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A roadtrip through empty Italy

Me, my father and the van
Me, my father and the van.
Where Einstein was born
The inscription says: "Here stood the house in which Albert Einstein was born on the 14th of March 18[79]."
The skewed house of Ulm
The famous skewed house in Ulm.

In the end of September 2020, my girlfriend and I decided to go for an Italy roadtrip using the T4 that my father had made into a campervan. Originally, we had planned to take a trip to Portugal, but that didn't work out since Spain was considered a COVID-19 risk area. Italy, on the other hand, had fairly low numbers at the time, so we decided to go for that.

The van
Our first night was spent here.
The van again
The morning sun breaking through the trees.

On the 27th of September we left, having our first stop in Ulm. Anna had studied there and gave me a bit of a tour of the city. Then we continued, but only made it till Memmingen, still in Germany, where we spent the night next to some forest. But the next day, we crossed the alps, at the top of which was still a little bit of snow. On the other side, we drove through Vinschgau in South-Tirol. It seems like the entire valley is filled with apple trees, and it was harvest season. A huge amount of tiny tractors was busily carrying apples from the fields into the towns. They looked quite funny since they are built to fit in between the rows of apple trees. Everything is very long and thin.

The belltower in Reschensee
The belltower in Reschensee.
Getting service water
Getting some service water from the lake.
An apple tractor
An apple tractor.
Our spot for the night
Our spot for the night.

Since there is only one long, densely populated valley through which one drives south, it is not easy to find nice parking spots to spend the night in South-Tirol. At least not near the road. So we had to drive till quite late in the evening, making it into the part of Italy in which the people actually speak Italian. There, near the town of Rovereto, we found a decent spot.

Lake Garda
Our first glimpse at Lake Garda.

After a nice breakfast with tea, Vinschgauer Speck (some local variety of bacon) and Vinschgerl Paarl (bread) we started out for Lake Garda. While sitting on a dock there, just having a break, I spotted something in the water that had the format of a credit card. Anna was actually going for a swim, so she recovered it. It was a German ID card! We returned it to the owner when we got back to Germany, since we had a very hard time to find an (open) post office in Italy. And then the Italian post is known to frequently loose things...

Parking in Lazise.
A night in the fields.

We spent the night on a parking spot at the outskirts of Lazise. In the morning, we drove a bit into the countryside, looking for a quiet spot for breakfast. We found one in between some grapevines, where we stayed till afternoon, mostly reading and chillin'. Only when it became a little cloudy, and the mosquitoes started biting, we decided to drive back to the lake to take a swim and have dinner. We watched the sunset by the beach, which meant that we had to find a spot for the night when it was already dark. We ended up on some meadow/acre in the middle of nowhere.

This nights spot was nice.
At the mouth of the Po
Jungle like vegetation near the mouth of the Po. Jungle like mosquitoes included!

Then, we decided to head to the coast, which meant crossing the flat, dreary Po Valley. It was cloudy the entire day, while we drove through endless, muddy fields, with stagnant water and ruined houses in many places. It really looked rather sad. But, finally, we made it to the Parco Regionale Veneto del Delta del Po, the mouth of the river Po. The vegetation was almost jungle like there, so we decided to explore it the next day. But that exploration was a rather short one, because we had to keep almost running, with a huge swarm of mosquitoes out to eat us!

The beach in Rimini
The beach in Rimini.
Our parking spot.
San Marino at night in the distance
Looking at San Marino.
The sunrise that greeted us in the morning. Of course, this isn't realistic, but I love Snapseed's HDR filter for such images.
Just some flowers
Some flowers we saw during our walk.

So, on we went to Rimini, a popular beach town that ought to be packed with tourists during summer (in non-COVID years). When we got there, it was almost empty. So we explored the beach for a bit and then drove toward San Marino, a city state close by. We found a wonderful spot on a field of grapevines to stay the night. Unfortunately, the next day was forecast to be rainy, so we postponed our trip to San Marino and just drove to some quiet area to spend the day. Again, just reading and going for a walk, before we returned to our night spot again.

Back at the same spot.

We had read the Wikipedia article on San Marino, which is highly recommended before you visit the city, because it is actually kinda amazing what these people have achieved throughout the centuries and how their state functions until today!

Panoramic view from San Marino
A panoramic view from San Marino.
One of San Marino's towers
One of San Marino's towers.

I don't think it makes a lot of sense to tell you much about San Marino, since you should go explore it for yourself. I'll show you a few pictures, though. As a summary I'd say that it is surely worth a visit. It is a fairly rich state, apparently by and large because of tourism, and you see it in the cleanness and degree of conservation of the city. There are plenty of great viewpoints and walking routes. It appears somewhat less chaotic than the larger country around it.

