Browsing "Strolling in Italy"

Day 128 Capo Lago (Switzerland) to Como (Italy)

We had decided that we would stroll a little further yesterday in order to make today’s stroll a little shorter. It was just as well that we did make yesterday’s stroll a bit longer as it turned out.

 

where the path begins above capo lago

Where the path begins above Capo Lago

We set off today in a reflective mood as it has been just over four months since we set off from Gravels Bank, in the snow, with little idea of what lay ahead and today we would cross the order into Italy. The path started with a nice flight of steps just past a lovely row of cottages….

Final glance backwards towards the lake

Final glance backwards towards the lake

Having climbed up to the path it turned into a very nice flattish section of asphalt on which we could stroll along without much effort. Today’s stroll was turning out just as we had expected that it would.

Vines and silence

Rural quiet only a short distance from industry and a motorway

It is quite astonishing to be walking along a quiet leafy rural lane in complete tranquillity yet, as one can see on the map, there is industry and a motorway only a few hundred yards away.

A mountain idyll

A mountain idyll

The sun was getting hotter and hotter and we began to think about getting some lunch. We had not made a picnic as we were to be passing through villages where we would eat.

Until today the path signs have been very good indeed. I may have mentioned the odd shortcoming on occasion but navigation has not been too difficult but today navigation was a nightmare. There were very few signs to be seen and the places mentioned on the signs were of no use. We seemed to be wandering around in a haphazard manner and I was becoming very hungry and, hard to believe I know, quite irritable.

We found a path going in, more less, the right direction and followed it downwards into a huge rocky basin in which was the enormous concrete skeleton of something industrial. It was here that we ate the few crisps we had and some slices of cheese. Fortified to some extent we ploughed onwards. We still were short of Chiasso and the Italian border and beginning to flag.

An old mill in a quarry

An old mill in a quarry

We eventually found our way down into Chiasso, the last town in Ticino, and the frontier with Italy. We were quite excited to be passing through the customs post and to step onto Italian soil. As it had been at Basel, we weren’t asked for a passport, or had our belongings searched we just strolled on through.

Nearly in Italy

Nearly in Italy

 

Welcome to Italy

Welcome to Italy

Now we were over the border and could make our way to our place of rest in Como. There was to be no choice as to which way to go so we followed the main road. After a while we deviated from the main road in order to find a quieter and more pleasant road. Usually we get this sort of thing right but this time we got it wrong. The road was bendy, narrow and had no pavement. The road also had lots of traffic moving at quite a speed. the motorists must have though that we were totally mad to be on such a road. In order to give the drivers a sporting chance at missing us I held out my hand waving my straw hat. We did pass the lake and it looked fabulous through the trees when we found the courage to look away from the road.

lake como from a difficult road

Lake como from a difficult road

Janet had organised the hotel and had taken the precaution of writing down its name and also had drawn a sketch map. Once we had got into Como it took just a few minutes to find our bed.

I am writing this with my feet soaking nicely in the bidet. It is very hard to believe that we have made it to Italy although we still have a long way to go before we have done strolling.

Day 129 Como to Brunate

Having arrived in Italy we needed to know how we should tackle the next few strolls which would get us to the end. We had no maps and no inkling of footpaths and of way marking.

A painting from the back

As I was eating an ice cream in the shade of the cathedral I noticed that I could see a painting from the back.

We started the day with a long lie in and only got up at 8:30 in order to get breakfast before it was cleared away. Como looked very special in the morning sun as we strolled around taking in the touristy bits.

The statue of Alessandro Volta

The statue of Alessandro Volta, born in Como

Then it was down to work, find maps and work out how we were going to overcome the mountains in between Como and Bagolino. The tourist information office pointed us towards the map shops and also to the pharmacy for foot care products. We ate a spartan lunch and had a crack at working out a route. In the end there are two possibilities, go long and high or go low and not so far. At the moment long and high is winning as it means that the views will be better, the air will be loads cooler and we shall be away from traffic. The downside of this solution is that the will take longer and need greater navigation skills.

