Positively the last holiday post.
The route back was a mirror of the way down. Google Maps will show you three options from Warsaw to Tuscany, one is just a variation on a theme but the main two are:
1/ Warsaw, Katowice, Ostrava, Olomouc, Brno, Vienna, flirt with Graz, Klagenfurt, Udine, Venice/Padua, Bologna, Florence.
2/ Warsaw, Poznan, Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Munich, Innsbruck, Trento, Verona, Modena, Bologna, Florence.
It says route one is 16.5 hours and route two is 18.5 hours. That’s without stops or hold ups. We used route one in both directions and encountered no significant problems either way. On the way down we avoided heavy traffic approaching Florence but were never held up. Friends of ours took route two and were held up for hours at the Brenner Pass on the way home which is the funnel for all traffic between Innsbruck in Austria and Italy. A few years ago we had similar problems with route two.
Route two is tempting because of the long stretch of free and fast Autobahn all the way up Germany but this is easily offset by first of all the longer distance and secondly the inevitable delays at Brenner. It’s obvious really, the millions of tourists coming from Germany, Netherlands and so forth down to Italy and back home only really have the choice of the Brenner route and at least half of them are towing caravans or driving large vehicles full of garden furniture and barbecue sets. From Warsaw we have a choice so I suggest you use route one.
On the way back we stayed at a place called Bad Vöslau, which is 20km south of Vienna. We did this because it is roughly half way home, had easy access to the highway and avoided going into Vienna itself. Driving wise it worked out well with day one being as expected 8 hours drive and day two being about 9 thanks to Polish traffic, roads and so forth. If the highways A1 and A2 were actually finished and connected to each other at Łódz the second day would be at least 2 hours quicker. As it was we used what we could and stared enviously at the sign that said “Warsaw 221km” on a closed three lane highway as we were chucked off to do battle up to and through Częstochowa, then around Łódz before eventually finding a highway again. One day.
The Hotel Stefanie in Bad Vöslau has been family owned and run since dinosaurs ruled the earth and the royal family of Austro-Hungary used to take a dip in the thermal baths. It’s an eccentric place but was comfortable enough for us. Large triple room for €110 including a decent breakfast.
We managed to find a good restaurant serving hearty dishes like venison stew and that liver dumpling soup. The thermal baths were right opposite so we saw the comings and goings. Very popular, especially the fountain outside (bottom picture) providing ever flowing free drinking water which was hugely popular with the natives. One guy spent hours there filling 6 bottles then scurrying off and back again. He must have filled about 50 in the end, was he having a bath in the stuff?
It’s a strange country, Austria.