2021 Travels, Part 4,
… concluding with my favorite moment in all my years of travel. We shall be leaving to start our 2022 EU travels in a week, so this will be my last post until July. The dog will return. Please feel free to miss me.
Francesca’s first morning in Fiumelatte, as written by Francesca:
For today’s beginning entertainment… ….we have dawn!
I stood leaning out my window for 2 hours watching it all unfold.
Just so pleasant.
Dark silhouettes of mountains across a pallet of soft shades of gray – gray water, gray sky – a world of shadows of boats.
Color growing slowly from the top down as sun finally lights the peaks, then more and more like a honey of light and color seeping down the mountains.
The bird chatter greeted the day.
And a drama unfolding beneath my window. There was a family with 4 baby diving ducks on the stone pier that lead into the wee harbor next to the house. There was a fluffy pile – huddled, nestled, occasional jostling …. that later resolved into 4 fluffy babies. The jostling nudging and rearranging increased. Finally one stretched up and clapped tiny wings. And another got rambunctious and had a little dip before the rest. Not sure the watchful mother was thrilled with that! And then after they were all up mama and the rest slipped off the end into the water and went off for breakfast.
I watched the adult males of the species – deep shiny black with bright white bills – dive deep and long periods. (Correction after the fact: there were no males; the black birds were coots.)
2 swans went by.
Swallows danced through the air.
At 7 the bell tower in the next town sounded to wake the rest of the world.
And all the while the gentle lapping of the lake against the stones beneath my window. All night long actually, on the stones….every time I was awake it was just such a lovely sound.
This is nice. Achingly nice.
I just stood leaning on a bar out the window in my light flower night gown…and somehow hours slipped by.
T plus 3 days
Whether illness, making up for pre-trip stress, or just how soporific this place is, what with the warmish temps, and the lapping of Lake Como waters below our windows, but I sleep a lot here, dead to the world. Pasta may contribute to this problem, if problem it be.
“At least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid”. Maybe covid is making me sleepy.
Ah, so, at last, weather.com having predicted lightning for the last 48 hours, it finally arrived, with some hail, much booming, and totally obscuring the mountains across the lake. Weather.com, knowing this is summer, and these are the southern Alps, probably knew they’d be right at some point, so felt safe in their forecast. Before the trip I was expecting to be daily entertained by storms of this ilk. We have 3 more days. There’s no telling if there will be further episodes, but the dice that weather.com use to make predictions suggest there will be. Below is the calm after.
Ok – and this is important, so please focus. We travel with kindles, and I’d bought parts 1 and 2 of a thriller before departing. I started one yesterday, and quickly realized I had utterly no interest in terrorism, WMDs, and Islamic fanatics of any sort. I stopped reading. (I must say, now I think on it, my interest in this thriller genre faded to zero quite a while ago, and I just never noticed until confronted with more of same.)
Ok, so, for many years now Francesca has been enhancing her travels by reading Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon. She would occasionally share some humorous bit, wry, insightful, and … Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, why am I reading about chemical weapons in Syria and Pakistan, when I could be basking in literary genius taking place in Venice. And literary genius it is, on a par with P.G. Wodehouse. I say this with utter confidence, although only 20% through the first of the mysteries. Francesca is reading the 15th, and the bits she shares are brilliant. I am saddened that I may not live long enough to read them all. But the book’s pompous maestro is dead, and we don’t know whodunnit, so, ciao.
Some advice, for those with nontoxic personalities, possessed of a modicum of joie de vivre, and content. Fiumelatte is small. Paolo, who – along with Sabrina – let us in to the apartment, he said at one point that everyone knew everyone in the area. They know the woman that greets us at the perfect little restaurant across the street; they knew the taxi driver who brought us and our groceries home today; and we have met their great (great?) aunt, more than once, and the lady in the restaurant said she’s the oldest lady in town. I told the restaurant lady that on first meeting her in the presence of Paolo and Sabrina, and learning the aunt’s age, I looked at the aunt up in her window, pointed to my chest, and said, “due cento”, indicating I was more than double her age. Her reaction was priceless and wonderful. She made an ohohoh kind of noise, and made that hand gesture with the right hand waving up and down vertically, indicating (in an Italian way) more than doubt, and suggesting even I may be lying a bit. Everyone laughed, and the aunt with word and gesture indicated I must exercise a lot.
Francesca is going to mass tomorrow with the restaurant lady, and probably many other people we’ve met. (The restaurant lady and the elderly aunt, go to market together on one of the infrequent buses that go to a much bigger town.) These moments of being included – tied into – a small group of local people, accepted temporarily, these moments are priceless to us.
Varenna, the larger town a 20 minute walk to the north, is scenic, and it has sights worth seeing, but it is filled with Germans and Dutch, and people even less savory, and the cultural noise of their density subdues any chance that they will have of meaningful interactions with local culture, which they in any case might fail to recognize or approve of. The locals try to stay polite, but understandably sometimes fail. It reminds me of our visit to Lake Lugano a few years ago, in an Italian Swiss region. These Swiss Italians were more formal than the Italian Italians to the south, but in a restaurant there the German Swiss seated near us were rude and dismissive of the Swiss Italians serving them. I had to grit my teeth to avoid pushing the German Swiss into the lake.
Let’s end on a positive note. At dinner tonight there was a table of mostly Italians, and one dog. I patted the dog when they came in, but she was tentative, and the lady with the leash put the dog under the table for the duration. When they got up to leave my back was to them, but Francesca could see the dog stand up and look in our direction. Francesca beamed approvingly, and the dog moved closer and pushed her nose into my butt. The leash lady was initially concerned, but relaxed when the dog and I bid a fond adieu to each other, the dog leaning warmly into my arm, the hand of which was scratching her neck and ears. I guess that explains in part why I am prone to seek out canines in our beach walks at home in New Hampshire. We have no Italian style cohesive culture in America, but dogs come close at times. So, anyway, buona notte.