Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Joyeux Noël: shopping spree at the french market

French market #34

Bonjour madame! Bonjour monsieur! For a moment there it seemed as if we had somehow miraculously crossed borders into the domain of our fromage and baguette-toting neighbors to the west, but this past weekend our feet were firmly planted in Italy. How's that for a taste of international holiday flair? If you can't go to France then France comes to you, and it was a very good thing we checked out this french market in Segrate (Milan). Usually we head over to Trentino-Alto Adige for the mercatini di natale like the ones visited in Trento and Merano - both are beautiful places to visit at any time of the year but even more enchanting during winter holidays.

French market #28

I'd say that the majority of the merchants could speak italian although there were a couple that only conversed in french. Better for us, because it isn't often that MotH gets to put his french to use and for me to hear it being spoken. The products on display ran the gamut from eclairs to foie gras, and vibrantly colorful spices to scented soaps. Love lokum? We do. Tablecloths from Provence? In every color and size imaginable. But the item that especially caught my attention were bags of Oignon de Roscoff. These pink onions from Brittany are said to be gentle in flavor and capable of extended storage in a cool, dark place for a couple of months. Photos of things that we did/did not resist all in a big set on Flickr. We had the car smelling of onions, garlic, lavender, cassoulet and cheese all the way home.

French market #10

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Hiking trail from Ornica to Val d'Inferno

Pizzo Tre Signori...
Best viewed on black.

Whatever special quality it is about Ornica - the remote location, the mountain backdrop, the rustic chalets dotting the hillside or a combination of everything - but everytime we've gone there I look forward to a return even before we leave. Just 50 km north of Bergamo, the area maintains a quiet charm that embraces life at a slower pace, an existence entirely in rhythm with the seasons. We did this hike 2 weeks ago during a period of great fall weather.

Walking to Val d'Inferno

The most direct route from Ornica to Val d'Inferno is a steep climb (trail 106) following along the stream that runs down the mountain. The easier option is the agricultural access road (vehicles of residents/farmers only) - it's longer, but the views open up wide as you go on. In the trail map above, the thicker line is the access road from the village. Parking available in a small lot after the chapel. There are a couple of tree-lined shortcuts from the parking, the first one being just after the water fountain (bottom photo), branching left off the asphalt.

Beginning of walk to Val d'Inferno

Agriturismo Ferdy. Situated 5 km from Ornica near the foot of Pizzo Tre Signori mountain, the farmstay makes a good destination point. The difference in altitude from Ornica to the agriturismo is just under 500 meters. Total time and distance: approx. 2.5 to 3 hours for a round trip of almost 10 km. We found it to be a great trail for the dogs as there weren't a lot of people, so we let them run off-leash when it was all clear.

Fall hike from Ornica

Up through Val d'Inferno

Almost there to the agriturismo. This photo doesn't do justice on how incredibly gorgeous of an area it is. Google earth illustrates our gps path in green, while the blue dots are trail 106.