The way to Brunate was paved with steps

The way up to Brunate was paved with steps

We had decided to have a day of rest today but after a long afternoon sleep we thought that an evening stroll would be just the job. It would also test out our map and the waymarkings we should be using over the next weeks. A short stroll up to Brunate could be enjoyed followed by a trip back down on the funicular railway then dinner. With some assistance from locals we found the path up to Brunate. It was a stiff climb but not very different from others which we have done lately. At the top we found the funicular railway station and discovered that the ticket office was shut. We were a little nonplussed by this revelation at first. A helpful notice told us where tickets could be purchased out of hours. One of the bars was shut so we strolled to another, not mentioned on the list, in order to get directions. The bloke behind the bar was not helpful in any way but we did spot a policeman who pointed us in the right direction.

We enjoyed a pleasant trip down and had a chat about this and that with the other passengers. More or less a success on all counts if you ignore that fact that the delayed ticket down purchase made us too late for supper. Janet wasn’t hungry anyway and I have some beer in the fridge so we are both happy.

 

Tomorrow we head towards Erba, an altogether sterner test.

Aug 12, 2012 - Strolling in Italy    4 Comments

Day 130 Brunate to Erba

Today was a terrific day out on the hill.The weather was just about perfect and there were just one or two steepish bits.As nothing went wrong, and everything was wonderful today, it is difficult to find anything to drone on about this evening.

Brunate church

Brunate church

We left from Brunate,  a real hill top community with lots of community events going on.

Volta's lighthouse

Volta’s lighthouse, on the early part of today’s stroll

A woodland dell

A woodland dell

 

A view from the top

Another photo from the top of a mountain

 

Tomorrow we shall have a preparation day in order to prepare for ferragosto, when Italy stops. First proclaimed by the Emperor Augustus in 18 BC the feriae Augusti originally lasted for all or most of August, now it is just one day but as we really want to carry on strolling over this holiday period we need to stock up tomorrow with maps and other long distance strolling materials.

Really, the most striking thing about today was the difference in culture between Italy and everywhere else we have visited as we strolled. We noticed at first some mountain bikers whizzing up a hill, but still chatting pleasantly not having the grim fixed faces which we usually see. For runners it was very much the same as they zoomed past on their way up and then back down. The hills were full of strollers out for the afternoon. There were people of all ages, levels of fitness and speed. Most of the people we saw had a purpose for being on the hill, to find a small restaurant, to fly a glider, to have a picnic and most of all to put down a towel and do a bit of sunbathing. Every hill we climbed had a group of people on it doing one or more of these activities. We even saw an ordinary field lower down with loads of cars parked around the edge and people dressed in beach clothes behaving as if they were at the beach or pool side, “how unusual” we thought.

So the stroll continues, but not tomorrow

 

Day 131 Finding maps

In order to complete the last leg of this epic journey we set off this morning to find maps. We found a book shop but no map which we needed. We found a sports shop and had the same story. Another book shop turned up but ts was closed until September. The oddity here is that the map we wanted has Lecco at its centre. It almost seemed as though the map sellers couldn’t understand why anyone would want a hike/bike map of this area. We know that the map exists as it is advertised on the map maker’s web site. We can stroll tomorrow but may need to go to Bergamo in order to get the pieces which we will need to continue.

If the map purchasing failure is removed from the day it has been very nice as we have been able to laze about and get over the all night small motorcycle chorus as the traffic lights changed to green outside our bedroom window, open to let in some night air.

Over the last couple of days we have seen loads and loads of small reptiles darting about on rocks, paths and rustling in the underbrush.

A lizard

A lizard, one of many scampering about on the paths

As we were strolling about on the higher hills we also spotted what looked like beetles with very long legs. They sat quietly on the rocks and, if disturbed, gave a mighty bound into the undergrowth,

Beetle with long hind legs

Beetle with long hind legs

These high hills are full of butterflies of all sizes and colours, we are particularly taken by the small dark velvety ones which are everywhere in abundance. Janet seems to has attracted the attention of minute biting things which are also everywhere in abundance,, they are not visible but leave itches behind them.

 

 

 

Aug 15, 2012 - Strolling in Italy    4 Comments

Day 132 Erba to Lecco

I am feverishly trying to remember what happened yesterday as, due to the blog server failing, I couldn’t write it up before it diminished over the horizon of my fevered brain. At the moment the means by which I add stuff to the blog is running no faster than a snail so what I do remember gets lost before the thing updates, IT people are a pain.

We set off with no real plan of how we were to get from Erba to Lecco as the original plan to follow the low road alongside a busy road, but also a pleasant lake, was revealed to have no actual footpath by it, unlike the map, which showed a footpath clearly using a thick red line.

