Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's just a very long walk in Val Viola

Rifugio Viola way in the background
Now this is a trail for all dispositions, and I'll get to that later. Val Viola offers a long but gentle ascent that leads toward the Swiss border. Situated in the upper reaches of the province of Sondrio, the half pavement/half dirt road running along the length of the valley is popular with people of all ages and fitness levels during holidays. We hiked here about a week and a half ago when it was still peak season, and there were mountain bikers pedaling up the path as well. An alpine rifugio/mountain hut (C) awaits hungry appetites at the very end (you can barely make it out in the image above), but we cut the 8km distance down to a little over 7 as soon as we reached the lake. Alternatively you can also avoid walking the whole 8km and hitch a jeep ride from the starting point for 2€ in one direction. It'll drop you off halfway (B) when the service is available, which might be a good idea for tenderfoots.

View larger map
Starting in Arnoga (A) at the sharp bend fronting Hotel Li Arnoga, follow the pavement into the woods. The trail is pretty obvious, cutting through patches of forest, green pastures and quiet habitation en route. Asphalt eventually gives way to a mule path and open blue skies everywhere. 7.2 kilometers/4.5 miles was already enough with the heat and glaring sun, so it was a good thing that we had packed our own lunch. Settling down in front of a grouping of large boulders, we could hear marmots calling out - "whistling" - amongst themselves. The valley is also supposed to be rich with mushrooms during funghi season, but you're allowed to look and not touch. Well we were more than content with not touching anything...especially a tiny vipera snake that we happened upon. Final note: parking spots are available a few hundred meters along into the path but you need to get there early to nab them for a small fee. When those are all taken, an ample parking area about 100 meters further up from Hotel Li Arnoga is open for free. And lastly, for those who don't want to/can't walk but would like to chow down at the rifugio, there is transport service upon request. 40€ (8 seats). Don't forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Val Viola critters and 'shrooms
Val Viola optional transport
Val Viola with the munkeys

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Tasi e Tira!

In September of last year I wrote about a wonderful fundraising event that was put on by veteran Alpini of Ronco Briantino. The Alpini, in case you don't know, are the alpine brigade of the Italian Army and while it shouldn't be any surprise that we attended their function to aide Abruzzo's earthquake victims (good food, good wine, great people and I am there!), it did come as a small shock to learn that they had stumbled across my post. Viva the internet! In that post I made it very clear how much I wanted one of their cool Tasi e Tira tshirts. [The phrase basically means to quit talking and pull, a verbal reinforcement to keep going when the going gets tough.] Well imagine my surprise when a recent email invited me to pick one up for myself.

MotH and I met with the Alpini a few nights ago and I cannot say enough on how nice those guys are. We were taken on a tour of their "baita" (home) where they meet, took a peek into their kitchen and dining hall, and both of us received Tasi e Tira tshirts. Today I was going to wear my new tshirt when my twin sister came over to help with making plum preserves, but changed my mind. The last thing I wanted was her asking for the tshirt off of my back.

Making mirabelle preserves with sis

Okay I was kidding about the twin sister; the image above was 'shopped. I'm just happy, over the tshirt, over the fact that summer vacation has officially begun and MotH can have some down time. Food festivals here we come - Mr B is giving a hint on what's in store next.

Mr B and the Aglio