• Bologna (8/25/2015)

    On our way to our next hike, we had to stop in Bologna, one of our favourite cities in Italy, arguably the best gelato town and many good memories.

    En route pour notre prochaine randonnée, nous devions absolument faire un arrêt à Bologne, l’une de nos villes italiennes préférées, la ville des meilleures gelati et où nous avions de bons souvenirs de séjours précédents.

  • Grande Escursione Apenninica (9/1/2015)

     

    So Trenitalia tried to conspire to keep us eating gelati in Bologna. We wanted the train leaving platform 6 and learnt we were on 6 West, not 6. We ran (with backpacks) and arrived just in time to see the train leave.

    But it ended well. They refunded our tickets and gave us new ones for an hour later. It happens a lot.

    Now we are in Sansepolcro, birthplace of Piero della Francesca. We realised we forgot to buy gas for our brand new cooker, so spent time visiting the most elegant hardware stores here.

    Tomorrow we get the early bus to the trailhead (nobody seems to know it exists). Promise. And start walking.

     

    Good news: the bus from Sansepolcro to the start of the trail exists (only twice a week): we took it on Friday morning & started on our walk.

    After a first day climbing small mountains, the track makes a 3-day detour and follows St Francis’ path through the gentle & peaceful hills of Tuscany.

    Walking through chestnut trees forests to pass by monasteries perched on hillsides & arrive in small historical villages (for ex. Michelangelo’s birthplace) to eat tasty & fresh food make this trek most pleasant. We are glad, however to have bought insect nets to cover our faces; we would have gone crazy without them.

    Trenitalia a essayé de nous garder à Bologne pour que nous puissions continuer à y manger des glaces. Nous voulions le quai 6 mais avons appris que nous étions sur le quai 6 Ovest; nous avons couru – avec nos sacs – juste pour voir le train nous filer sous le nez…

    Tout est bien qui finit bien : Trenitalia a échangé nos billets en riant : apparemment cela arrive souvent.

    Nous sommes maintenant à Sansepolcro, lieu de naissance de Piero Della Francesca. Nous nous sommes aperçus que nous avions oublié d’acheter une bonbonne de gaz (interdite dans l’avion). Nous avons donc fait le tour des supermarchés et quincailleries du coin.

    Demain nous espérons prendre le bus (personne ici ne semble connaître son existence) pour le début du sentier. Et nous commencerons à marcher. Promis.

     

    Bonne nouvelle : le bus de Sansepolcro au début du sentier existe bel et bien (deux fois par semaine) : nous l’avons pris vendredi matin et commencé notre marche.

    Après une première journée de petites montagnes, le sentier fait un détour de 3 jours sur le chemin de St François d’Assise à travers les paisibles collines de Toscane.

    Des marches à travers des forêts de châtaigniers pour passer près de monastères accrochés aux collines et arriver dans de petits villages historiques (dont le village qui a vu naître Michel-Ange) rendent ce voyage très agréable. La nourriture est faite de produits frais et goûteux. Nous sommes contents d’avoir investi dans des filets anti-insectes; nous serions devenus fous sans cela.

     

  • Chiusi della Verna (9/3/2015)

    We are staying in Chiusi della Verna with sisters (nuns), very big house with garden, quiet, only 2 nuns with us (one is on holidays), full board, delicious food, we are the only guests. The atmosphere is both peaceful & joyous. We appreciate their kindness

    While exploring the highlights of the village, we came upon this 1931 ad campaign, a (water) fountain.

     

    Nous sommes à Chiusi della Verna chez des soeurs (nonnes) dans une grande maison avec jardin, tranquille, en pension complète (cuisine fraîche et délicieuse). Il n’y a que deux soeurs (dont la Mère supérieure), la troisième étant en vacances et nous sommes les seuls hôtes. Ambiance paisible et joyeuse à la fois. Nous apprécions leur gentillesse.

    En explorant le village, nous avons vu cette fontaine publicitaire de 1931 (qui distribue de l’eau).

     

  • Rifugio “Città di Forlì” (9/5/2015)

     

    We have walked in rain and fog;  the weather is still unstable but we have been able to keep going & have arrived at our first Italian refuge, with a surprising chandelier – and a warm grappa welcome !

