Sam in Europe, Part 4: Lombardy


Just as the first waves of homesickness and what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here-ness hit me in Zurich (about day 2 or 3), and I was riding around on the number 7 tram and crying into my 90c supermarket beer, I got a text telling me to get over to Kiran’s house. On the Toblerstrasse, yeah, as in the surname of the guy that invented Toblerone. Because we’re going on a trip to Italy and are booking somewhere to stay, are you in?

Yes. Yes I am. Sweet.

Lago Di Como

When we arrived in Como it was dark, and there was just a sense of the rows of hills above the lake, scattered with lights and looming all around. It took about 5 minutes to get lost, and soon we were walking on the shoulder of a busy road, cars and motorbikes screaming by from out under the weak streetlights. The photo of a map Kiran had on her phone (taking crappy mobile photos of a map you think might be useful is a really, really bad habit which I don’t like) didn’t help, and neither did calling the hostel! Feeling frazzled and frustrated, I was not happy.

But eventually we got off the road, and started walked down a series of quiet narrow lanes, grottoes and terraces gleaming in the dark. The lights above and below and all around…it was beautiful.

Daylight revealed a wonderful corner of the world. The culture of Italy with the landscape of New Zealand.

The next two days almost feel like a formality in hindsight, but of course there were ancient lighthouses kept by cheeky old men, villages on hillsides soaking in the sun, cobbled lanes, swimming on the lake…it was food for the soul.

The village of Brunate.
Yeah we saw the Casino Royal set. And we went to the original Bellagio.

Lecco and Val Bodengo

I wanted to go canyoning if I could, of course (granite slot canyons? Hell yeah!) but found the idea of going in a guided group distasteful. I made a general enquiry, on OzCanyons, and got a great reply from a woman called Cathi, who directed me to her friend Marco. Marco was instantly welcoming and keen, and invited me on a trip to Val Bodengo I and II on Saturday the 21st. These two canyons are some of the best of the Alps, just on the Italian side of the border from St Moritz. Everything clicked pretty well in to place, except for the weather, which forcast dangerous storms. Marco sadly confirmed it was off when I called him.

So I didn’t get to go canyoning! The closest I got was browsing the guidebook ‘El Dorado Ticino’ in the common room of the hostel in Cresciano. It’s an awesome guidebook – I’d buy it as a coffee table book!

Instead, here’s someone else’s video of the canyon I did not get to do:

The Dolomiti

The other awesome invite I got was from John, who was going to be climbing in the Dolomiti around Cortina from the 17-23 July. This kind of clicked in with the canyoning, but when I looked at the dates and the transport, it almost definitely wasn’t going to happen on the spur of the moment. He replied

No problem, but you are really going to have to get to the Dolomites next time!! spires everywhere you look …
 Yes I am John, yes I am!

Milano

Funnily enough, the part of the trip I was almost the most nervous about was visiting the family in Milano. A weekend in Italy with absolutely no Italian was always going to be a wild ride, but I managed to meet Zio Andrea at the station in the morning, and have an great time at the traditional four, five, maybe six-course Sunday afternoon lunch. That night, Dario took me out with some friends, and we walked through central Milano around the Duomo, before going for drinks, then crashing at his family’s house.

The next day, I had breakfast with Maria and Zia Giovanna, before two of Dario’s friends, Luca and Christian, picked me up and we had a lazy day in Milano before I went to catch my train.

(Unfortunately, I took barely any photos, and the ones I did take are on Alex’s laptop. The Duomo is amazing! Walking into it, the ceiling feels a hundred metres high, and the pillars look like they’re three metres across at the base.)

Conclusion

Though I did get to see a bit of Italy, it really did leave me feeling like I need to make another trip: visit the Dolomites, Calabria, Venezia and Roma. But first, I’ll need to learn Italiano to a conversational level!

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