Sunday, October 16, 2005

ITALY, lost......us, not it

Around and around and around the roundabout I drove not knowing when or where to get off. Caught in our circles, a frustrated driver rolled his window down and shouted in English, "Just pick one. Get off!"

We'd flown into Geneva, Switzerland, picked up a rental car, and headed to our resort destination Mount Campione, Italy. At late afternoon, we were lost and without a map. On the atlas it looked like a very short distance, not so, and I hadn't request a detailed map. My sister always takes care of the maps when we travel, but she wasn't on this trip.

As if a different driver could find our map-less way, nellie got behind the wheel. Driving in city circles we looked for help. At dusk she spotted a family leaving an apartment. The beautiful Italian lady spoke enough English to understand our predicament, and graciously offered to help. After numerous calls she found it and directions.

Angela translated our problem to her husband and two daughters who looked at us in amazement. 'If you won't leave home without American Express, how could you leave home without a map?' I'd already heard the complaint from my fellow travelers. At "dark-thirty", and without hesitation Angela and her family offered to lead us to our resort.

This was the off-season at Mount Campione. Skiing season is its peak. We drove for an hour to arrive at an empty lobby. On the front desk lay a key with my name on it; they were optimistic. Angela and her family helped us locate our room and unpack the car. Grateful for their kind assistance, we invited them to the bar for thank you
refreshments, and noticed it wasn't crowded.

In the daylight we learned specifics. The complex housed ten guests: we three American girls, an American couple and their daughter, two couples from Cape Town, South Africa, and no open restaurant.

Settled in, Dali did hand laundry wringing the clothes out in the extra sheets. Hung in our windows to dry, the laundry identified our quarters from a distance; a good idea considering there must have been 150 empty rooms. nellie took pictures of Dali in the window to add to Dali's "Woman in Window" collection from around the world.

The families from South Africa prepared our first dinner in Italy: spaghetti with a red sauce, garlic bread, green salad, and red wine. Sharing food and exhilarating conversation made for an international delight. I love collecting friends. One of the Cape Town gentlemen shared that he wears a suit to service expensive cars. They invited us to South Africa. We invited them to America. Who will get where first?

One of our trips down the mountain for groceries, Dali stuck her head out the backseat window. In her beautiful soprano voice she sang into the sunshine at the top of her lungs, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina."  She blessed the mountaintops. I'll bet she was heard for miles.

Loving the outdoors, nellie, Dali, and I decided to hike the treeless mountaintops. Where we started we noticed a cow down in the valley with a wide leather neckband and enormous, burdensome bell.

For about an hour we hiked up and down, around crevices, and across the rounded tops enjoying the sun and distant scenery. Everything looked small, but the sound of the distant bulldozer carried. We sang and danced like kids, picnicked, and took lots of pictures.

All was well until the fog slipped in and over us. We were socked in, lost, afraid, had no sense of direction, and were all talking at once. Nobody knows we're here. We didn't see any people all afternoon. What will we do when it gets dark? It's getting cold. Those crevices we walked around, we might fall in now. If we get hurt, how will we get help?

Huddled together we prayed. What was that tiny sound? A cowbell. Since we'd seen just one cow, we decided to hike toward the sound. Holding hands we silently picked our way straining to hear and guarding our footsteps.

When the cowbell sounded farther away, we stopped. Were we going the wrong way or had she moved? Step by step we worked our way back ever mindful of the crevices we'd hiked around. After what seemed like hours, we made out the shape of the resort with the laundry in our windows and almost ran. We could have kissed the cow.

And were we hungry; bread, cheese, chunks of lunchmeat, plums, and chocolate with hazelnuts filled us. We didn't spend a lot of time on what might have been. Over big mugs of hot chocolate we looked ahead. We had places to go. "Venice, here we come!"

Copyright 2005 Red Convertible Travel Series    

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