The view from San Marino
Another view across the countryside.
Many tiny trash cans
Trash separation seems to be serious issue in San Marino. Funny, given that Italy around it seems to be rather relaxed in that regard...
Matthias vom Bruch
My humble self.
Around sunset
The light around sunset. This image is pretty close to how it actually looked...
...and this is a more artistic interpretation...
...just like this. Isn't it awesome?!🤯
We spent the night here, just outside of San Marino.
The sunset in the Parco Naturale Monte San Bartolo
We got up early to catch the sunrise!
Our parking spot in the morning
Our parking spot in the morning.

The next day we drove further down south, eventually reaching the Parco Naturale Monte San Bartolo. Here, we also spent some time by the beach, until the sun went down. This area is very nice because there is a high hill ‐ I suppose the Monte San Bartolo ‐ rising up behind the beach, with a very scenic road on top of it. On it are a few parking spots for restaurants and playgrounds. They are directly next to the road, which is why we were first reluctant to stay there, but since we didn't find anything better in time, we stayed around there for the night. Which, at least now that there were not too many tourists, was great! We even had fresh water and tables/benches right next to the car.

On the 6th of October we visited Ancona. Not much to say here, it's an average Italian city, not very out of the ordinary. We enjoyed watching what was going on at the shipyard, though.

Ancona's shipyard
Ancona's shipyard

Since we had passed about half the time we had set for our vacation, we decided it was time to cross the country and head to the west coast. And then there was Rome on the other side...

A windy spot.

We still made about a third of that distance the same day. I did not know that before, but Italy is actually quite mountainous in many places. And so it was there. We ended up with our car parked at the side of a small street on the ridge of a hill, where the wind was blowing strongly throughout the night, howling, and shaking the car. Quite amazing!🤩

Lake Fiastra
Lake Fiastra.
An image of the street in between two mountains
On route to Rome.

After breakfast and a swim in the crystal clear and freezingly cold Lago di Fiastra, we continued to where all roads lead. Or used to lead to.

A dreary parking spot
Doesn't look so bad, our parking spot, but that's because all the rubbish is hidden behind the car...

We planned to find a place to stay for the night on the last green spot on maps before Rome. Is the "Riserva Naturale della Marcigliana". Unfortunately, the entire area is nothing more than fenced off fields with piles of rubbish dumped along the streets. A very sad and kind of scary place at night. But there was no other option within reach, so we picked the least depressing spot and stayed there.

And then we were there! Taking the train into the city, we explored Rome. One day was spent visiting at least some of the famous sights, like the Colosseum, the St. Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon, the Forum Romanum and a few other, less important spots. After all, Rome is full of ancient architecture of all kinds. And we were very lucky with our timing. Places that are usually stuffed with tourists, like St. Peter's Basilica, were relatively empty. I can really only guess how much easier this trip was on the whole because much less people were travelling than usually. Not once during the entire trip did we get into trouble with the locals or anyone for spending the night on parking spots or for any other reason!

The colosseum
What's that?
Excavation sites in Rome
Seems like half of Rome is an excavation site.
St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica. Notice how empty everything is!
St. Peter's Basilica inside
Inside the Basilica.
Sunset in the mirror
Lucky snapshot!
At the Mar Morto
At the Mar Morto.

Our next destination was the peninsula Monte Argentario on the southern edge of Tuscany. Here, we visited the Duna di Feniglia (a beach) and once again spent the night on a parking spot up in the mountains. The next day was going to be sunny as well, while only rain was forecast for the foreseeable future, so we inserted another full beach day, at Mar Morto, a rocky, secluded beach on the peninsula. We were almost the first ones there, but more people appeared over time. It did not get too crowded, though.

The sunset from the hills of the peninsula.
Mantis religiosa
Mantis religiosa.

We left in the afternoon looking for pizza, which was very hard to get because at the time every Italian around seemed to have had that same idea and there was no getting anything without an hour of waiting around Orbetello. So we drove upcountry, where we were finally successful in procuring some dinner. Unfortunately, we were now in an area that is usually buzzing with tourists, and the result of this is that every property is fenced off and parking spots to spend the night are scarce. We ended up literally at the side of the road because we couldn't find anything else, particularly in the dark. There was one upside though: In the morning I happened to spot a mantis, which, if you have read older blog entries, you know I like a lot. The one I found here is called Mantis religiosa, or just European mantis.

The road back home
The road back home, alps within reach.
Back at home
Back at home.

Because the weather forecast was so bad, and we had both already seen a lot, we decided that there was no point of spending the last week of our trip cramped into a car with nothing to do, so we decided to cut the trip one week short and to head home. So we spent the day driving, making it back into the Vinschgau, where we spent the night on a parking spot in some industrial area, and then made it back to Stuttgart the next day.