    Nous avons marché sous la pluie et dans le brouillard. Le temps est encore instable mais nous avons pu avancer. Nous sommes arrivés à notre premier refuge italien (au lustre surprenant dans le décor rustique).
    Nous y avons été chaleureusement accueillis avec un verre de grappa !

  • Up to Lago Scaffaiolo (9/10/2015)

    Our walk through forests along ridges has been beautiful. We spent one night in a cabin, an unmanned refuge. We made a fire in the evening and for breakfast. The weather has turned much cooler so the fire was welcome. Yesterday was another good hike of about 7 hours.

    Nos randonnées dans les forêts, le long des crêtes ont été très belles. Nous avons dormi dans une cabane, John a fait du feu soir et matin. Avec les températures très fraîches, très apprécié. Encore une longue journée de 7 heures de marche hier.

     

    Leaving Pracchia, we are entering the more alpine part of the Apennines, with stunning views.

     

    En quittant Pracchia, nous entrons en territoire plus “alpin” et sommes arrivés sur les crêtes avec des paysages magnifiques.

  • A day on the crest (9/15/2015)

    Leaving the warmth of the fireplace in the refuge at Lago Scaffaiolo we continued hiking on the crests. It was so beautiful we were slow as we took lots of photos.

    The weather has turned cold (3 degrees in the morning, heavy rain) and the refuges are closing down (except Citta de Forlì which is open all year). We had already encountered some difficulties re-supplying as shops or restaurants had closed for their annual leave. So, we took a train to Milan & flew to Malaga.

     

     

    Une journée sur les crêtes

    Nous avons quitté la chaleur de la cheminée du refuge de Lago Scaffaiolo pour une nouvelle belle journée sur les crêtes. La beauté des paysages nous a ralenti et nous avons pris beaucoup de photos.

    Le temps s’est fortement dégradé, froid (3 degrés le matin, pluies diluviennes) et les refuges ferment ce week-end (sauf Citta di Forlí, ouvert toute l’année). Nous avions déjà rencontré quelquez difficultés de réapprovisionnement, des magasins et restaurants étant fermé tout septembre. Nous avons donc pris le train pour Milan et l’avion pour Malaga.
  • Housesit in Italy (3/5/2017)

    We flew to Ancona yesterday for what promises to be a wonderful housesit in Le Marche.
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    Nous avons pris l’avion pour Ancona hier pour un superbe housesit dans Le Marche.

  • Monte Petrella (3/8/2017)

    A shortish first walk to Monte Petrella…

    Une première courte balade au Monte Petrella…

  • Blocked paths (3/9/2017)

    Today’s walk turned out to be much shorter than expected. The small stream we should have crossed had turned into a wide torrent following the heavy rains and snow melting. We could not pass, so we returned to our car and drove to Lago di Friastra, the end of the hike. We tried another path but trees blocked the way.

    The area, including trails, has been affected by last August’s major earthquake and its many aftershocks. Some villages have been entirely evacuated, others partially.

     

    La randonnée d’aujourd’hui a été plus courte que prévue. Le ruisseau que nous aurions dû traverser s’était transformé en un large torrent après les fortes pluies et la fonte des neiges. Des arbres bloquaient le passage d’un autre chemin. Nous avons dû faire demi-tour et avons conduit jusqu’au lac, fin du parcours.

    La région, y compris les sentiers a été affectée par le tremblement de terre du mois d’août et ses nombreuses répliques. Quelques villages ont été entièrement évacués, d’autres partiellement.

  • Hats in Montappone (3/11/2017)

    Montappone, a small town in Marche, is in the centre of Europe’s most important hat-making district. Over 60 million hats are produced yearly in the area, 70% of Italy’s and 50% of Europe’s production.

    The village has a small museum, showing old machinery, photographs, hats (including Federico Fellini’s last hat, donated by his sister) and a corner where one can choose a hat to wear and be photographed; the computer was down.

    Montappone, un village dans les Marche, est le centre du plus important district de fabrication de chapeaux d’Europe. Plus de 60 millions de pièces sont produites dans la région chaque année, représentant 70% et 50% des productions italienne et européenne, respectivement.

    Le village a un petit musée qui présente les anciennes machines, des photos, chapeaux (y compris le dernier de Federico Fellini, donné par sa soeur) et un coin où l’on peut choisir un chapeau et se faire photographier; l’ordinateur ne fonctionnait pas.

