Although my working life is very science based, I was fortunate enough to study both French and German to A Level. My Italian is poor but on this trip I learnt a lot more than the usual Buonjourno or Grazie Mille!
I can’t think of the last time that I had the opportunity to speak all three of these languages in one day! Today was to be the exception! Waking again to the sound of water crashing over the Giessbach Falls and sunlight streaming into our room we needed little other motivation to test the outdoor biodynamic swimming pool.
“Guten Morgen, wie gethts ? ” I said to the receptionist on the way to the pool. I’d spotted this unusual pool, the day before and was curious about it. As we walked the short distance to the pool we could already feel the alpine sun burning our faces.
The pool is completely chemical free and to my surprise our swimming companions turned out to be newts!
After our swim we enjoyed a short walk to the viewing area adjacent to the Falls which was stunning,
before the delights of breakfasting al fresco again and then making our check-out before picking up the road just after Brienz for our journey to Lake Como.
Our journey to the Italian speaking Canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland took us through some of the most stunning scenery we saw on our tour with the added thrill of some hair raising drives with multiple hairpin bends.
I really couldn’t resist the temptation to put on “On Days Like These Days”, the Matt Monroe classic from the soundtrack of the “Italian Job” as the Merc glided along the mountain roads!
Thanks to the intelligent SatNav we completely avoided the hour long queue at the San Gottardo tunnel by taking a parallel back road that brought us back onto the main road just before the tunnel.
After a good fifteen minutes (approx. 10 miles) we emerged from the darkness of the tunnel into the stimulating daylight of Ticino. We took a short pit stop at a very smart Swiss service station and then decided to seek respite from the searing heat of the day with a spot of open water lake swimming in Lake Maggiore.
Heading towards the glamorous lakeside metropolis that is Locarno we wanted to find a spot with good lake access without having to drive through too much traffic. The annual film festival was well under way and so this ruled out Locarno. Instead we headed to Magadino, a small lakeside down with a lovely “spiaggia publica” or public beach. This is the phrase that pays in Ticino/Italy as although most seaside and lakeside resorts have a plethora of pay and play beaches, the law states there always as to be a “spiaggia publica”
We took our first tentative steps into the refreshing waters of Lake Maggiore and found that the summer sun had warmed the lake, considerably so that it’s chilly edge had diminished and we spent a good half an hour swimming back and forth from one of the diving pontoons near the lakeside beach.
Back in the car we stopped off at the Migros hypermarket. A brand that had evoked memories of childhood holidays 4 decades ago when there was a certain exotic quality about these European hypermarkets when all we had was Key Markets or the Coop!
The experience was no less stimulating today, a vast food hall with fresh produce of all kinds with a huge non foods area up stairs. Unlike the likes of Tesco piled high with poor quality low cost items these stores had quality merchandise at sensible prices, such a refreshing concept!
We decided to avoid the fast route to Lake Como by avoiding the border crossing at Chiasso/Como instead taking the scenic and much quieter mountain route to the east of Lake Lugano.
I did feel a little guilty as Gillian was driving and this route turned out to be a real white knuckle ride! On route to Tremezzo we had arranged to meet some friends who had a holiday home in the hillside village of Dizzasco overlooking Lake Como.
Arriving a little late courtesy of the winding and twisting mountain roads it was lovely meeting up with Martin and Beverly and having a cold beer in their garden overlooking the lake!
At five we made our way to Tremezzo to the charming family run Hotel La Perla . We had stayed here for a week 4 years ago and were looking forward to our return. The twin sisters Clilia and Mara who run this place with their husbands Luca and Sergio are charming and delightful and greeted us like old friends returning for a weekend break in summer.We replied with a “Molto Gentile!”
Feeling quite tired from our drive we took a quick dip in the pool before taking dinner from their understated “snack bar”. Although not a formal restaurant they serve fantastic antipasti, pasta and salads on the terrace most nights between 6:30pm/8pm.
We dinned like kings with antipasti of prosciutto and melon, caprese salad and local braesola with rocket and Parmesan shavings.
Followed by a delicious tagliatelle ragu and all washed down with a bottle of simple local red wine.
All this against a stunning backdrop of the sun setting against the marble like pinkness of the mountains.
As we ordered lemon sorbets with a glass of limoncello
we did our bit for keeping the spirit of the Entente Cordiale alive by chatting to two French families at a nearby table on the terrace. Rèmy and his family were from Paris but originally Toulouse and were holidaying with his old school friend Laurence and his family who still lived in Toulouse.
I ordered 3 glasses of the top grade grappa and the three guys drank a toast to friendship despite Brexit! We continued to chat partly in English and partly in French and really enjoyed the random nature of our meeting.
As the stars shone brightly in the shadow of the moon we bid our new found friends “Bon nuit et dormez bien!” and slipped back to our room, drifting off into a deep sleep with the sound of cicadas in the background.