the mountains 

Mountains and alpine forest to delight the eye

Mountains and alpine forest to delight the eye

Our destination was Lago de Barcis on the S251, east of Belluno, and it seemed that everyone around had decided to spend Sunday by the lake, as every available parking space along the road had been taken up and the motorhome aire in town was full, so we made our way to the steep Camping San Francesco, which was also full, but the manager kindly let us stay on the site’s car park right at the top, for which we were most grateful, as we didn’t fancy another day like Saturday. We were lucky enough to have a tree next to us for much needed shade, but the site itself also has lots of trees and shady spots all over the place for pleasant meals and siestas.

Parked by a tree to provide shade at the car park in Camping San Francesco

Parked by a tree to provide shade and a nice view at the car park in Camping San Francesco

I really enjoyed my walk with Beano up the hill through the woods past the Acienda with its goats and chickens. There is a lovely view of the campsite and the lake below with its impossibly blue colour, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the camera with me then and it was too hot and too steep to go up again.

After Beano’s walk, Adonis and I strolled down to the lake, where we enjoyed a refreshing swim, even though the water was warm. It rained briefly, but nobody seemed to mind, as even the rain was warm and we were already wet anyway.

We thought the 13 fee for the day was cheap and I’d definitely use this campsite again, as the management was kind and helpful, the setting is just beautiful and the facilities clean and pleasant.

This morning we did a shop at Super Spar for local delicacies, wine and beer and carried on south, past Pordedone, where we joined the motorway H23/E55 past Udine and Palmanova to Monfalcone, with the idea of stopping at the aire or sosta there, but this was totally unsuitable in an industrial estate and on full-on sun, therefore we headed south west to Grado, where we arrived before 1pm. This is a lovely aire with Bougainvillea shrubs and a green area with trees for to walk Beano by the water tap.  We are at the far end, with hedges on two sides for shade, which is imperative at temperatures reached 38°C inside the van this afternoon.  Luckily, we had electricity included in the price and were able to put the aire conditioning on, which works very efficiently.  The sosta costs €13 a day.

The large sosta at Grado with attractive Bougainvillia shrubs

The large sosta at Grado with attractive Bougainvillia shrubs

We walked to the beach (about 15 minutes) and paid €6 to enter it, but were refunded €4 on our exit when we returned the entry cards.

Looking towards sosta's entrance and green field at the back, where water tap is (Grado)

Looking towards sosta’s entrance and green field at the back, where water tap is (Grado)

The Adriatic sea was ridiculously warm and it felt like a baby’s bath. We swam far out into a floating platform to rest and dive from before swimming back to the shore. It was too hot to sunbathe or even to stand on the sand, so we returned to the van, as we were concerned about Beano and we all had a cold shower in the van, including Beano, which has been panting overtime today due to the heat. It is 11pm now and the temperature is still 29.9ºC. I am writing now because I simply cannot sleep in this heat and I intend to have another cold shower before bed!!!

The very warm Adriatic Sea and the floating platform to swim to and jump from at Grado

The very warm Adriatic Sea and the floating platform to swim to and jump from at Grado

Too hot to stay in the sun.  We didn't last very long and headed back to the sosta

Too hot to stay in the sun. We didn’t last very long and headed back to the sosta

Tomorrow we are planning to cross into Slovenia: first time for both of us.

6 responses »

  1. Wow! The scenery is stunning. I love the bright yellow beach umbrellas too. It was very hot here in Spain at that time too. Almost unbearable. Thank heaven for the pool and air conditioning. Love these posts.

  2. Thank you, Darlene. I understand it was unusually hot all over Europe this summer, with temperatures not dropping below 30ºC for over a month in many countries. Crops have suffered and farmers just let them dry up and die in the fields as they couldn’t water them. Expect fruit and veg to go up in price this year!!! We just made sure that wherever we went there was some kind of water course, whether it was a lake, a river or the sea. I loved the umbrellas too.

  3. I’ve enjoyed spending the morning catching up on your summer trip in your new motorhome. Not for the faint of heart is very true about the high riding roads in the Dolomites…my heart was pounding the whole time we drove in that area.

  4. You are braver than I am, as they say “been there, done that”. Looking out the window at no guardrails on my side as we had to pass a couple of buses did it for me. 😀

    • Yes, that’s no joke. We had a couple of near misses when leaving Italy on that dreadful coast road going towards France. We quickly left it and joined the motorway. No so scenic, but a lot safer! 🙂

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