Posted: 2/3/2009


      Hotel Garda in Affi was a great find on the internet. Almost half price for a three night stay 15 minutes above the lake and near the autostrada tha connects with  the A4 autostrada Milano-Venezia.

     I was with my friend Harald from Oslo, a former Norwegian youth international who I had arranged a two week trial for at Manchester United years ago. Unfortunately his pal Ollie Gunnar Soljaer inmpressed Sir Alex even more, but he still plays in a lower league and coaches as well. We were off to visit one of my favourite clubs SSC Venezia, now down in Serie C. We parked on the mainland in Mestre outside their office but it was closed for good, so took the bus across the causeway to Venice. After combining with another club their colours are green, orange, white, black and gold. In 2005 they went bust and were relegated.

      From there it was the Vaporetto No 52 that speeds across the lagoon to the Stadio Pierluigi Penza at the Santa Elena stop, on an island, the only stadium in Europe where you go by water, Its decrepid and covered in graffiti. From there we took the same vaperetto the other direction to St. Marks Square-Piazza San Marco. At this time of years it's often flooded and the wooden walkways, a metre off the ground were already in place.  At the Rialto Bridge, with a great view of the traffic and buildings on either side of the Grand Canal, I spoke with the owner of a tiny soccer store. He gave me the new address of the club which we went to but coudn't find in an area with the world's largest parking garage.

     Next stóp Verona and its splendid piazzas, Arena, city walls and more. Usually I try and keep to the shadows in the summer, as its very hot, but Italy was freezing cold. Back at Lake Garda and my favourite resort of Bardollino, and its terrific wines and lake side restaurants, most closed for the winter. Not far away at Garda Town they were training in their unusual Trachetto boats, often rowing standing up. In the summer the various lake side towns have races.

     Up in the hills late evening we stop at the Osteria Pizzeria degli Spiriti  near tiny Albare. They were closing, but Martina, the charming hostess, is willing to have a  couple of calzones baked for take away, and while we are waiting she plies me with glasses of different local wines from the barrels on the wall-red, white, sparkling, dry. It's a good job I am not driving on the winding road back to the hotel.

     It's snowing as we drive to Bergamo for Serie A: Atalanta v Catania at Stadio Azzuri D'Ítalia.  Almost 10,000 hardy souls brave the snow and cold for a 1-0 home vctory. Both are in mid table but its a spirited contest. We set off for our new hotel but its up in the mountains, only 17 km away, but after an hour the roads are deep in fresh snow and we have to turn back and find another one nearer town. I'ts my birthday and I can't find 39 candles and Beckham is now in Romé playing in a 3-0 win for AC Milan over Lazio, so can't make my party, so I down a half litre of local vino and an early night.