Day 1 – The masked tourist

A stressful start

Monza was hot and trafficked despite some people are still afraid of Coronavirus. Masks are descending below the noses, G’s neighbour are complaining about ‘this mask thing is unbearable, it’s just too hot’. And it is too hot, too humid as well. We just realised that we cannot power the old portable fridge G’s parents offered us. Our battery is only 30Ah and our solar panel just 100W – we can just power our laptop and phones. It took a week of works, tutorials, and fights to get the van functional for a long trip. It’s hard to get practical and to deal with our own errors and inabilities.

And this is what makes our start stressed. We finally adjust our electric system, close the van, and after G’s favourite focaccia, in Monza with his parents, we are ready to leave. G’s father takes one ‘official-departure-picture’ and we switch on the van ready to road-trip.

A flat Region cut by highways

We cross the flattest area of Italy, the so-called ‘Pianura Padana’ until Sirmione. This old Roman thermal town is now very crowded and extremely touristic. We find a parking lot, leave the van and as first thing take a refreshing bath in the waters of Garda lake. When we get to the entrance of the old town a guy is checking for people wearing masks. This is when we shot the famous picture ‘The Masked Tourist’. G uses M’s swimsuit to replace his forgotten mask. It took a few tries to transform the swimming upper part. The walk in the town is pleasant but under a burning sun. We could not avoid a glass of prosecco before to dine on the lakeside. The sunset is beautiful and rather foggy.

Who said that showering is a private moment?

We shower in front of the van in the parking lot. It’s fun to realise that when you want to do it quick you can actually shower using 3 litres of water. Shower finished the couple who parked just next to our van arrives. Still wet we manage to overcome the awkward situation with a quick and polite ‘buonasera’. Refreshed and cleaned we get inside our cosy home. We need to refresh a bit our bedroom that stayed under the sun all the afternoon. This is when we start writing and reading before to enjoy a nice and deserved sleep.

Tomorrow we are heading to Verona to visit a friend, it was a pleasant Saturday.

Day 2 – A Monday of heat and prosecco

Morning delight – Still too hot for cities

Waking up has not been hard, the sun could strike our tired eyes from the open window. Rest have not been great but Verona awaits us. The road is smooth and grey.

Breakfast in the city is tasteful, especially for G that opted for a ‘brioche al gianduia’ while M chose simplicity with a plain one. The toilet was nice enough to welcome our morning needs, but hot as the whole day. Exiting the bar we enjoy the presence of the Castello degli Scaligeri, and a few metres after, stroke by the morning sun, wide but not tall: the Arena – Verona’s masterpiece.

M’s tattoo – Is it sustainable to get one?

As we said, Verona is where we were supposed to meet a friend. This friend is Silvia, a tattoo artist… you cannot avoid getting a tattoo when you have a friend that makes great ones. M decided to get a willow tree leaf on her arm, that dream came true today. The leaf looks great, the only thing we are not sure of is if it is sustainable getting tattooed. Not really, there’s a disposable plastic film protecting the machine. A thin plastic cover over the tattooing bed and Silvia’s plastic gloves.

We definitely will pay attention to tattoo only a few times and to make more than a tattoo at the time if we want more than one. However, Silvia is an attentive person and separate her wastes in order to get them recycled.

Afternoon walk

We have a nice lunch with Silvia and her colleague before to continue our tour of the city. We discover that the other tattoo artist is originally from Moggio Udinese, which -as we find out talking to him- seems to be an amazing village between the mountains and the rivers in the last region of Italy, before the border with Slovenia and Austria. He sold us so well the place that we decide to stop by on our way to Slovenia.

During the afternoon we get lost in the streets of the ancient city, picture a man standing during mass with his black mask and a traditional white clock with on the side a red cross. We end up in a beautiful cluster on the side of the duomo and realise that wherever we look around us we can find mural paintings and statues. Verona is definitely full of history. Tourists pass posing for picture, shopping global brands and enjoying local wine. Ourself too we couldn’t resist the tasty ‘prosecco’ served in a cosy patio.

Another parking lot for the night-stay

Sleeping not far from cities reveals to be complicated. We finally find a place to park our van behind a supermarket which closure allow us for some peace. A black guy seeing our French plate approaches us asking for water. He happens to be from Cameroon looking for a something better.

