November 17

A circular walk starting at Brione

After having enjoyed a talk, about the artwork on the frontispieces of 16th Century books produced in this valley, last night we awoke later than usual this morning. These talks are organised by the friends of Valley Sabbia and are usually well attended. The next talk is to be about Christmas traditions here, the songs, tunes and the Alpine Star.

When we finally managed to get going this morning it was obvious that the day would be another sunny one. The IKEA furniture is assembled but is still empty and forlorn in the pantry. The agonising choice facing us today was to sort out the kitchen and pantry or go out in the sun for a walk.

Last month we went up to Brione, a beautiful hillside village in Trentino, for a walk. The weather was misty that day and the views were a bit restricted so, as it is a walk of just 4 miles or so it seemed ideal for today so that we could see what we had missed before.

The road to Brione is narrow in places and has a few blind corners so I was grateful to tuck in behind another car going up so that, in the event of a lunatic coming in the opposite direction, the other car would bear the brunt of things.

The stroll starts in the car park built on the roof of the football club changing rooms. The football pitch overlooks a steep drop so has high sided fences in order to save the expense of renewing balls frequently and to avoid complaints from the people living at the bottom of the cliff.

The road to the path was blocked today by some roadworks, as was an alternative. When I say roadworks this is an exaggeration as the roads are very narrow and easily blocked by a mini digger. In order to get through to the path we went through someone’s yard where they were receiving a load of wood. Janet was beside herself with delight and took loads of woody photos. When we saw the bloke later he told us that he had worked in London for a few years but Brione was more tranquil.
171120122943 Snow in the distance

The snow on the hill we see from home looked fabulous in the sunshine. Although we were mightily glad of warm clothes when we got to a shady section.

171120122945 Frost  not in the distance

Lots of the mountain houses have corrugated iron sheets on the roof in order to allow the snow to slide off. Tiles and gutters would not be able to cope with the weight of snow which falls in winter.

171120122947 Tin roof

The tree in the next photo was sitting nicely on a rock.

tree on a rock

Back at Brione we encountered the taped off streets again. This place is another hidden gem, with narrow streets, low arches and ancient buildings. We enjoyed wandering through these streets in order to find the car again.

171120122952 Brione where we came out

October 19

Internet and the front page of the Giornale di Brescia

I had a phone call today from the people who are to supply our internet and fixed line telephone. They told me that the antenna was ready and to come into the office next week. I, very foolishly as it turns out, thought that the fitting of the antenna on our apartment roof was included in the deal. So, next week I shall collect the antenna and hope that it is small enough to go on the balcony as I have no harness for roof work. In addition I shall borrow a hammer drill with a very long masonry drill in order to get the cable through the wall. I need to ask better questions.

Who would have believed it? We have not only made the front page of the Shropshire Star but also the front page of the Giornale di Brescia today.


To add to this excitement there is a free lecture at the bank tonight about the Great Fire of Bagolino, followed by a late night DJ in the bar adjacent to our flat.

October 17

Val di Fumo

A few years ago we enjoyed a golden day in Val di Fumo, part of the Adamello Brenta national park. The day we chose to go that first time was in October and was sunny with a deep blue sky. As it is October once again we decided to try to find the source of the Chiese River and, possibly, go over the high pass at the end of the valley. In order to make this possible we arose at 6:00 am, stuffed some bread and salami into our day sacks and gulped down some tea before making our way in the car towards Pieve di Bono (which exists only as an idea ), then to Praso, finishing the journey on some dodgy lanes at the dam.

Our first visit to the this fabulous place was in the company of a friend, Egle. She wanted a stroll after a concert and suggested that this would be a good one. I still remember her urging us on towards the dam, the roads becoming narrower and narrower with loads of hairpin bends. The road is just the same now, but we are more used to this sort of thing I suppose.

We have had a lot of rain over the last few days which has turned to snow on the higher ground. As we drew nearer to the car park, where the stroll starts, the snow on the road was making unpleasant sounds as it scraped on our exhaust pipe. Neither of us mentioned it but both wondered if the thing would drop off at any moment.

IMG_0001 Car park

After having parked the car we scoffed some toast and marmalade in order to prepare ourselves for the coming transition from warm car to cold valley. I was wearing my heavy underwear, as a precaution against frostbite, and felt very pleased about it as I got out of the car into the icy world into which we had driven.

