DSC_4207.jpgWell there was a plan, and it involved Lake Iseo and the rock paintings of Capo di Ponte. Unfortunately there was also a rather problematic interaction between the sat nav, the driver and human navigator which resulted in an accidental encounter with Lake Idro in a rain storm, learning the hard way how the electronic brake worked on hairpin alpine bends, the temporary relief of descending to Lake Ledro before the nightmare (for a claustrophobic like me) of what seemed like a 20 mile tunnel into Riva del Garda for a long delayed lunch and a rest from driving. if you know the area, or just glance at a map you will realise that things went badly wrong.

Now I remember when I was a teenager I was chief navigator. That meant maps, guidebooks, slide rule (calculators are for wimps and they didn’t exist back in those days anyway) and work sheets. I marked off landmarks, calculated average speeds, estimated arrival times, “suggested” permitted stoppage time and generally had a lot of fun with multi-columned paper a various colored pens. I’m pretty sure I was tolerated for this activity but not liked, someone had to do it on long trips and I was willing. It was almost as much fun as scoring a cricket match, those wonderful green covered books! These days of course the trip computer and sat navs had made this function redundant and the youth of today (yes I am feeling my age) lack the training and experience to handle anomalies or total context. Something we need to think about by the way. Before I left New Scientist was reporting that our memory capacity is reduced as a result of dependency on technology. Rather like powerpoint dependency is destroying an already decayed capacity for rhetoric.

Of course we could blame the Italians (or the Austrians) for having two lakes with four letter names starting with the letter “I” in relatively close proximity to each other, but I don’t think I will get away with that. I didn’t want to take the toll road so I headed west on a parallel track in the general direction of Bréscia and Salò hoping that the sat nav would realise the error of its ways and adjust. Unfortunately it didn’t and the human navigator said did you mean this lake stabbing at the map as I navigated a roundabout in a complex dance with two motorbikes and a lorry. It was blue, it was in the right area, it was in my peripheral vision so I said yes. Now this was a mistake. I should have checked, I should have rechecked to the guidebook but by now the mental model was head for Salò and then the mountains. When we got to Lake Idro, I thought it was Lake Iseo and was looking for the island in the lake through the downpour of rain that had greeted us on leaving the Lombardy plains. By the time we got to the northern most tip of the Lake harsh reality was dawning and we realised our best option was to take what looked like a major road over the hills to Riva del Garda.

I ended that transit with huge admiration for the drivers of articulated lorries, zero respect for cyclists (both pedal and motor) and a profound and intimate knowledge of the performance of the hire car in low gears. It was pretty, there was a complete absence of places to pull over and take photos and its a good job that my claustrophobia is balanced by a general lack of concern for heights. Barriers are considered anDSC_4175.jpg optional extra on all but the most precipitous sections.

We did find a delightful nature reserve at Ampola Lake just over the pass (pictured) and Lake Ledro looks worth a longer visit for the walks and canoe hire, if (and its a big if) I can cope with that tunnel again. When we finally found somewhere to park in Riva del Garda it was a delight and our arrival at the harbour coincided with the departure of a paddle steamer (see header picture) which added interest. By this time it was coming up for four and we had been without food since the early morning so we ended up whiling away an hour and a half in a Pizzeria moving through dried meats to the second pizza of the trip and acoffee.

After that we scouted the North Eastern towns and confirmed the desirability of spending a day on the ferry that goes the length of the lake and which will leave us for three hours in Riva, time for lunch and a visit to the famous waterfalls. On the way back we passed Gardaland and Movieland, both evidence of creeping Americanization. Nothing however will ever prepare me for the presence of multiple branches of McDonalds which is a travesty of taste and unbelievable in a land graced by the greatest of the world cuisines. OK this is Italy, so the buildings have style, but that belies the contents. Starbucks I would understand (and welcome as there is no Italian equivalent for the driver in need of caffeine) but McDonalds represents the nadir of civilisation, a state of despair and destruction of civilisation.

So Lake Iseo is reserved for another day. Tomorrow we pick up daughter and friend at 1850 from the airport and then head into Verona for a performance of Nabuccio in the amphitheater. I will be praying for clear skies tomorrow as the magic of the arena is to see the chorus under the stars. It should all finish around midnight and we then need to find somewhere to eat and celebrate that both i ended up their first year (son, Chemistry) and second year (daughter, Anthropology) with upper seconds, running for at least that if not more next year. In the way of rival siblings they are now attempting to compare marks. In my day we just got told the grade! So if you hear sobs tomorrow night, then you know the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves is underway or one or other of them has established supremacy (or possibly both).

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