Eating a bowl of the risotto G made he starts telling us how he got to a parking lot lost in the countryside outside Verona. He left Cameroon once 16 y.o. for Nigeria. His mother cried when he announced he was leaving because some Nigerians are known to eat people. He worked there until they started calling him ‘brother’ and ‘gentleman’, then he left to Niger. Here he managed to work and to rent a room. With some money on the side he passed through Libya, Algeria and Morocco to then go back to Libya. Here he sailed to Sicily and tried to work in Italy for a while. And then the agonised dream-land: France. Here Fabrice went to clubs and had girlfriends and felt that life could be nice. But with no documents it cannot last long. Even if Cameroon has been exploited by French for years, he has no right to a French passport. He headed back to Italy to fight bureaucracy and receive some documents allowing him to work.

For now he asks for money in front of the hospital, waiting for a piece of paper recognising him as a person. When he’s lucky he makes 30 euros in a day. He can eat, send money to Cameroon and he sleeps in a bungalow in an abandoned campsite.

After a day in Verona sightseeing, getting tattooed and drinking ‘prosecco’, no better way to recall to ourselves that there are millions of people living with less than 2 euros per day, the so called ‘extreme poverty’.

He left us only after midnight with the bottle of water we gave him. Despite his patriarchal mindset, we cannot avoid feeling sympathy and a huge amount of esteem for Fabrice.

With love, to Fabrice.

Day 3 – Time for mountains

Asphalt and towns

The morning wakes us with its unbearable heat. After a quick yogurt with cereals we leave the suburbs of Verona towards a new Region. Our goal: Friuli’s Alps. The way is long. The asphalt broken and noisy, the heat still unbearable. We pass through a series of deserted towns. Traffic is irregular and sometimes we find ourselves stuck, with no air conditioning and our backs melting on the seats.

Many rivers: but where’s the water?

We cross fields, towns, again fields and a lot of bridges. Rivers are small and hide themselves in the trees’ shade, to avoid the late morning sun. The river beds are wide, but just for little water. We decide to stop in a village called Salettoul where we rest on the riverside. The Piave doesn’t carry a lot of water during this season. We expected to be able to bath but we are not. People here are friendly and ask us what we are doing there and suggest us to stay for the night in the parking by the river, that is quiet and beautiful. We decide to go on. At the end of the bridge we realise that on the other side there was more water and we could have bath.

The importance of water

We are running out of water, actually we did run out of water. But a beautiful fountain saves us. We are able to refill our 30 litres tank, our 10 litres secondary tank and our bottles. G takes advantage of the fresh water to wash himself quickly, he was sweating all over his seat. We do not consume much water, much less than what we would do in an apartment. We decide to monitor our water consumption in the next days to make a small report on the topic. The trip goes on.

We cross many more rivers and fields of grape: we are in the land of ‘prosecco’. We finally reach Friuli Venezia Giulia. Here we cross San Daniele del Friuli, the town of prosciutto but, as we do not eat meat, we pass-by without looking back. We finally see the mountains in front of us.

Passing by the majestic walls of Osoppo reminds us that this was a land of borders and conflicts, where Italians and Austrians fought for something we do not understand.

Moggio Udinese welcomes us with a fresh beer and the eyes of the locals pointed as us as we speak English or French.

Getting some information for the next days in the nature

Moggio Udinese is one of the villages in the territory of the Prealpi Giulie Park, and in particular it hosts the Nature Reserve of the Alba Valley. We pass by the tourist office that provides us with all we need. The lady welcoming us is mostly happy to receive someone and talk a bit – there are not many tourists passing by.

When we leave the village we realise we didn’t really gather useful information. We climb a narrow road in which we risk to break our old Ducato in a desperate search for some waterfalls on the Rio Fonderiis. We agree on the fact that we have never seen such a steep road in such bad conditions. When we park on the roadside the van cries trying to cool down. We met just one car climbing up. For the first time in weeks (we stayed in Monza for almost 14 days before to leave) it’s fresh. We decide to shower as soon as possible. Naked, on the road, with our portable shower, with a bit more than 5 litres of water, we manage to clean ourselves completely.

A fresh night?

After a day of sweating and moving we enjoy the post-shower freshness eating a sandwich and drinking a bit of wine. With sweatshirts and long pants we enjoy the evening cold air and get ready for a nice sleep in the middle of the mountains, in the quietness of nature. No one is passing by, we decide to install our table in the middle of the road for dinner – see the picture of G eating a carrot.

Tomorrow we are going to discover some -hopefully- beautiful waterfalls. We are not moving the van for more than 10km tomorrow, which means we will have time to hike and relax.


Day 4 – A wild place

The Nature Reserve of the Alba valley

The night was indeed fresh. A good sleep and breakfast is the perfect combination to kick-off a nice excursion in the forest. The trees are tall and protect us from the sun that shows up only from time to time. It is still hot and humid, we do need some rain and a fresh and sunny day after – this light is not suitable for pictures.