IMG_0002 Towards Val di Fumo

The path atarts at the hydro plant and follows the lake towards the valley. The notice in the car park says that the car park is just for patrons of the adjacent bar and that cars left in the car park will be towed away. I am very glad that this is Italy.


The stroll along the lake to the start of the footpath always takes longer than we expect and, in today’s snow, took about an hour.


We passed a few chaps out collecting mushrooms, who told us that we were too late and that they had found them all. People are very early risers in this part of the world.

After an early start we are usually ravenous by 10:00 am and today was no exception. Finding a suitable rock on which to perch became an increasingly important need. We were both aware of the slices of fresh walnut and banana cake in the rucksack and couldn’t wait to get our gnashers involved in their destruction.


Refreshed by walnut cake and coca cola we strode out once more. It was obvious by now that we would have to change our original plan for the day as the snow was slowing us down quite a lot. We arrived at the point where the path divides and goes either over the bridge to a refuge or onward to the high pass.

IMG_0012 Bridge over the Chiese at Val di Fumo

No matter how hard we looked the path markers were completely invisible. The ground at this point is quite uneven and time was against us. Phew, no need to do more climbing then! We made our way to the refuge and settled in on a very convenient table.

IMG_0022 An early lunch

The snow in front of the entrance to the refuge was covered with the imprints of small cloven hooves. We suspected that the owner must have taken the owners of these hooves with him when he closed up for winter.

The valley does have a circular walk plus various spur paths but we wanted to retrace our steps today. This valley is very well known in Italy and it is very unusual to have it to oneself, as we had it for most of today. On our way back to the car we met a group of Australians who told us that the walk South from Cooktown in North Australia should be our next expedition. The bloke dressed it up quite nicely by saying that there were places every one or two hundred kilometers apart so there were no problems about supplies As we mused on this thought afterwards I could see that Janet wasn’t particularly keen on the idea.

The temperature was rising all the time we were returning to the car and must have been approaching five degrees C when we got back to the car as our feet were soaking from the slush in the lane. It wasn’t the day we expected that it would be but then, it never is is it?

October 17

Festa della Transumanza Bagolino 14th October 2012

“An odd title for a blog post!” I can hear you exclaim. If you look transumanza up in an Italian / English dictionary it gives the helpful translation of transhumance. In case anyone could have forgotten, transhumance is the ancient, annual, migration in spring of cattle to graze on the high alpine meadows. In autumn the process is reversed and the cattle return to lower levels and their winter quarters. Our local centre, Bagolino, retains this tradition to this day. There are some 26 herds of cows still based in Bagolino all of whom, with their owners, continue this traditional way of life. Each herd is based at a malga, a cowshed and living place, and the milk produced by these cows is used to make the delicious traditional Bagoss cheese.

We needed to go to the council offices in Ponte Caffaro last week in order to correct the address the council has for us. Having spoken to the bloke who does the tax bills, with a bit of luck, we shall now receive our council tax bills on time and can avoid paying fines for non payment of said council tax. As we were idling away the time before being seen by the funzionario I spotted the following notice pinned on the noticeboard.

An impossible to resist advertisement

This notice was an invitation to look at some of the cows from the various malgas running through the main street of Bagolino. On the special day I rose early and made my solitary way up to Bagolino, taking at least 15 minutes for the journey. I parked the car outside Bagolino and made my way into the town at about 9:10 am in order not to miss the cows running through the main street, due to start at 9:30 am it said on the notice. The main square looked a bit short of eager spectators so I hung about for a bit as people gradually started to arrive. I had a chat with some people I know and waited. We all waited for quite a time really. At about 10:30 someone said that they thought that they could hear the sound of cowbells in the distance. I could hear the odd, doubting, mutter at this news but when the cows did turn up they looked really fantastic in the narrow streets. I forgot to take many photos, unfortunately, but did get a few poor quality videos which I will add to this thing. I asked one of the cowmen why they were a bit late. He said “They’re cows, they’re not machines you know! They didn’t want to go and we didn’t want to make them.” “Fair enough!” Was my feeble response.

After the excitement of loads of cows running around, the fire service turned up and hosed the excitement away leaving the streets completely free of the brown stuff. I have to say that the process was incredibly efficient.

