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Showing posts from 2010

Fun in the sun and snow at Alpe Giumello

Why do weekends with perfect weather always have to be so short? This past Saturday and Sunday was the one that anybody with a pulse has been wanting for a long time, the weekend with ZERO rain, no snowfall and nothing but blue skies all around. We had the intention of hiking around the base of Monte Muggio, a 3-hour loop trail that begins from the parking area at localit√† Alpe Giumello, but ice on the trail made it a dangerous gamble. If we had been able to get to the very top of Monte Muggio it would have afforded us a spectacular panorama with Bellagio jutting out in the middle of the lake.Even if a good, long hike was out of the question, there was plenty of wide open space to go for a stroll. We walked the dogs out on the flat plains on the eastern side of Giumello, all of which were covered in a thick layer of packed snow. In less than 30 minutes time we had built up enough of an appetite for a quick lunch at Ristoro Genio, a cozy little bar and restaurant serving hot meals…

In the news: from blogosphere to printed publication

It's just a little thing really, but when a staff member from a periodical for Italy's Alpini requested permission to reprint one of my blog entries, I had no idea how surprised, and I have to admit, a little bit sheepish I'd feel after seeing my Tasi e Tira article taking up half the space on page 12. I just received my copy in the mail. The entry was posted over a year ago but through the vast reaches of the internet it goes to show what nice things can happen when you try to immerse yourself in a culture not your own. Perhaps the word "immerse" is rather modest as I like to jump right into the middle of things and get up close and personal. What tickles me the most is that this blog started off as a way of amusing myself (and expanding my knowledge of the country's cuisine), but getting published...whoa! It's like icing on the cake!
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Hiking in Val Vertova

We really couldn't have asked for more on this particular outing. The trail in Val Vertova is full of beautiful scenes like this, where you have the option of taking it easy all the way to the end or stopping in an idyllic spot to soak up the sun. I've never seen perfectly tanned boobs in full display until this hike, but with such an inviting environment, why the heck not?
View larger mapTo get to the starting point: from Vertova, follow Via Cinque Martini until localit√† Lacni. Instead of following the right bend in the road, take the left for about 300 meters until the parking lot (B). If it's full, space is available at the headquarters of Gruppo Alpinistico Vertovese (GAV) a hundred meters going back and across the stream (A), but only if the gates are open. It takes about an hour to reach the end of the trail. For a challenge, head up the n.527 that climbs the left just before reaching the end. It quickly leads back down to the river then continues into drier te…

It's just a very long walk in Val Viola

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. 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.
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Starting in Arnoga (A) at the sharp bend fronting Hotel Li Arnoga, follow the pavement into the woods. The trail is pretty obvious, cuttin…

From Rifugio Martina to Monte San Primo (Bellagio)

Monte San Primo. Agile hikers aren't the only ones to climb up here in summer because the tell-tale aroma of ovine and caprine droppings invaded our nostrils long before reaching the top. Our intent was to go up then return on the mainly forested trail (right side of photo) that commences behind Rifugio Martina, but the ascent is so steep (average 14% grade) that I wasn't too keen on going back down through the bug-infested environment again. The top photo was taken looking back at S. Primo as we descended to connect with sentiero 1 and continue on a loop trail to the starting point. For those who may have ended up here for trails near Bellagio, take a look at this site to see what the fuss is all about and tell me that ain't gorgeous (scroll to bottom). Unfortunately, it was a hazy experience for us this past Sunday and thus the wait continues until a clear weekend comes along. In the meantime I've set our hiking goals to explore more of the area that is just 30…

Hiking Pizzino to Fraggio (Val Taleggio, Bergamo)

Pizzino (24 miles north of Bergamo)
to Fraggio (light blue line)
This to be more of a stroll because all it involves is less than 30 minutes of putting one foot in front of the other. The trail begins from Agriturismo Il Pavone in Pizzino that continues on a dirt path passing their farm, and the point of interest here is an ancient (15th century?) church - Chiesetta San Lorenzo - which sits amidst rural surroundings. So rural, in fact, that after I took the photo below and walked around the church, I returned to see a cow in the exact same spot where I had been only minutes before.


