Sunday, 25 July 2010

Non Parlo L'Italiano

As some of you may or may not know I spent a fortnight of my summer this year in Italy. With some thought spared for France and Switzerland along the way. I am happy to report I have come back with no sunburn (despite the 38 degree heat). This if you don't understand is a very high achievement for myself.
After traveling through the rolling fields of France then through the green mountains of Switzerland (whereupon we found out the hard way that Switzerland does not have the Euro, and is instead still clinging on to its Swiss francs) we arrived at our destination; Bungalow Lago. Or what we English would call; Bungalow Lake. Blunt and to the point. I liked it.
The lake itself was stunning, crystal clear and an extremely welcome refreshment after a hard days shopping (yes in that kind of heat and strange language shopping can be hard!). Yet the whole lake experience was sadly ruined for me by what I will call here, Mostro Lago. Or quite simply; Lake Monster. While merrily kayaking one day across the largest lake in Italy I stopped for a break. When something surfaced feet from my plastic boat. I decided that with it being a murky brown color and the appropriate size, that it was a seal. I deemed this a nice animal to be so close to me; until the body continued to dive and a large greenish dorsal fin appeared on its back. My arm muscles screamed at me for days due to the speed I kayaked back to shore.
After my traumatic incident with the Mostro Lago the rest of the holiday passed smoothly (if you don't count Italian spiders that run at you in the middle of the night, electrocution with a laptop lead and creepy ghosts that turn out to be just eccentric homeless people). We visited Verona, a city that I fell head over heels in love with. If you're not already in the know, Verona is the setting for the famous power couple Romeo and Juliet, making it the recent star for the new Amanda Seyfried film "Letters to Juliet". One area of Verona seems to attract more tourists than even the giant amphitheater situated in it's centre (possibly one of the most incredible buildings I have ever seen). A low brick tunnel which leads to an ivy covered balcony. The house inside is supposedly where Juliet and her family lived, and tradition states that anyone who comes to visit should leave a gift for the doomed lover. Therefore every inch of wall space as far as the eye can see is covered in love letters, from all over the world. Flowers and even cigarettes adorn the walls with people either thanking for their luck in love or asking for help on their quest for it. You could easily spend a day just reading the worlds love life. As the day wore on, the arena lights began to light up the amphitheater and the opera began to start. The highest notes drifting over the stone walls that had been listening for centuries. We sat in the park for a little while, I decided that one day I would return, and we left, yet not without a reminder from Shakespeare that "There is no world outside the walls of Verona".

Another memorable pit stop was of course Venice. I am a sucker for anything that looks remotely gothic or Edgar Allen Poe, so I spent a majority of my time there getting lost in some of the incredible mask shops that were located around the city. My limited Italian found out for me that a majority of the masks had been hand made by the shop owner. Carved the way they have been for centuries. I brought a cat mask and then searched endlessly for an invite to a masquerade ball. I'm still waiting.
We took a Gondola ride through some of the back streets, passing ornate doors that led to water, though we were informed they were once the main entrances to buildings. Homes, apartments and restaurants loomed over us, some walls teetering precariously on eroded bases. Stone lion heads dipped their noses into the water, almost appearing to be drinking, while jesters and demonic faces leered at us overhead, safe from the water and subsequent erosion.
The most notable thing about Italy were the buildings. So many of them had had their faces painted with the most ornate designs, depicting Gods, painters, dancers and lions. Although they were all now fading heavily, the incredible artistry was evident still even to this day. I have never before been to a place where I could just stand there and marvel at a house.
We peppered the rest of the fortnight with sunbathing, visiting local villages and wondering what lived in the lake.
During our last few days we took a cable car up to the top of the mountains that had loomed over us for 14 days and took in our local surroundings from above. While my dad took photos, my mum found a place to sit and enjoy the view and my sister gazed around with the binoculars, I befriended the local cows and thanked the Lord there wasn't a Mostro Montagno. Or quite simply, Mountain Monster.

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