As we were now looking at around 8 days to fill before the deadline of 20th June and Justina’s departure from Italy, and the original plan had gone down the storm drain with monsoons in Germany – we came in to Italy from the top middle instead of the far top right, I started to look for inspiration to fill our days. Bring forth Helen’s gift of the Michelin Guide to Italy, complete with map!
From this I learned that from Trieste (our original entry point) to Choggia, south of Venice, wasn’t actually sea, but a lagoon! There were quite a few pictures in the book of fishing boats, nets, posts, and lots of other interesting photographic subjects to boot. It explained the ecosystem of the inlet of the sea bringing brackish water and being topped up by the rivers coming in to the lagoon and the delicate balance of the wildlife threatened by the flooding of the rising tides and how this in turn had, and still does, threaten Venice, itself built on the lagoon.
We decided to continue to Venezia and then instead of doing Padua, which looked pretty built up, to go south to Choggia and the start of the lagoon. Not before we had detured to Caravaggio, the town of the birth of our Camper’s namesake and mentor! But, apart from a plaque and some pictures on the side of a bank, it was pretty scarce for celebrating the life of a magnificent artist.
According to the CamperStop iPhone app, there were a few free places on the river Po Delta, that was one of the rivers feeding into the lagoon, creating quite a number of canals and islands in the process. We chose our stop in a lovely little village called Porto Viro, set in a big green bit of the map sticking out of the side of Italy, the CamperStop being on the juncture of both the sea and a lake behind it. Couldn’t have looked more idyllic. What doesn’t come across when you are looking at the map is that the area it is on the side of, the far side of, is about half the size of the Lake District National Park. And most of the route the sat-nav took us on was single track roads. Thankfully it was very late at night, not least because the sat-nav neglected to say it’s usual “In 500 metres bear right and then, bear right.” (straight over a roundabout), and we ended up going north on the Venice to Choggia road in a very busy line of traffic, unable to turn right because of the lagoon and or sea to the right, unable to turn left through lack of junctions and or lack of indicators. This had taken us over 2 hours to correct (including a coffee break to destress).
So now here we are in the dark, in the middle of the Lake District at 11pm at night. And though we were extremely grateful for the absolute lack of traffic on the road, it was beginning to make me nervous. Where was everything? Where is the CamperStop? Where did everybody go? What is that buzzing noise?
Eventually after not finding the original site, looking like it had been closed off again like so many of its predecessors, we chose another one off the site that was closest, just 17km away, and the sat-nav took us the quickest way there – down a tractor lane for 12km! All along the roadside, still single track with occasional tufts of grass in the middle, were big, round, bales of hay that had either fallen off the tractor or had been placed to feed the dinosaurs, hidden from sight in the pitch black fields. If there was one in the middle of the road, there would be nowhere for me to go except to reverse back to where we started. I kept imagining the iron bar gate again that we had experienced in Christobel and drove cautiously on.
Eventually we stumbled upon our car park at around midnight, in the peaceful setting of a village church car park. On investigation the next day, we were thankful to find a petrol station in the village and a sign at the end of the road for “Spiaggia” (beach) and we started to have a walk out. After about half an hour of walking, with still no beach in sight or suggestion thereof, just some very marshy, New-Orleans-Bayeaux-Type places, so we did the sensible thing – believe me this doesn’t happen – of turning back and going to get the van, on the basis that if there is a car park, we could perhaps stay there overnight, or if not, come back to where we were. There was not only a beach but a car park too with about 20 campers already set up for the weekend, so at 4 Euros a night, we joined them.
After our afternoon walk along the beach, we returned refreshed to the camper to have tea and to set up for bed. It had been a gloriously sunny day, so the camper was still quite warm. Our new air conditioning system (the blown air heating fan acting as the pull, bringing fresh air in from under the camper, was then being assisted by a new Fiamma air-vent fan blowing the hot air out of the roof), had kept the worse of the temperature off, but we needed a bit of a boost and wanted to take advantage of the sea air, so we opened the side windows.
After about thirty minutes, scenes from Hitchcock’s The Birds were being re-enacted in miniature around our LED lights. My cabin bed resembled a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, covered in the corpses of thousands of dead mozies as they had been drawn to the light strip in the ceiling, got sucked up through the fan, propelled into the wrong side of the flynet, stunned, and gravity pulling them back into the Blades of Doom and to their ultimate demise, shot out as spent carcasses on my duvet. Three times in the evening I hovered them up. And four times, I took the gas burner ignitor on a waft under the other strip lights (I still have scorch marks).
Lagoon. This is not the apparent blue bit of water from the film Blue Lagoon. It is more like the home of the creature from the Black Lagoon. It is not sea it is swamp and infested as such – even the Venetians did something interesting to the swamps in the middle ages to try and keep the plague out. This is how it has been from leaving Vicenza and heading to Venice. We have been eaten alive. Our insect bites have insect bites. Our only condolence was that, this far down the coast, we did swim in the Adriatic Sea, as opposed to a bit of creek.
Our next planned stay was in Choggia itself, the supposed start of the lagoon. So when we got there to find it reminiscent of Skegness on a Bank Holiday Monday, with fairgrounds and flags to boot, we were not overly disappointed to not being able to find this CamperStop. We were aware, however, of running low on water supplies and pooping space. After doing a very short stop over en-route to Venice (or more accurately an opposing jut of land overlooking Venice) we headed to our pay-to-poop, legitimate campsite.