Italy into Austria

Wednesday 22nd April 2015, Laghi di Lamar in the Dolomites near Trento. Continued
Parking looked as if it would be difficult in Riva de Garda so we continued north towards Trento, leaving Lombardy behind. Here the valley is given over to fruit trees, all in blossom, and to vines, just producing leaves. It was a beautiful ride though we had no idea how near we were to Trento as the signs alternated continuously between 38 and 30 kilometres in distance. At one point we were sent off at a roundabout which, at the next roundabout, sent us back again! We could have been travelling up and down for ever! Dare I say “Italia!”?

Eventually though we turned off through a pretty village onto increasingly narrow roads. The route became very steep and winding. Modestine ran out of puff and we had to stop on a bend as she couldn’t make it any further without cooling down. Fortunately nobody comes this high up into the hills looking for a lake so early in the year. Having recovered she staggered the final distance to this alpine eerie near Laghi di Lamar where she is now happily dozing in dappled shade beneath a tree just opening its luminous green leaves.

Modestine has a much needed rest. Meanwhile I have a much needed rest inside her. Laghi di Lamar near Trento

Ian has just returned from his walk. He never found the lake but he rediscovered a monument to a couple of brothers killed up there in 1703. This confirms my conviction that we have stayed here before although the site has changed greatly with new modern facilities now. We were almost the only ones here then as well!

Monument to two brothers killed in the woods in 1703, Laghi di Lamar, near Trento

Friday 24th April 2015, Ossiacher See, Near Villach, Austria
We left Italy yesterday having decided not to retrace our steps by visiting Trento again, much as we’d enjoyed our previous visit. So after a brisk walk to take a nostalgic look at the lake we headed off back down to the valley floor, bypassing Trento and making our way to Bolzano.

Laghi di Lamar, Near Trento

Bolzano was hectic and we were channelled through a series of tunnels under and around the town. It didn’t look very picturesque and I dreaded trying to park so we left it behind and spent most of the day driving along winding roads with a tailback of cars behind us eager to get past. It is stressful and exhausting. I am finding the driving is no longer enjoyable and am so very glad we have done so much travelling when it didn’t bother me as I find it is now starting to do. On winding single lane mountain roads it is almost impossible to find anywhere to park for a rest and we seemed to spend almost as long underground yesterday as we did above it! There are tunnels through the rocks and hillsides all along the valley, some four or five kilometres long.

At one point I managed to turn off into a very pleasant little town, still well within Italy but in every respect an Austrian town. All signs were in German first and Italian second. People spoke German on the streets and in the post office cafe where we went for a coffee we were greeted not in Italian but with the Austrian “Gruss Gott.” Well this area was once part of Austria until it was handed over to Italy. The border may have changed but the inhabitants have continued their lives as they have always done. They were Austrian in 1919 when they were transferred to Italy at the end of WW1 and they are fundamentally Austrian a century later! I suppose though teaching in the schools is conducted in Italian.

Neumarkt, south of Bolzano

Neumarkt, south of Bolzano

Vinyards near Brixen, Italy

Around 5pm it started to rain heavily and temperatures fell as we climbed high into the mountains of the Dolomites and crossed into Austria. In this isolated mountain area there are very few inhabitants and those that are here are scattered, living in large wooden chalets high in the hills surrounded by steep green fields where cattle continue to graze in the cold rain. Eventually we reached the campsite we were seeking and realised we’d stayed here before as well! We really are running out of Europe to explore! As darkness fell, lights in the isolated chalets high in the woods above us twinkled through the rain.

All night the rain pattered on our roof and this morning we woke to a white world. Clouds hung low along the valley while above us snow had fallen on the surrounding peaks and all the pine forests were coated in a thick crust of frost and ice. We have dug out our winter shoes and coats, even our gloves are needed and we were grateful at breakfast for our fan heater, and for our spare blanket last night.

This morning we continued the short distance to the little town of Lienz where we parked Modestine in a pleasant, tree-lined side street and walked into the centre of the old town. Here we encountered an Italian lady who had driven up from Italy with her vegetables and was running her weekly veg’ stall in Lienz selling asparagus from Verona. Here we are in Austria being addressed in Italian once again!

Road down into Lienz

Lienz is a pleasant little town of 13,000 inhabitants. It is as immaculate as any Austrian town would be. Houses are set in leafy roads surrounded by well kept gardens and some of the houses have frescoes of the holy family on their fa├žades. We found a bakery with a coffee shop where we made no attempt at all to resist the sticky buns oozing with jam, to accompany our coffee.

Old Town Hall, Lienz

Town overlooked by mountains, Leinz

From Lienz we drove for much of the day along the valley of the Drau which grew gradually larger as we progressed along beside it. We once spent a night in Spittal-an-der-Drau and have pleasant and curious memories. However, when we arrived the campsite wasn’t yet open for the season and any others in the area were set beside lakes. We’ve been laked-out for a while so, after a stroll around the town where we remembered very little, we decided that as we’d paid for a vignette to use the Austrian motorways we might as well press on towards our ultimate goal, Vienna.

Valley of the Drau, Austria

Valley of the Drau, Austria

Schloss Porcia , Spittal an der Drau

So this evening we have left Spittal far behind. After burrowing our way through several mountains, along well engineered tunnels four or five kilometres long, we have emerged onto the banks of yet another lake! Here the sun is shining again and it is almost hot! This lake is quite charming despite my complaint that we’ve seen too many of them recently. The highest level of the backdrop is filled by snowy mountain peaks, below these are forested slopes and hills. One is topped with the romantic remains of a castle. The lake is large with little settlements around it and jetties for the many private boats, but we’ve noticed no water birds and no sign of boat trips. It’s altogether calmer than Lake Garda.

Ossiacher See with Burg Landskron, Villach

Related links: Trento 2008, Laghi di Lamar, 2008, Spittal-an-der-Drau, 2006