So here we are, the third
and final [yeah, this was the plan – sorry, you’ll just have to put up with another part or two, otherwise it’ll nd up far too long!] part of my summer roadtrip adventure.
After the exhausting, exciting and ex…tremely awesome week that was Metaldays, it was time to bid farewell. Farewell to metal (particularly since the van’s music system had gone bust), farewell to the awesome Metaldays arena pizza, farewell to that melon flavoured vodka stuff that we drank near constantly… and back on the road.
Getting out of Slovenia was considerably easier than getting into the country. The lack of any van-related smoke was a good sign, for starters, and it wasn’t long until we had crossed the border into Italy.
Just a few days after we left continental Europe, it entered a danger-level heatwave, with the temperature in many places exceeding 40°C. Luckily we missed those highs – in a van without air conditioning, that sounds like a pretty good approximation of hell. Passing Venice, the heat hit its highest temperature of the week at around 34-35°C, and even that was a little too much, with windows open fully as we belted down the autostrade, trying desperately to make enough breeze not to cook, and guzzling down litre after litre of water.
In fair Verona, where we made our first stop, the sun was high, the river was beautiful, and our clothing was already soaked with sweat. Well, we had to have something icky, otherwise it’d all get horribly, sickeningly romantic.
Of course, we couldn’t go to Verona without doing something a bit Shakespearian, so we all held up skulls and… nah, just kidding. We did actually go to the balcony of Juliet. Two things struck me while there – first, the decades of regular rubbing have meant that Juliet’s statue’s breasts are a noticeably different colour than the rest of the statue, thanks to the repeated polishing. Second, that the romance of lovers writing their names on paper and sticking them to the inside of the courtyard entrance is slightly undercut by the fact that a not-insignificant number of them are written on sanitary towels.
Much of the pageantry and tradition here seems to be for people hoping for luck in their love lives, which seems particularly unusual to me. Do these people not know what happens in Romeo and Juliet? Luck in their love life is pretty much the exact opposite of what they got. Might as well rub a statue of Richard the Third in the hopes of good posture. For that matter, I wonder what happens if you rub Bottom’s bottom?
Our bed for the night (I know, actual beds!) was at a hostel at Lake Garda. Annoyingly, the absolutely stunning Lake Garda was a place we had deliberately planned to spend time in, but by the time we get there it was early evening, we had a vanload of laundry to do on the single washer and dryer available, and another gigantic thunderstorm was about to start. And so, the night was spent eating watermelon in a large room filled with Italian teenagers playing drinking games, and waiting for our laundry to finish, because we are just so damn rock and roll. Any other night I’d have personally outdrank the lot of them, but the night after a seven-day booze-filled metal festival? Nah man, I just needed to go to bed.
The next day, another disappointing lack of time meant that we couldn’t spend any time at all in Lake Garda (so that one’s in the “to revisit” folder!) as we had to hightail it to Milan, as luckily we had a local guide to show us around.
My first thought in Milan was “Wow”, my second thought was “Bloody hell”, and my third thought was “I really wish people would stop trying to scam money out of me.” This third thought was primarily intended for the street-level scammers, who attempt to tie string bracelets to you and then guilt you into payment, but in hindsight I should have also applied it to the local shops, who apparently quoted us a price of €2.50 for gelato, before revealing it was in fact €6 after the fact.
Many of the sites in Milan are churches and cathedrals – including one church that’s made out of bits of other churches (and also has the skeleton of Saint Ambrose on display in a glass coffin, because why not?). Which does mean that I’ve been to more churches this year alone than I have at any other point in my life – which, for someone who had a full Roman Catholic education, is actually quite impressive.
Holy hell though, Milan is pretty. The sheer amount of marble and gold and effort that must have gone into everything is truly staggering. It does make you wonder what architectural treasures the UK might have had if Henry VIII hadn’t bulldozed as many monasteries as he could get hold of, if there had been a true British Renaissance in the Italian sense, and if the Georgians and Victorians hadn’t simply decided they could do better and gone on demolishing sprees of their own.
I couldn’t let this write-up of the day in Milan end without my favourite statue of the whole place, though;
Yeah, that’s right, I am not a grown-up.
After loading up with a hell of a lot more drinks, we made for the final campsite in Italy – based in the grounds of the Monza racetrack – before making our way northwards to Switzerland.
To be continued. Again. Sorry.