Matt and Mel’s Italian

12 Feb

The view from 1,800 metres high is amazing. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Mesmerizing. We were standing on top of the snow-capped mountain, looking over the Italian Alps that stretched beyond the horizon. On our feet were skis, in our hands, poles, and we had that awkward stance you only have when you are trying to balance yourself on slippery skis in the slippery snow, holding on to gloves, poles and a camera while trying not to slide backwards down the mountain in an awful display of legs and skis going in all sorts of teeth-clenching directions. Well, that’s me anyway. Matt is a little more experienced at skiing and could pass for a seasoned fanatic (I think Matt is ready to book in another ski trip before we return to Oz!)

We were in Montecampione – a ski resort in the Italian Alps, northern Italy – to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary. Wanting to make the most of the winter in Europe, we thought a ski trip would be the perfect way to get away and have some last-minute fun in the snow. It also turned into a hair-raising road trip with quite a few ‘you’re driving on the wrong side of the road!’ moments (there were plenty!). The whole trip was tiring, but it is an anniversary celebration that will be hard to beat.

Our trip started when we flew into a small Italian town called Bergamo late Thursday night where we stayed at a hotel near the airport for the night. We were lucky to actually make it this far, after having to frantically run through the airport (yet again) to make our flight after delays with the train getting to the airport. But that aside, we were in Italy and we were ready to start our trip. We picked up our hire car the following morning (a little Lancia this time) and had our first experience of left-hand sided driving, which made for some interesting moments! Combined with trying to translate road signs on the go and several attempts to get on the autostrade and through toll booths, we were off to a scary start!

We drove up to our accommodation in the alpine town of Boario Terme. We decided to take the scenic route along Lago d’Iseo to get there – a massive lake with mountains lining its shores and tiny Italian villages dotted alongside it. We took our time, stopping off for photos at several points. For the whole time it took us to drive, we could see the Alps with snow on the very tops in the distance, and every town we passed through, the mountains came closer and closer. We were approaching ski country.

Boario Terme is a small town itself. There isn’t much to do, but it’s pretty and it was only a 30 minute drive to the ski fields. We arrived mid-afternoon and after checking into our hotel, we took a trip up to the tops of the mountains to check out where we would be spending the next three days skiing. The views were amazing and we started getting excited about taking to the slopes.

That afternoon, we arrived back to our small town village and decided to explore our little ‘home away for home’ some more. We came across an older part of Boario Terme – a compact little village with a web of narrow cobbled streets with a church at the centre (the heart of most European towns and cities). Our little car only just fit through the alleyway-sized streets and when we came across a small vineyard, we pulled over to explore this intricate little village more on foot. It’s hard to explain, but this town is what we imagine Italy should be – a small, quiet, ‘time doesn’t matter’ village where we could imagine Italian nuns making their way to the up the hill to the small town piazza in front of the holy spirit church. We took photos, but they don’t do this little gem of a village justice.

Being in Italy, we had no choice but to eat PIZZA, which we did for dinner that night and for lunch and then dinner most of our days here. Take this advice – if you want to go skiing, do it in Italy so you can eat all the carbs you want – you’ll just burn it off on the slopes anyway, so why not? (Well, that’s what we kept telling ourselves!) The Italians know how to do several things well – pasta, pizza, espresso, vino and gelato. The pasta and pizza dough made fresh, combined with fresh sauce and ingredients, accompanied by a delicious Italian wine makes for one yummy, carb-loaded dinner! Our favourite place was the ‘I love pizza’ pizzeria, which we frequented two nights running. Followed by delicious gelato, a few shops down the road. Anyway… Back to the skiing…

We started off slow – taking to the blue runs (aka, ski school slopes) to get our ski feet. We have both been skiing before and we found it’s just like riding a bike really. Once you learn, it never really leaves your mind. But we still had our share of falls on the slopes, and a couple of times when we were standing completely still! The skiing was fun – three full days taking to the slopes and eventually I felt confident enough to take on a red run (the next level up). On the last day, Matt was set free to explore more slopes over the mountain, while I stayed put on the blue and the one red one I was able to make it the whole way down without falling over (although Matt does call me the snowplow queen because of my habit to snowplow myself down!)

In between the skiing, we also did some playing in the snow. But we quickly got over that when we had to spend a half hour searching for Matt’s wedding ring, which had accidentally slipped off and was buried somewhere in the soft powdery snow. We were just about to give up when Matt spotted something shiny, which he scooped up very quickly indeed!! I don’t think it would be very anniversary-ish if we had to leave without something so special and one of the reasons that we were there to celebrate. I now check Matt’s hand every chance I get to make sure he still wearing his wedding ring.

After an exhausting three days, we handed in our skis and packed up our little car. We had one more day to complete our anniversary trip and the night before, we had contemplated making the drive down to the fair city of Verona… about an hour and a half away. After a couple of days mastering left-handed driving up and down the mountains, we were feeling confident that we could make the trip without too getting lost. We planned our route and got up that little bit extra early the following morning to get a good start! We made it one piece and even managed to navigate our way into the centre of Verona without a map and even found a public car park! We were doing so well (we felt very like The Amazing Race!). Verona is beautiful, but we were there to see one thing really… The balcony and courtyard where the legend of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet love story took place. We had two hours to check out Verona and so we did a small walking tour of the centre. What we saw was a beautiful, old Italian city. Venice was only another hour down the road… if we had more time, we would have stopped by there too!

Feeling very satisfied of our Italian road trip, we made our way back up the autostrade to Bergamo to spend the afternoon walking around the town before our flight back to London. The town has a high city and a low city. The high city (citta alta) is completely surrounded by a medieval wall and is mostly a pedestrian city, although cars do find their way into the small city streets. The streets are cobbled-stone and courtyards and piazzas emerge around unexpected corners. We had probably the most delicious lunch we had our whole time in Italy in a tiny restaurant in one such courtyard. We sat outside and shared the most delicious wood-fired pizza and lasagna we’ve ever had and I had a couple of glasses of the most delicious wine I’ve ever tasted. The surroundings were perfect and we felt like we were experiencing the real Italy.

Well, our trip came to an end and we were on our flight back to London. We had such an amazing time and it just makes us yearn for more big bursts of travel… for now though, it’s back to work to save for the next trip.

xoxoxox

For photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=278963&id=734050869&l=f0941fd085

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today was meaningful

a collection of thoughts, life lessons, and days full of meaning.

Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

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