We had planned to go to Milan next, but after a day in Florence, felt that we had had the city experience. We headed north, guided only by our guide to the Italian Aires, and found a beautiful car park. The continent embraces camper vans and dotted around the countryside are Aires, not just picnic spots or service stations, but places where mobile homes are welcome to stay overnight, and most have facilities to fill up with clean water and get rid of the used water from the sink and to empty what is politely known as the "black water". We were parked by a fresh water tap, in front of a children's playground and across the road from this abbey.
Before leaving we explored the Abbey. The cloisters were a concert hall of bird-song and there was a small exhibition about the work of the monks. We had not entered Il Duomo on Sunday as there was a huge queue; we were the only visitors to this church and were touched by the emptiness and sense rare and private experience.
Angelo's took a little bit of finding (not surprising that my limited Italian had not stretched to understanding the directions) but was more than worth it. A little bakery tucked around the back of a farmhouse we left with fresh, hand-made foccacia and it felt a true Italian experience.
The Autostrada conducted us north to Lake Maggiore, where we chose to stay in a campsite in Bareno and were rewarded by a lakeside pitch no more than five metres from the lapping waves. Undetered by the grey skies and chill temperature, the rest of the party opted to paddle and even to brave swimming, if only long enough to win a 10 second bet! I chose to sit quietly by and paint.