The map of the route will show that we did find a way which avoided roads and gave us fabulous walking country as well. For the most part the going was steepish but not difficult underfoot.

Erba

Erba

At first it appeared that road avoiding tactics had failed but crossing over a pedestrian crossing revealed our first walker’s red and white signpost for the day, pointing to a flight of stone steps leading upwards and in the right direction, but not on the map. Being people who go upwards we went up the stairs, optimistic that it would lead to Castelmarte, the village we were aiming for.

A hidden stairway

A hidden stairway

The stairs went up and up and up. When we saw the place we were heading towards from below it looked impossibly balanced on a mountain side, on arrival it appeared, as usual, to be quite normally placed.  We emerged at the top right in the village, and met an elderly gent’ who gave us some advice about which of the paths would be best for us and who shook our hands when we told him what we were doing in his village. He did say that the views were better up the Eiger and Jungfrau where he used to work.

We spent quite a while trying to find the footpath to get out, and eventually were rewarded with another red and white sign pointing to exactly where we wanted to go, and were off down a leafy lane where few cars would go. We felt very much at ease by the landscape and were delighted to see fences held together with binder twine, just like at home.

Binder twine

Binder twine

We strolled into a small town called Canzo, refreshed ourselves at a bar, and strolled about admiring the charming and historic nature of the architecture before leaving in an uphill direction again.    Continuing onwards and upwards we overtook an elderly lady strolling to visit her sister, Janet seemed to think that the sister was 103 years of age, but I’m not sure as the woman telling the tale didn’t look a day over 85 or 86.  She was very fit, though, as she chatted away to us as we all strolled relentlessly up the hill.  She gave us excellent footpath advice, and knew all about walking in the area.

Canzo

Canzo

Leaving villages behind and climbing further we found ourselves in a fabulous wood with dappled sunlight and hundreds of butterflies.

Butterfly

Butterfly

I have realised that I know absolutely nothing of flora and fauna in these mountains and am really feeling the lack. The yellowish butterflies in the photo below were everywhere and seemed to prefer the flowers shown in the photo.

butterfly

Another butterfly

Before getting down off the hills we did manage to make one or two mistakes, one where we took advice from a bloke sitting on a rock with two teenage archers in tow. It transpired that he didn’t know any more than we did but, that was our fault for not checking.

When one has climbed up and up and up the moment comes when one needs to go down and down and down. This down and down and down was quite tricky in places as the ground was very steep and the soil dry, resembling ball bearings.  There had been no wide views, even at our highest point, as the mountains were totally tree-covered apart from one or two rocky outcrops, rather Stiperstone-like, but as we came down, we had the occasional glimpse of Lecco and the surrounding country below.

San Tomaso

above San Tomaso, refuge and viewpoint

Arriving at Santo Tomaso refuge and chapel we could see Lecco in more detail below us. A few miles to go certainly, but well within sight now.

Over the bridge to Lecco

Over the bridge to Lecco

As we strolled over the bridge into Lecco, towards a welcoming beer and bath, we both agreed it had been one of the best days yet.

Day 133 Bergamo

As it is Ferragosto we decided to have a day or two off ourselves. We still need one vital map in order to complete the picture of strolls so came to Bergamo to find it. We shall not be strolling through Bergamo so it is a real break from the daily round.

Waiting for the bus in Lecco

Waiting for the bus in Lecco

We got onto the bus and settled in. An elderly passenger got on and asked the driver if the bus was going to Bergamo, this passenger asked the driver the same question many times throughout our journey.

Being a foreigner is really useful sometimes. When this person brought out two crumpled pieces of paper with poems written on them and asked me to read them, I read them, then, when he asked me to buy them, being foreign, I could look puzzled and shrug.

Bergamo is as beautiful as I remember it to be. The old high town was full of people this evening, sitting around and chatting, eating ice cream and waiting for a puppet show.

There is to be a folk festival next week in Bergamo so if we are in bus distance we might pop along and have a listen.

Bergamo Alta from below

Bergamo Alta from below, in the late evening

Tomorrow, when we have the elusive map in our grubby fingers, we can work out a route which will include some sort of accommodation. We have  a number of 2000 m passes to cross in order to finish the stroll so won’t be able to do many horizontal miles each day. We have some really good stuff to which we can look forward before crossing the finishing line.

