Day 23 – Italians Do It Better?
So up bright and early, due to noisy kids, we checked the weather forecast, which showed that the whole of the Alps and across to the Italian lakes (our next planned stop) had thunderstorms predicted for the next 5 days. We also discovered that dogs are not allowed anywhere in the national parks in the Alps so our idea of spending 4 days hiking with Juno wouldn’t be happening. We probably should have done some research!
We decided to change our plans and continue to run from the rain. Thanks to the beauty of FaceTime, we obtained advice from Andy & Natalie (friends of ours) who spent 6 weeks travelling through France and Italy last year, and due to a love of wine headed for Barolo, Italy. We found a small campsite within a vineyard and farm and so the plan was set.
First of all, we drove up to Les Arcs to see the ski slopes. It was a scenic drive and Greg’s nerves were tested a few times but we made it to the top and took the obligatory photo. Les Arcs in the summer is home to a number of hiking and mountain biking routes through the Vanoise National Park, but unfortunately the signs everywhere showed that Juno was not welcome. The drive up from Bourg St Maurice took us from 810 metres above sea level at Bourg St Maurice to 2000 at Les Arcs, the slopes continue up to 3226 metres.
We returned back down the mountain to Bourg St Maurice and set off to the Italian border. I tentatively reviewed the map and realised that the route up to the border at Little St Bernard Pass was hairy to say the least, going again from 810 metres to La Rosiere 1850 then onto Little St Bernard Pass at 2188, using narrow winding roads with sheer drops. Greg would be needing a stiff drink by the end of the day.
We have fallen into a role routine, mine include Chief Pistachio Peeler and In-car DJ, so I put on Greg’s iPhone music selection on random and we set off. The shock leaving me needing a stiff drink was discovering that Greg has a song by Samantha Fox (an ex-glamour model from the 1980s) on his iPhone, he denied all knowledge but seemed to know the words well enough!
The road certainly lived up to its picture on the map, it was scary! Hairpin bends everywhere we went. It was also very steep, 8.1% in places, even though there were cyclists going up there – quite a feat. We were overtaken by a rally of around 15 Porsches who must have been doing over 100km/hour. It looked like fun but I’m not sure that I’d have the stomach for it. Interestingly, it is thought that Hannibal used the Pass, I wonder how the elephants found it?! We found a beautiful spot for a picnic and Juno did her best Julie Andrews (Sound of Music) impression. We were chuffed to be the ones taking the parking space as we keep finding others have got to the beauty spots before us. It was a small victory for the day as we watched other motorhomers passing by looking at our spot longingly.
We then arrived at the Italian border, it was quite strange as there were border posts all shut up as they aren’t used, together with lots of St Bernard dogs. The dogs were first bred, for mountain rescue by monks at the hospice on the Pass, which was a very sombre, scary looking grey building. There was still snow up at this height and it felt pretty chilly. We stopped for photos then said Au Revoir to France and Buon Giorno to Italy. Juno hurried to get her phase book out and Greg practiced his Italian accent – quite Super Mario brothers.
The road on the Italian side didn’t improve, it was downhill but very sharp hairpin bends, some that we met coaches coming the other way on! We headed down through the ski villages and onto the toll roads towards Turin. We hoped that the Italian tolls were cheaper, but I don’t think they were, we spent €32 on the journey, but we were all fed up with being in Knigel so money well spent. The big shocker was the cost of diesel, nearly double the price in France or the UK. Should have filled up France side.
We arrived at Agri Camping Sole Langhe, which is 3kms outside the village of Barolo, but within the Barolo wine making district. We were met by a warm Italian welcome and found a great private pitch. The site is in the middle of vineyards, which has walking trails through them allowing you to walk to Barolo, La Morra and Novello through them. They were very relaxed about Juno too. We took Juno for her first vineyard walk and settled for a night chilling out after a long day.