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Monday, October 15, 2012

Lezise, Courmayeur, & the Italian Alps – Oct. 9-13, 2012

Having only 17 days left with Salt & Pepper in the European portion of the Aventura (we have a glorious month in a Paris flat to look forward to while S&P are shipping home) we have decided to focus on what we love:  Wine and mountains.

So we left Levanto and headed north-east to Lezise, Italy, near the heart of the Valpolicella wine region.  We only lasted two nights at Camping du Parc on Lake Garda (why is everything still so crowded in October?  With children no less—what happened to school?) but two nights was long enough to take a delightful car tour of the wine region and a short hike to the self-proclaimed longest natural bridge, you be the judge (that is River on the path):

Unlike wine regions in France and the USA with their prolific “free tasting” signage, Italy has not learned how to attract a non-Italian speaking tourist.  The map we picked up at the very helpful tourist information site should have led us to the doors of at least three vineyards but we only found our way to one:   The perfect Fratelli Vogadori.  Run by three brothers and their father who still works in the field; all the grapes are grown completely naturally, no pesticides or chemical fertilization and their wines are produced solely from their own grapes.  SP was in heaven with their two types of Amarone and I loved their Ricioto, a dessert wine much like Port but made 100% from grapes.

Wine in hand, we headed north to Courmayeur, at the base of Mt. Blanc.  What a gorgeous spot!  And Camping Arc en Ciel was a slice of heaven; two of the three nights we were completely alone in our long row of thick green grass.  You know how I love green grass!  I hardly ever go into detail on campgrounds in the posting (remember, you can see more campground details on the Campground page) but this was a lovely spot and the hosts were as helpful and charming as they come. 

We hiked twice; a short one to Lake Arpy which was beautiful even on a cloudy and cold day and a longer one up Val Ferret.  Let me tell you, if we spoke the language we would have bought our farmhouse right there in that valley—it was stunning:  Flanked by the Alps, centered with a river and to each side slightly rolling hills highlighted with trees blazing in their fall colors.  Delightful! 

Italians have been the most profusive when it comes to appreciating Salt & Pepper often sounding a joyful honk followed by a hearty wave and thumbs up as they pass us.  So one evening, as I was leaving the grocery store, I was not surprised to see a Crusty standing outside gazing toward the Pepper, slowly shaking his head and repeating, “Bella, bella, bella.”  I prepared my knowing (and hopefully gracious) smile as I approached the car only to look just beyond Pepper to Mt. Blanc, angelic and massive, posing in the sunset.  I turned to the Crusty who again shook his head and repeated, “Bella, bella, bella.” 

Bella, indeed.  I have seen a lot of mountains, and even Mt. Blanc from France, but nothing compares to Mt. Blanc as seen from Italy.  No wonder these Italians are so happy.