Part of the cheese making process

The day finished at the local park for a small agricultural show with displays of cheese making and some people selling warm socks, vests, woolly hats, heavy saucepans and various traditional foods. It was at this point that the rain started. We all did what we do at British agricultural shows, we went to the bar and had a drink or two until the food was ready. My knowledge of the local dialect is a scanty but I did manage to learn a few new words at the bar.

The food and the bar was organised by the pro loco of Bagolino. The pro loco is something found in many communities where a group of volunteers organise events, put on amateur dramatics and musical evenings. I really enjoy watching the process of polenta making in quantity.

After a sturdy portion of polenta and a few drinks things began to develop into a very pleasant afternoon session.

I can’t wait for next year’s transumanza

October 6

Ponte Caffaro to Darzo via Castel Lodron

We have been feeling slightly seedy over the last day or two so have only had a few indolent strolls down to the lake. Today, the sun was shining, and so were we, so we got the urge to stretch our legs.

sunny balcony
A sunny morning in Ponte Caffaro

After lunch we pulled ourselves together and set out towards the ruins of Castel Lodron. According to the notice board on the way up to this ancient pile this castle was ruined by the French and then by the Garibaldini.

Castel Lodron
Castel Lodron as seen from the footpath out of Lodrone

The path upwards has been improved over the years and much of it is ribbed concrete. A landslide destroyed the old path a few years ago but the local authority has established quite a few measures to prevent too much damage if this should happen again.

Footpath at rear of Castel Lodron
Footpath at rear of Castel Lodron towards Darzo

It is not very easy to walk right around the castle as the drops are a bit severe so, in order to find the path, it is necessary to take the path at the left side. I must confess at this point that we had no idea where the path went when we set off along it. I suppose that we have become compulsive footpath explorers.

Path to Darzo
The path was a bit steep in places

Next time we use this path we need to take some kit with us. Secateurs to cut back the thorns and nettles, poles to get past the steep slides, and a small backpack and gardening gloves to collect the wild walnuts and chestnuts.

The footpath into Darzo

The footpath is not easy to walk along for much of its length but it does become much easier as it approaches Darzo.

Ripe maize
Ripe maize everywhere

We had hoped to find an open bar in Darzo but must have turned the wrong way. We did see a bar but it was shut. In the bar’s window was a sign demanding that clients should use the lavatories provided and not the outside walls. We would have been delighted to use the facilities but could not get in.
We crossed the main road and spotted a track which we hoped would lead us home. It has been quite exciting to stroll about in a, more or less, haphazard manner.
The fields along the valley are full of ripe maize awaiting the attentions of the maize cooperative’s combine. This all promises another good year of farina gialla di Storo and many plates of delicious polenta with bagoss.

I nearly trod on a huge caterpillar, black, no hairs, about three inches long and half an inch thick. I hope that if anyone reads this nonsense then a name might be forthcoming for this giant among caterpillars.

a large black caterpillar

A glass of pirlo and a beer on the balcony has finished off a perfect day. Although I am still trying to find flip top bottles for my fermenting brew.

River Caffaro
Crossing the Caffaro on the way home to a cool beer.
October 4

Beer and car check

Our delightful FIAT Punto has developed an irritating habit. Just before we set out from Shropshire, to travel to Italy, an engine management light became visible. On looking this light up in the car handbook the message was more or less “go directly to the dealers and do not collect £200”.

To cut a long and boring story short I went to see the FIAT dealer in Shrewsbury to get the thing cleared. It turned itself on again in Guildford two days later and  the Guildford dealer told us that we would wreck the engine if we didn’t get it fixed and that we would have to wait for at least five days before this could happen. The friendly bloke in Shrewsbury said “rubbish, carry on it can’t harm the engine” and, blow me, the light turned itself off in Italy. We visited the local FIAT bloke here in Italy today and according to this fine fellow the thing had probably cleared itself going over the St Gotthard Pass. So, if you get a problem with a FIAT car, drive it back to Italy.

salo from waterfront
Lake Garda at Salo

As the car did not need any attention after all, we had an hour or two to kill so we went a few miles down the road to Lake Garda and Salo for a stroll around and some home made ice cream.