Getting to Pizzino is a pleasure in itself as the road through Val Taleggio follows along a deep gorge that has no shortage of cascading water during spring. There is "the Rock fountain" in particular that sits on the side of the road as a sort of ambassador to the valley. To find it via gps coordinates:
45.887303, 9.604591 Google maps

Hiking in Fuipiano Valle Imagna (Bergamo) - part II

Replenishing the carbs: fried teriyaki-ginger chicken wings, pancit (filipino noodles), brownie triangles with visciola (sour cherry) jam, and sweet Duroni cherries from Puglia.This is what I consider a picnic snack — food portions that weigh light in my backpack but have greater appeal than Pringles, Gatorade and store-bought energy bars. And why the food image first? Because for non-hiking readers, the rest of this post won't make much sense at all so I figured that I'd take care of the essentials first. This loop trail follows in the opposite direction from where we had hiked above Fuipiano Valle Imagna a few days earlier, and to be honest, I felt absolutely cheated when the GPS stats revealed the actual dislivello completed (difference in height from top to bottom). It was about 487 meters...only 1598 feet! It took us a brief three ½ hours total - a piece of cake worth snacking on.
Again, the trail starts at the end of via Milano but upon reaching the 2nd fork, you ta…

Hiking in Fuipiano Valle Imagna (Bergamo) - part I

Il tetto della Valle Imagna (the roof of Imagna valley). We liked this hike so much that four days later I cooked up some yummy Hawaii-style eats and we went back for more. Trails around Lecco and Como may boast magical views of the lakes, but just 19 miles northwest of Bergamo the landscape is no less enchanting. This photo was taken high above the village of Fuipiano Valle Imagna (pop. 240, bottom left). We live over the mountain range in the far distance - you can barely make out the line of signal towers at the crest - so that gives an idea of how right in the middle of hiking heaven we are.From Fuipiano Valle Imagna to Zuc di Valbona - 50 minutesA metal crucifix marks the location which is easily seen from Fuipiano on a clear day. Once at the top, you'll have a pick of great spots to spread out a picnic lunch, but be forewarned that getting there means a very steep climb that will give your thigh, calf and derriere muscles a workout! In the photo below, you can just mak…

Venetian Masks

I know it looks like I'm getting ahead of myself here, but who says you can't start projecting Carnevale? St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) and the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) may be the first things on the itinerary after traversing the Grand Canal, but if you're specifically headed towards Venice for the greatest, most theatrical, most exciting event of the year, you might want to dress for the occasion. MotH and I attended Venice's carnevale back in 2004 and I really had no idea what to expect. It was miserably cold, raining, people everywhere...but nothing could dampen the bedazzling spectacle of the costumed, masked characters parading through alleys and squares (honestly it was more like they were floating). They were elegant, beguiling - untouchable - a grandiose presence of immortals among mere beings like the rest of us. And I thought it was enough to wear a silly red cape? I knew then and there that if ever there were to be a next time, I…

Hiking in Parre (Bergamo) and its famous Scarpinocc

We're expanding our horizons (and stomachs) to include the province of Bergamo, specifically the mountains and valleys up north where cheese, pasta, polenta and even the language take on a flavor all its own. From what we've experienced, the vast Bergamo Alps is still largely untouched by foreign tourists as most everyone heads directly to Lake Como from Milan. Depending on your view that may be seen as a good or bad thing, but we hope to reveal some of the beauty on these pages. But first, what is this scarpinocc? I can't recall exactly how I first heard of them, but when the MotH and I walked into a pasta shop and asked if they had any to sell, we were told that the best place to go would be in the village in which they were made famous - Parre. Scarpinocc are a filled pasta (grana, bread crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg) that resemble those medieval, pointed shoes worn long before rubbah slippahs and sneakers were conceived - think elf footwear and you should have an idea.…