We were hot. There’s been a heatwave all over southern Europe, and we were seeing what we could in our coast-to-coast run across Italy, but we needed a break from the weather, and the crowds. The difference in population density between Europe and our usual haunts out on the Pacific Coast Highway or up in the Rockies was wearing on us. It’s a strain to always have to check that you are fully clothed before stepping out of your Roadtrek, and not being able to use the outside shower, honestly. I hate to have to worry about details like that all the time. And we had to – we have been in commercial campgrounds and aires ever since we got our Roadtrek off the boat, with our nearest neighbor maybe a dozen or two feet away. We needed somewhere we could stretch out and scratch where it itches. Someplace cool.
Out comes the map and the Google, and we hit upon a solution – head for the hills. Directly north of where we were in Ravenna, Italy on the Adriatic were the Dolomite Mountains. Bright and early, before it heated up, we headed up the road past Venice, which we saw from across the lagoon as we drove by. I had found a few campgrounds that were really ski resorts that stayed open in the summer, and I was hoping they wouldn’t be too crowded. Summer vacation in Europe doesn’t really start until Mid July, and we were at least a month ahead of the busy season. I settled on Camping Nevegal, because it looked like it was way out of the main tourist area, and it was up high – 3000 feet.
After a couple of hours of driving, we finally found an open grocery store (it was Sunday, most stores are closed in Italy) and resupplied for a few days. I know no Italian – how I found the bleach was opening bottles and smelling them. I didn’t know the Italian word for garlic, either – these sausages I bought are very good, but also a little on the pungent side. It’s just the two of us, so there’s nobody to offend, really. We started seeing the mountains off in the distance, and worked our way up a valley past beautiful villages to Belluno, about a thousand feet above sea level. The GPS said Nevegal was five miles up the road – at 3000 feet. And when they say up, they mean up. It was a 10% grade with switchbacks straight up the mountain. How they drive this stuff in the winter I will never know.
A little overheated engine coolant wise-and somewhat anxious, we pull into the parking lot in front of this giant ramshackle ski resort building, and my heart sank – the place was crawling with people. But there’s something strange- they are almost all kids. It’s a day venue with a huge playground with kiddie-size zip lines, playground equipment of all types, and people have birthday parties up here on weekends. As the sun goes down, they all head back down the mountain until next weekend. Fine with me. I find the campground reception area after wandering into a few birthday party rooms. The congenial hostess copies my driver’s license, says I can stay as long as I want and we’ll settle the bill when I leave, and tells me to just go out and pick a spot. Ok, now it’s looking better.
Behind the ski lodge building are about a hundred permanent camp places – the trailers with the added-on rooms, skirting, flower boxes, and other signs that these folks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. All but a couple are unoccupied. Off to the side of this permanent camp is an open area for more mobile camping equipment, with an upper and lower terrace, since there’s not much flat ground in these parts. I spot a half dozen RVs in the maybe 60-70 spaces. Looking good. They were all in the upper terrace, so we went down to the lower terrace. It looked even better when all but two of them packed up and left as it started getting dark. The next morning, one of those two left. We basically had the place to ourselves. Ah, solitude!
It was high 50s the next morning as we had our coffee, and we spent three days sitting around, enjoying the mountain scenery, and relaxing after weeks of being around people all the time. It got up to around 72-75 degrees in the afternoon, with a nice breeze all day. Some guy in his late 70s or early 80s wandered in, car-camping for a night. He sat around and read, sunned himself, and seemed to be doing pretty much what we were – getting out into the great outdoors and not looking for too much company. We never even spoke to him.
Off to the north of us was a solid wall of mountains, and we watched the clouds gather around the peaks as the afternoon wore on. We had no need to plug in – the solar panes filled all the batteries by early afternoon this close to the summer solstice. One great thing about mountain camping is the water – I ran the water we had in the tanks out through the outside shower hose, and filled up with the coldest, cleanest water we had drunk since last fall out in the Rockies. Wonderful stuff.
Plus, I heard a cuckoo. A real bird, sounds just like a cuckoo clock, except it isn’t 25 o’clock, they just keep on calling for a long time. And there’s an old church right behind the ski lodge in the village of Nevegal with bells a half dozen times a day. Old, old bells with beautiful harmonics, echoing off the mountains. It’s very easy to slip into the rhythm of this place. When we left after three days, we were fully recharged.