Via Monte Grappa
Our studio apartment was a fifteen minute walk from the Como shoreline up a winding stone paths to the walls of a 15th century castle on a hilltop overlooking Lake Como. We’d stroll down various paths in the mornings for our daily adventures, returning in the afternoon after stopping at a small market to pick up fresh produce, bread, wine, and pasta for dinner. A very civilized and serene way to live.
Our apartment was in a two-story home in a quiet neighborhood with a small vegetable garden where we picked plump, ripe tomatoes and herbs for Lucy to make tomato soup at lunch or salad for dinner. On our tiny patio, we had breakfast and lunch or sip wine in the early evening and discuss our day while watching puffy clouds float over the mountains and Lake Como.
Neighbors saw us on our patio and one morning, a woman showed up with a colander of tomatoes and sprigs of basil. We fumbled in feeble Italian to express our gratitude, but all that came across was repetitions of “Buon Giorno, . . . “Grazie” . . . and “Mille Grazie.” Every time we passed her home, she gave us a warm smile and we waved, appreciating her generosity and kindness.
Our neighborhood was typical for Italian villages, apartments, modest homes with gardens, parks, and occasional cafes and coffee shops. On a side street was an old church where one evening we watched older residents arriving from all over the neighborhood for a rosary service which we observed in the back.
Another evening we passed a small shrine where a small group was praying and singing hymns in the dim light of burning candles and incense. I sensed it was a memorial service.
Our German friends
Another family staying in an apartment in our landlord’s home, was a German couple with two young children. The day after they arrived, the children came into our yard while we were enjoying breakfast on the patio. Angelina was nine years old, with long blond hair and a pretty smile. Younger brother Carlo was two years old and shy. They knew no English, but I was able to communicate with them in basic German about the weather, food, and their family.
We met their parents, Kai and Cordula, who were on a hiking and para sailing vacation. They both spoke excellent English, and Kai was a translator of Russian, German, and English. Kai and I had a lively discussion about our Russian travels and adventures. Kai was born in East Germany and received a scholarship in high school to study in Moscow during the Cold War.
Two or three days after we met the family, Cordula came to our door one morning with disturbing news. Kai had fallen on a hike the previous day and broke his leg in two places! He was in a hospital, and Cordula was arranging for a German ambulance to drive him back to their home in north-western Germany.
We baby sat Angelina and Carlo so she could go to the hospital to help Kai. We fed the kids lunch and took them to the beach to wade in Lake Como. For the next couple days, we prepared meals for the family, baby sat, and prepared a farewell dinner the night before the family drove back to Germany with Kai in a German ambulance and Cordula with the children.
We were sad about Kai’s accident, but enriched by the time we spent with the family and continue corresponding with them via email.
Some of the most memorable travel experiences are not found in travel books or on guided tours. They happen when you meet people in their neighborhoods or bump into along the way. Put yourself in interesting places and wait for people to cross your path.
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Next destination: Varenna
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