Day 134 Bergamo

Last night I managed to overcome Spotify’s reluctance to permit Italian access to its contents. This small victory has given me  lot of pleasure, both from a nerdy delight in foiling a silly rule but, more importantly I can listen to some music once again. Should anyone wish to know how it is done, let me know

Setting out to find the last map

Setting out to find the last map

The day started with some minor excitement as our fellow guests, from Brazil, managed to snap off the key to their bedroom in the lock from the outside. The trusty Swiss Army knife had the very tool to remove the lock cover and prod out the broken piece. Our bedroom key didn’t fit the other lock but the empty bedroom key was just the job and we were able to carry on eating our modest breakfast and our fellows could get their belongings for the day out of their bedroom.

After recovering from all the excitement we set off to find the elusive last map. Our first attempt was a total failure as the bookshop was empty of stock and the building available for rent. The second shop was closed and not set to reopen until next week. We were beginning to believe that success would elude us when we noticed a third bookshop with open and welcoming doors. We climbed up the stairway to the map department with dragging steps, anticipating the worst and looking forward to a day devoted to map searches. Expressions of  astonishment and relief were written on every part of our bodies capable of expressing these emotions as we spotted the very map at the front of the display. We now have the means to find a way towards Ponte Caffaro. Having a full set of maps does not guarantee success, but improves the chances considerably away from zero.

We have enjoyed having a large kitchen in which to cook, sit and plan today. We quite enjoyed washing up and cooking lunch as we haven’t done these mundane acts for ages it seems. Neither of us has had any desire to go out and engage in touristical activities this afternoon and we have slept the sleep of the just instead. Then it was down to business once again.

Planning the next strolls

Planning the next strolls

With the maps spread out before us the expected difficulties became more obvious. The mountains and trails run, more or less, north to south and we are moving west to east. All of the ‘easier’ routes would take us along very busy, bendy roads with no pavements.At least one of the obvious routes, which are away from all traffic, appears to involve ladders. Janet isn’t too keen on using ladders so we shall probably try to avoid them, if possible. The final obstacle which needs to be overcome is  to find a route which has a good start and end place. We have found routes which look OK but these are edging towards being too long for one day’s stroll in this terrain, as strolling here in twilight would need to be slow in order to avoid falling.

Having eaten and watered ourselves heartily, we are ready for tomorrow and the next stroll.

Aug 17, 2012 - Strolling in Italy    No Comments

Day 135 Lecco to Carenno

The great stroll continued today after a few days of semi rest. As we were only intending to have a short stroll of about 10 miles today we didn’t start particularly early. The morning was cloudy with mist hanging over the mountains. The temperature was somewhere near 25C but not too hot to handle. We set off down the lake side from Lecco and were very grateful that the cycle path, shown on the map, existed on the ground.  Not all of the lake side was beautiful but people had already set up for the day on the shingle with beach umbrellas and loungers.

The lake in the morning

The lake in the morning

The stroll down the lake was very enjoyable, improved by a brioche and a glass of water.

Arriving at Calolziocorte we found a fountain. Before setting off upwards we had some lunch sitting by the fountain with our drinks chilling nicely.

We were to find that none of the paths we needed for today’s stroll had been marked by signs or by paint so we needed to do quite a lot of proper navigation. One path had mysteriously turned into a road, which was confusing.

Intrepid explorer

The intrepid explorer goes to find a path

We spotted a crumbling set of stone steps leading upwards and, more or less, in the right place. The steps were overgrown and nettled but I thought it was worth a try. In the end we had to give up as we were overgrown and nettled and someone had dumped a huge pile of earth where earth shouldn’t have been. nothing for it but to retrace our steps and try somewhere else.

The road narrows

The road narrows

The sun became hotter as the day wore on and we wore out. Thankfully, the unnamed path to our destination existed and, although steep, gave us no trouble at all.

When we returned to our place of rest the land lady had left a note on our door to the effect that we must pack our belonging and relocate. I rang our land lady, who gave us a garbled reason for the move, plus assurances that the new place was loads better than the old. Our new place of residence looks like a private apartment, although there is another chap staying in one of the bedrooms. The kitchen is not well appointed in terms of utensils but I think that it will be a quieter location. All very odd really!

Tomorrow we start strolling very early as we have a long stroll to do with lots of up up and  much down down with lots of horizontal distance as well.

View from the top

View from the top

 

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