My accounts of my month as a ‘Swiss Miss’ have nearly come to an end. But before I bid farewell to the home of the creamiest butter and tastiest water, I have to divulge my mini-vacay to Italia. My host whisked us off on a girly adventure to her family’s holiday home at Lake Como. The area was a first for me, and the femme-venture was a first for her; as she’d never gone without the rest of her brood.
The road there was a visual banquet of scenery and a knuckle-whitener of squiggly roads. The car paved its way through valleys, over alpine fields, and along mountainsides; as we chatted up a storm. During a break in the banter, I looked out the window and the view reminded me of a faded framed picture that my nana had on her bedroom wall of a staunch cliff piercing the inimitable azure sky; the evergreens like emerald arrowheads, and stony shields afoot. It was so familiar, but so new.
The drive was ambling, like a classic Kiwi ‘tiki-tour’. We took a breather at a manmade lake that perfectly emulated the environment in its reflection. We meandered through a village where a one-lane road had interrupted the pathway between houses. We drove through a town called Cunter, where I couldn’t bring myself to tell my host why I was stifling laughter. For a pre-lunch pit stop, we parked at St. Moritz; a ritzy ski resort town where stone-walled stores cat-called ‘Cartier’ and ‘Gucci’. That lake was fresh and dreamy, with a stunning backdrop to compliment biting into some new Lindt chocolate flavours. Once we were off again, the car forged down a steep hill shaped like an intestine. I was relieved to reach the bottom.
Given that my host was on her own and at free-will of the journey we were heading, we decided to turn into the idyllic hamlet of Stampa. Across a double century old bridge and through an archway of speckled light from the lofty trees, we pulled up beside a castle from the 1600’s. Unfortunately, it was closed, but it did render us the opportunity to check out the nooks and crannies of the well-established village.
As my country is an island, I imagine venturing into another country to be a big deal. The border into Italia was non-descript, with a few guards standing around and waving us through. No stops, no checks, no stamps in passports, just a sly peer at the occupants of each vehicle. I also picture an immediate change from one nation to another; like a herd of bell-necked cows yodelling goodbye and some fettuccine and pizze to be twirling around in welcome. Instead it’s like a merge of two paint pots that have tipped over, and it’s not until you notice the new hue, that you look up and realise that the human life is in a different space.
We stopped at Chiavenna for groceries, gelato, and espresso. I felt like I had forgotten all of my Italiano, especially walking alongside somebody who spoke that language and four others. But I did feel at home admiring the scene from a bridge above a river that cut through the middle of the picturesque village, with stony homes on either sides, and sunshine sprinkled over life. I felt at ease. I felt happy.
Upon arrival, the lake house was something from a postcard that I could’ve penned ‘Wish you were here!’ I lounged on the terrace looking out to an exquisite vista of the fish-scale water gently rippling in the sun’s inflections; a treasure held outstretched in the hands of Mother Earth, with the emerald landscape doting terracotta rooftops, and a train occasionally echoing through the silence. While pecking at the antipasto, I marvelled at such beauty and counted every blessing that had bought me to this corner of heaven.
From a map, Lake Como looks like a pair of wayward legs, and I was staying somewhere near the crotch. Apparently George Clooney zips his motorboat across these shores, and I wanted a throw a line out and reel him in, for my mum, of course. She once told me that she “wouldn’t mind his slippers under her bed.” Imagine how my favourite child status would’ve been amplified, if I’d given Mum a Clooney souvenir.
My stay was indulgent in the soothing tones of relaxation and inspiration, one you’d picture as the setting of a creative, yet romantic Colin Firth film. I wrote from the desk with a lake view and dreamt of living in this location, if but for only a month of my lifetime. On the first evening I dined on fresh formaggio tortellini bathed in truffle oil, with a glass of divine red. For lunch we twined around the lake, and salivated over an inexpensive rustic set menu.
There were people coming to stay at the lake house, from the States. One of them turned out to be an ex-NFL player from the 70’s. I was buzzing because Mr T and his brother were the biggest American football fans, in NZ. I remember the days that they would be reclined across the furniture for the whole day.
“How much longer is this going on for?” I’d ask.
“Two minutes, Babe,” I’d hear.
Half an hour later, I’d ask again.
“Thirty seconds,” he’d grin.
Their happiness was enough for me to understand that meeting NFL alumni was a big deal.
My time nestled in the Lake Como haven was nothing short of tranquil, even though I did see a scorpion. Crazy! I thought those suckers lived in deserts.
After two nights away, I had inhaled enough essence of Italia to satiate my love for that country. Upon leaving, we drove passed two people in an arm flailing discussion and I wondered if they were arguing, or whether they were just in conversation. In the rain and cold, our car climbed the skinniest of roads up Mt Splugen; through one-laned tunnels on cliff faces, curling like a gymnast’s ribbon whipping back and forth. I squealed a lot on the inside, because that was my preventative measure from falling off a mountainside – but for my driver, this was just normal.
The last Italian stop was a village near the peak, for a heart-warming cup of coffee. An intoxicated woman was being hushed by her peers. I wondered if she’d had too many ‘I survived that mountain road’ drinks.
On our return, I was delighted to have seen Italia once again; the reason I had begun this journey in the first place. I have loved the surprises, the adventures, and my personal growth. I now have a soft spot for Switzerland, but new travels were waiting for me to grab onto and enjoy the ride. My next stop – Berlin!