We planned to spend some days in Switzerland at Bodensee, the lake that straddled the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (where it was known as Lake Constance). Our journey took us into Germany and back into Austria before we arrived at the Swiss border. It had rained on and off throughout our journey. At the Swiss border we had to pay a €32.50 toll charge.
Our campsite was on the shore of the lake and the site had wonderful facilities and a brand new restaurant overlooking the lake. Unfortunately the campsite ground was soggy with the recent rainfall and more rain was forecast. Had the weather been better I am sure we would have found the area beautiful but the rain, plus the threat of more rain, dampened our spirits and we realised that we had made a mistake coming so far north. We ate in the restaurant that evening and were very disappointed. The food was perfectly edible but was more in the style of school dinners than fine dining. We paid almost £100 for a shared salad, meat and vegetables, one dessert and a bottle of wine. Even our bottle of mineral water cost £5.73! Switzerland was proving wet and expensive so the next morning we upped sticks and headed south west towards France.
We were on the road early the next morning, travelling south past Lake Lucerne and on through the Gotthard Tunnel towards Italy. The tunnel opened in 1980 and only had one lane operating in each direction. It was over ten miles long and seemed very narrow and claustrophobic. Traffic travelling in the opposite direction seemed just inches away from us and we were very glad to get out at the other end and back onto the dual carriageway. Once we crossed into Italy we found we had to pay toll charges for the first time since we left home. Our first day’s driving in Italy cost us 16 euros.
We stopped for lunch at Lake Como (pasta and salad, beer and coffee – 16 euros) and bought some lovely fresh produce from a stall in the car park – the fruit cost more than our lunch! We found a campsite at Rapallo, a coastal town near Portofino. The weather was getting warmer as we descended from the mountains, now the snow was all gone and we enjoyed blue skies and temperatures of 15 degrees – balmy by our standards.
The next day we made the most of the sunshine and headed off to explore Rapallo on our bikes. We took a cable car up the mountain to the Sanctuary of Montallegro where we found a restaurant for lunch of seafood salad followed by spaghetti with clams, washed down with a carafe of white wine and coffee (75 euros).
We had the choice of returning by cable car or walking down the winding cobbled path. We chose to walk – they said it would only take an hour. Almost two hours later we arrived back at our bikes, having begged a lift for the last kilometre of road from a passing motorist; we were exhausted!