Salo boats on Lake garda
Boats on Lake Garda at Salo

The beer here in Italy is quite nice but I fancied a pint or two of warm flat British style beer so started a brew a couple of days ago. I am a bit worried at the moment as the fermentation appears to have stopped. The beer fermenting bin is sitting in the sunshine by the patio doors at the moment soaking up some sunshine. I hope that if it relaxes in the late afternoon sunshine it will get going again.

October 3

Gravels Bank to Ponte Caffaro by car 28/09/2012 – 30/09/2012

After a frantic two weeks in the UK we returned to italy taking a route which brushed against the line of the stroll. We set off from the UK, via the shuttle, much later than intended as a result of some poor advice from a FIAT dealer in the South East of England. Luckily, our Shropshire chap told us to press on and ignore the irritating engine shaped light on the instrument panel, which went out after a few hundred miles. I am off to see the FIAT bloke here in Italy tomorrow so, fingers crossed that my Italian is up to the job.

Good old GPS technology meant that we had a line on our map which represented the original stroll and also our actual position on the road so we could gasp in pleasure when the two lines coincided. The two lines coincided incredibly frequently in Arras as we drove, by accident and poor navigation, into the town centre and its one way system.

Frequent visitors to France will already have discovered the wonderful network of traffic free roads away from motorways. Following our stroll route we also discovered the network of lesser roads which criss cross the countryside. How we chuckled when one of these roads turned into a cart track. It reminded us of the delight we had felt when encountering one of these tracks on the stroll, knowing that we should be very unlucky to be run down by a fast moving vehicle from behind. Travelling along the ‘N’ and larger ‘D’ class roads we saw lots of signs for chambres d’hotes. This frequency of accommodation caused us to modify our view of France which grew from the perspective of a stroller using paths and minor roads.

Our first place of rest was in beautiful Peronne where we ate very well indeed. readers of previous posts will recall that a good dinner was not always to be found when we strolled. Having spent most of the day oohing and ahhing we feel that we must spend more time in this bit of France. We decided to travel slowly and to stay the next night at Altkirch. If anyone has any experience of Altkirch as a good place to stay I should be grateful to hear of it. We wandered about for ages and couldn’t spot any likely places to rest our, by now, weary heads. Altkirch looked very beautiful in a Swiss sort of way but didn’t seem to have any hotels, restaurants, bars, cinemas etc. After a fruitless half hour we carried on towards Basel, finding a bed on the outskirts of Altkirch.

The following morning we set off missing Mulhouse out of the trip in order to save time and made straight for the Swiss border and Altdorf. Approaching Altdorf, via the motorway, the weather started to deteriorate. A heavy mist made itself known to us which was a shame as we had been looking forward to going over the St Gotthard Pass via the old cobbled road we had crossed on our pedestrian way upwards. It took us about 10 seconds to decide that the mist was probably low level stuff and would disappear as we drove upwards. We stopped for a comfort break, a coffee and a stroll around Altdorf before following the trail to Erstfeld and the St Gotthard Pass via the old road. The mist became fog as we made our way upwards but did not prevent us from enjoying this trip up and down memory lane. The conditions were a bit like driving over Plynlimon as the fog turned inevitably to rain and better visibility. The rain stopped for us at the summit so we could wander about without coats, although the temperature was definitely cooler than when we were there a few weeks ago.

The trip downwards to rejoin the motorway near Bellinzona was a real treat as the sun came out giving us a small taste of the experience we had had when we had followed the route on foot, although a few metres to the left, without a pack and in a sitting position.

When we have driven from Gravels Bank to Ponte Caffaro in the past one of us is usually fast asleep in the passenger seat as the other drives. This time neither of us slept at all during the journey. Even when on the motorway from Bellinzona to Brescia we were still chattering. I think that perhaps we should do the trip again.

September 25

A wet day on Gravels Bank

As well as strolling in the wettest April ever in Britain and in a heatwave in Italy, yesterday morning we strolled about on seemingly the wettest day ever for BBC Midlands Today and being interviewed in the rain.  I have never seen such rain on Gravels Bank.  It took us right back to the occasional soaking we had on our stroll, when mud and water even came over the tops of our shoes.  Of course, in the afternoon the rain stopped here and there was even a bit of watery sun.  Here is a link to the finished product shown last night.