In September 2000 we spent 14 days exploring the battlefields of Bonaparte’s Italian Campaign of 1796. This was our most ambitious undertaking yet. It involved many months of preparation and a two day car journey of 950 miles each way. The total mileage covered was 2052 and the entire holiday cost jut £1029.
The weather was excellent and we spent the entire two weeks in shorts. We rented a mobile home on a campsite right on the shore of Lake Garda with excellent views of the lake the mountains beyond. After long and busy days exploring battlefields we ate our meals outside the caravan and drank our wine until it was dark. Most nights we were in bed by 9pm.
We visited the battlefields of Lonato, Castiglione, Rivoli, Caldero and Arcola. We also visited the towns of Verona, Mantua, Perschia, Salo, Sirmione and Garda. The only drawback was the heavy traffic around the lake, but we avoided this whenever possible.
We walked the ground of Castiglione, Arcola and Rivoli reading vivid descriptions of the battles and enjoying every minute of the holiday. Probably the best and most successful of our battlefield holidays.
And the thing which made all of this possible was a lucky find when visiting a Napoleonic show in London. We had never been before, and I can’t even remember the name of the show. It was a one day event featuring a large selection of new and second hand Napoleonic books and attended by a small selection of reenactors. At one of the book stands we met a young Austrian called Bernhard Voykowitsch, who was selling copies of his first book called “Castiglione 1796” ,
I have said before that the most difficult part of exploring battlefields is finding a good guide. This is particularly true of the Italian battlefields, because there is very little available in English. This book was everything we could have asked for. Filled with photographs and detailed maps of the battles, plus an easy to read description of the characters involved and each phase of the campaign. It even had three pages devoted to the battlefield today and notes on how to explore. As soon as I read the book I knew we had found our next battlefield project.