The path is soft and brings us around this untouched forest that quietly guides us towards the Rio Alba and Rio Fonderiis. The first is empty, even if it’s the one after which the valley is named. The second has the clearest water we have seen until now. We spot the waterfall -see the picture- which is much smaller than what we thought. But the way here, the trees, the flowers and the clearness of the water are worth each step.

To get back to the car we cross a landslide and get lost in the wood. Following a steep animal path we finally find the road again and, after a fresh stop to a spring, we jump on the van and gain the bottom of the valley to reach Dordolla, where we want to eat something before to find a spot to sleep.

Too late to lunch in Dordolla?

We reach the village after another steep road. The bar is under renovations, it takes us a while to spot it. We climb the steps to learn that it is too late to eat. We insist a bit, and they could actually cook something for us. M check how much money we have left in cash, and there’s only 11 euros. The ladies running the bar look at each other in an annoyed way. We decide to cook something by the river side.

We find a nice parking with tables on the Aupa, the river after which the main valley of Moggio Udinese is called. We calm our hunger with a quick and vegetarian carbonara with dried tomatoes. After a bit of rest we bath in the river, clean ourselves, wash the dishes and put a bottle of ‘prosecco’ in the water to cool it down -hot ‘prosecco’ is not the best…

How to manage a rainy afternoon

Thunders start rumbling in the grey sky. G runs to retrieve the ‘prosecco’ from the river while M put everything in the van. Ours is a shameful afternoon: drinking ‘prosecco’ and watching a movie. And when the rain is over we start cooking, we run out of gas, and we finish cooking on our amazing portable wooden stove.

Dahl for dinner is warm and spicy, the perfect meal for what promises to be a fresh night. Tomorrow we are heading to the closest town in order to refill our gas bottle, buy bread, and maybe eat a pizza from the bakery, M’s favourite.

P.s. No internet connection around here = we are going to publish these two last days tomorrow hopefully.

Day 5 – Was That Even a Via Ferrata?

The beauty of the Aupa pass

Morning is wet but sunny. Since we have no gas we prefer to postpone breakfast to the first village we will meet, which should be Pontebba. The ride is particularly beautiful, especially the hairpin turns that leads to the Aupa pass. The forest here is tall with pines and the forest bed is green with herbs. The view on the peaks that surround us is majestic.

Pontebba is a joyful town at the bottom of the Canale Valley. Coffee in the sun is regenerating as well as the toilet break. Since we finally have a good internet connection we decide to sit in the shadow and publish the past two days of adventures. Before to reach our daily destination we refill our solar shower and our bottles.

Camporosso – another rainy afternoon?

We manage to reach Camporosso on time to buy bread for lunch. We eat two sandwiches with the vegetables we cooked yesterday night and a bit of cheese. Refurbished, we park our van by the river Bartolo where a countryside road leads to Austria, and walk towards our destination, the climbing spot named ‘Palestra Val Bartolo’. The pitches are easy but require attention and technique. Unfortunately, we only have the time to climb two pitches each. Black clouds and rains are coming our way. Along the path back to the van we get wet and, annoyed by the rain, we try to organise our small space in order to pass the time.

Fortunately it doesn’t last long. A shy sun and lighter clouds allow us to open the van and look around. M spots the depart of a sort of via ferrata. There are no signs, G doesn’t find on his maps neither on the internet. We decide to go for it.

Is this a via ferrata?

All along the ‘via’ we wonder if this is actually a via ferrata, if it’s still open, if it’s safe… At the end of the climb we agree that it could have been a ferrata. However, it wasn’t really safe neither open. In any case, it was easy and fun. The view from above spaces on the Bartolo and Canale Valley. The ground is wet and the forest looks lively; the greens of the trees and of the grasses are vivid. From the top we find a small path bringing us back to the van. Our daily physical activity is accomplished.

Do you remember that we told you we refilled our shower? Well the water was very cold at the fountain, and the day was fresh. The result is that we start showering with cold water. When G is done and M has just started washing herself, it starts raining. M finishes showering under the rain. We manage to get in the van before it gets to wet. Once this second round of rain is over we are finally able to open all the doors to dry our cloths and our backpacks.

Being organised is important

G starts writing the road-trip diary of the day while M organises the van. It is vital to arrange everything in a way that our 4.5 squared metres are liveable. M manages to find a place for everything and to create a hanger to dry all our cloths and towels. Then she starts working on our website.

Tonight we are going to eat the Dahl M cooked yesterday. Tomorrow we are heading to Austria, because apparently is the only place where we can refill our gas bottle. This will add some kilometres to our trip -just a few, actually- and prevent us from seeing the lakes of Fusine, which was supposed to be our destination. Too bad, we are going to enjoy even more Slovenia.