Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conquering Grigna and other stories from the North

As you may have noticed I've been a bit useless about exploring Italy - the country I'm actually living in. So yes, I suck. But. My sister came to visit and she wanted to head north to the mountains because she's all outdoorsy and substantially fitter than I am.

The first day she was here we covered the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione, Gelleria Vittorio Emanuele and all the basic touristy stuff you do in Milan.

The top of the Duomo - finally made it inside, and up. (They have a conservative dress code and in the warmer months my hems were always to short to allow me entry!)

Pacro Sempione

The next day we hired a car and got the hell out. 
We had a cute little Punto (feeling the Italian spirit) and we drove it along the side of Lake Como and up the mountain to Cainallo. This cut the tramp (hike) up the mountain down to about 3 hours instead of the usual 6-8 from Varenna. I strongly approved of this shortcut. 

From there it was just... up. Some of it got pretty rough and all of it was beautiful but I'll let the pictures do the talking. 

Once we reached the summit (2400m) we had lunch in Refugi Brioschi and wow was that a good decision. They served simple, hot and hearty food and it was delicious (possibly because it was slathered in butter)! I got some pumpkin gnochetti and Lucy went for pork and polenta. 

After we'd had our fill of both the view and the food we clambered back down and drove to Il Seicento - our hostel in Sernio, just outside of Tirano. We popped out for a pizza dinner then settled in to sleep. 

We heard the ringing of bells on our descent - it turned out to be a herd of goats! 

The evening before we had established that our hostel provided bikes. So that morning after breakfast we were out on the bikes, armed with raincoats. We cycled along the river and through the town. Lucy, proving to be inexhaustible wanted to cycle up one of the nearby hills (mountains) and follow a track she'd seen on maps going back in the direction of our hostel. 

I made it to the beginning of the track (so up the huge hill!) but was so tired I didn't think I could safely ride along the path, which was rough and narrow. So Lucy set off alone and I headed back down the hill in safety. I'd justify this more but yes, whatever, I'm not tough. Certainly not when it comes to hills!

Cycling past vineyards - seemed very Italian!

These little three-wheeled, one-person utes/pick-up trucks are all around Italy. I still get excited every time I see one!

We cycled to the Swiss border but didn't have our passports so didn't go through. So weird you can cycle across borders in Europe!

The fourth day it was time to return to Milan, which we did by way of Switzerland and the Bernina pass (I was excited by the slight inclusion of my name). We walked around Lake Poschiavo and went via St Moritz before driving down the west side of Como to Milan. Switzerland was incredibly picturesque and surprisingly Swiss considering it was only an hour or two from Italy. 

Lake Poschiavo

Bernina Pass

The Bernina Express and our little Punto


The last two days of Lucy's visit we spent exploring museums and Milan's Roman ruins, and tasting the goods on offer at various bakeries and aperitivos around the city. Italy really does do food well!

Le Colonne at the basilica of San Lorenzo

In the archaeological museum of Milan
So, I survived a week with my much fitter sister and even managed to get some photos of her!