When a friend of mine initially invited me to his family home in the northern Italian mountains, I considered the trip a simple opportunity to catch up and tick another area off my bucket list. However, I didn’t really consider what I would find when I arrived. I’d created a list of people to visit and I had been ploughing through that list with little thought for the actual geographical locations which I would be encountering. So, when I did find myself surrounded by the Italian mountains, walking the paths of the Alpini (Italian mountain soldiers) and gazing out over shimmering landscapes and glorious sunsets, it was with an incredible sense of the surreal.
The afternoon that I arrived, I was taken on a lovely walk up into the leafy forest. Ladies and gentlemen, it was the stuff of fairy tales. Imagine rich foliage, the sunlight pouring through the branches and glowing ever more orange as we approached sunset. Imagine emerging from the bushes and standing on jutting rock which falls away beneath you, and below you can see small towns with bell towers and churches, glistening lakes, and the haze of the late afternoon sun throwing a golden cast over the whole panorama.
The following day, we went trekking in the mountains, choosing an “easy” path for the completely inexperienced and very unfit Sydney girl (a.k.a. me). My friend and guide, who was a very experienced trekker, assured me that it would be a light, easy walk. What the supposedly gentle trail turned out to be was a trail for “experts” upon which we braved both the blazing sun and Italy’s deadliest viper (albeit a baby one).
That morning, we drove up the mountains to the highest parking point at Telve, a little area with a restaurant/bar and meeting point on the side of the mountain. Leaving the car behind, we began to zigzag up the mountain. When we stopped for the first little break (because of my fatigue rather than my companion’s) I was already well down struggle street. I was hot. I was tired. I was thirsty. And there was still a very long stretch of mountain yet to conquer. We had been walking for a grand total of about twenty minutes. Cue internal sobbing.
Such views as the one above did spur me on (as did the chocolate my hiking buddy wisely packed in his bag), and we trudged along the mountainside, me stumbling along in his surer-footed wake. I stared out around me, declared that this all felt very Lord of the Rings, and lost my footing. I recovered, my friend eyeing me cautiously, and we continued.
It was on the loop back around to the car that my friend shouted out, “Ferma! Ferma! Ferma!” (“Stop! Stop! Stop!”) and a little snake slid across the path in front of him. He breathed out and informed me that while it was a young snake, it was also the most deadly species of viper in Italy. Again, cue internal crying.
The whole trek took about 5 hours, including a lakeside lunch break, and I was quite tired by the end. Aside from the snake incident, the whole journey was without troubles, so I was rather proud of myself by the end.
We reached the cafe at the end of the path, shared a strudel with a bee who was insistent on eating the icing sugar, and then returned to the car and drove back down the mountain.
It was only when we returned back to base that I realised that my eyes were red raw and I had a very distinct and unattractive t-shirt tan. Definitely need to remember the sunscreen next time! The majestic beauty of those mountains was well worth the painful lesson learnt!