After buzzing around frazzled and photogenic Venice, I hopped from train to bus to a back-aching trek into the region of Trentino, better known as the Gate to the Dolomites. With only ten days left on my two-month excursion, every part of me was on its final leg. My canvas sneakers were worn and perforated. On particularly hot days, I had to walk a lot faster than my body wanted to because my unprotected soles absorbed the terrific heat soaking into the asphalt sidewalks. My back started to buckle against my pack; my poorly-laundered clothes were stiff and unyielding beneath the feasting sun. I was tired, really tired, but there was no way I could justify leaving a whole different part of Italy unseen.
After all, I am a New Englander so, of course, I will always be drawn north.
Roverto, one of the smaller cities in the region, was a pleasant introduction to Trentino. The streets were wide and clean; the buildings plain and pristine. The modest simplicity of Roverto framed the marvel and mystic of the Dolomites perfectly.
But in Trentino’s lesser known city, the Dolomites can be bashful, only sneaking into view when the wandering tourist ventures away from the center. At the edge of the city, a flower-dressed bridge positioned above a babbling brook provides the perfect vantage point. From here, the unique mountain range stands tall and glows a fashionable gray during sunny hours. But as the sun falls from grace and darkness takes court, the Dolomites blush pink during their grand and gorgeous farewell.
In Northern Italy, cyclical beauty never loses momentum.
I spent a total of three days in Roverto. On the second day, I took a bus into neighboring Valleymontana, a semi-reclusive and gently-sloping part of the Dolomites. The hike was quietly exquisite, all trails were clear of people. The treeline opened and closed like theater curtains, showcasing the chiseled range and sleepy village below.
After exploring a few peaks in Valleymontana, I hiked to a waterfall in the woods that I found on my map. The trek to the waterfall took me through empty vineyards, olive groves, and farming villages. The landscape was dynamic-every turn and climb offered something different and picture-worthy.
It took about two hours to find the waterfall but once I heard the rushing water I found a beautiful and reclusive spot in the woods where a small but steady stream of water brought my aching feet back to life. The waterfall was smaller than I expected but I was so lucky to find this meditative spot. This was the first time on my trip where I was completely alone. I didn’t think that was possible in Italy but somehow I found solitude in the most visited country in Europe during the height of summer. The dolomite region is unlike any other place in Italy.
The next day, I had every intention of getting an early start so I could journey over to Lake Garda and hike the much-revered Mount Baldo.
It took two hours, three buses, and an infinite amount of patience to reach the base of mountain. I wish I could tell you that once I saw beautiful Lake Garda and the smiling peak of Baldo, I was cured of all traveling woes. But as the clock inched towards noon and the sunscreen melting heat swarmed around me, I was feeling a little less than pumped for the hike.
But when the mountains call…
The hike up Baldo was gradual at first. The path was wide and compact, partially covered by a tangled canopy of trees. I met a lot of hikers on the trail along with some fit mountain bikers who put me to utter shame. I took over a dozen breaks; they took none. But the largest groups of people exploring Mount Baldo floated effortlessly above me.
For most, Baldo’s attractiveness is amplified by it’s accessibility. Anyone can reach the top thanks to an impressive system of cable cars.
But when you are a stubborn, over-heated hiker, watching cable cars filled with energetic people, void of sweat, zoom past your head is soul-crushing.
I was pouring sweat and dangerously dehydrated. At one point, an old porcelin bathtub filled with murky water blocked my path and sparked my interest. It almost looked appealing-I was that thirsty.
Just before the summit of Baldo, I came across a wide open pasture. Cows roamed freely, an angelic breeze tickled the tops of wilting weeds. My much-needed breaks were now marked with ravishing beauty. From Mount Baldo, Lake Garda’s beauty is haunting and halting.
Haunting, halting, and Hogwarts-y.
In the mountains of Lake Garda, hippogriffs and dragons fly overhead. Merpeople weave between the sleepy ducks wading through the water below. Incantations tip-toe around, stars of a different kind twinkle in the daylight. Fantasy chases reality; reality grows restless. Two markers of life meld into one.
Once I reached the peak of Baldo and guzzled down an ice-cold, jumbo-sized bottle of water, I collapsed into the grass and sat in comfortable silence for a long, long time, understanding so fully that there is peace and marvel and magic in the warm, wide openness of living. Lake Garda gives reason to dizzying dreams and grants reprieve from racking reality.
Also, there is one amazing snack bar at the top. For those that choose to hike, over-priced bottles of water and magnum bars never tasted so good.
And taking the cable car down the mountain never felt so justified 🙂
Once I got to Lake Como, I bought a pair of purple flip flops, a yellow pool noodle, and drifted away for two solid days. Rebellion once again led to deep regret when my sans sunscreen stomach quickly turned crimson.
Most travelers touring Como do so with the hope of spotting a celebrity. Others try their hand at rather outrageous water sports (paddle-boarding with skinny jeans, surfing with dogs etc). But for me, Como was a comatose experience. I did absolutely nothing and loved every second of it. The sun streamed through the turgid clouds in just the right way. The free hostel breakfast included chocolate bread. For two days, I was a perfectly content, unmovable lump of a human.
And then, as espresso-infused time passed far too quickly, Como led to Milan where my grand Italian adventure came to an end.
I think the blogs speak for themselves-Italy was/is gorgeous, gregarious, and simply gobsmacking.
But there is still a bundle of words to spill on paper because another splendid journey is in the works. So stay tuned trusty travelers because, as always, there is so much more to come!!
Climb Every Mountain,