  • San Ginesio (3/14/2017)

    We are staying on the outskirts of San Ginesio, a pretty small town on the edge of Monti Sibillini national park.

    The area was very affected by the earthquakes of August and October 2016 and every village and town has no-go zones, where the inhabitants have had to leave their houses. Many buildings are held together by steel rods and wood. Churches are closed and their works of art have been moved out. Will these towns survive when shops have closed and may never re-open?

    Nous séjournons juste en dehors de San Ginesio, une jolie petite ville en bordure du parc national des Monti Sibillini.

    La région a été fortement affectée par les tremblements de terre d’août et octobre 2016. Chaque village a des zones interdites d’accès d’où les habitants ont été évacués; de nombreux bâtiments sont maintenus par du bois et des câbles en acier. Les églises sont fermées et leurs oeuvres d’art ont été retirées.
    Ces villes survivront-elles alors que des commerces ont été fermés et ne rouvriront peut-être jamais?

  • A day trip to Umbria (3/17/2017)

    A day trip to neighbouring Umbria to visit Perugia and the pretty town of Assisi. Being there out of season and on a week day meant we had the town pretty much to ourselves….

    Excursion d’une journée en Ombrie voisine pour visiter Pérouse et la jolie ville d’Assise.
    Comme nous y étions hors saison et en semaine, nous avons pu y déambuler sans horde de touristes ou pèlerins…

  • A walk with two ridgebacks (3/20/2017)

    A walk to Grotta dei Frati with the two beautiful Rhodesian ridgebacks we are looking after. Even if we had been able to cross the stream last week, we could not have gone much further as the path is closed.

    Une balade vers la Grotta dei Frati en compagnie des deux magnifiques Rhodesian ridgebacks dont nous nous occupons. Même si nous avions pu traverser le ruisseau la semaine dernière, nous n’aurions pas pu aller beaucoup plus loin car le sentier est fermé.

  • Monte Sibilla – or not (3/21/2017)

    Another “almost” today as we drove up a track road to reach the refuge below Monte Sibilla, which has given its name to the Monte Sibillini national park. We had planned to hike the 11.8 km loop that would have taken us to the summit at 2173m. Snow has been melting at great speed in the past 2 weeks, hence the streams turning into rivers.

    The track was littered with loose rocks, cars had driven on snow but we suddenly were stopped by a steep snow slide that covered almost the entire road. We had to turn back.

    We tried another hike, to the Gole dell’Infernaccio but there were fences: the path has been heavily damaged by falling rocks following the earthquakes and access is prohibited.

    Admitting defeat, heads hanging low, we went to our favourite gelateria.
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    Encore un “presque” aujourd’hui quand nous avons pris la route caillouteuse qui mène au refuge au pied du Monte Sibilla, qui a donné son nom au parc national des Monti Sibillini. Nous avions prévu de marcher les 11.8 km qui nous aurait amenés au sommet, à 2’173 m. La neige a beaucoup fondu ces deux dernières semaines, ce qui explique que les ruisseaux se soient transformés en rivières.

    La route était parsemée de rochers mais des traces de pneus étaient visibles sur ses parties enneigées. Nous avons dû nous arrêter soudainement, bloqués par une large coulée de neige qui recouvrait presque entièrement la route et avons dû faire demi-tour.

    Nous avons alors décidé de tenter la randonnée vers les Gole dell’Infernaccio mais la route était barrée : le sentier a été fortement endommagé par des chutes de pierres suite aux tremblements de terre et son accès est interdit.

    Admettant notre défaite, tête basse, nous nous sommes rendus dans notre gelateria favorite.

  • Lame rosse (3/23/2017)

    A short walk to Lame Rosse, starting at Lago di Fiastra; the lake and mountains looked different two weeks ago.

    Une courte balade vers les Lame Rosse depuis le lac de Fiastra, différent d’il y a deux semaines.

  • Stopover in Venice (5/31/2017)

    We are staying in the Cannaregio neighbourhood of Venice on our way to our next hike. This part of Venice is still quite local and relatively quiet.


    Nous sommes à Venise, dans le quartier de Cannaregio, en route pour notre prochaine longue randonnée. Ce coin de Venise est encore habité par des Vénitiens et relativement tranquille.

  • Cruise ships in the laguna (6/1/2017)

    On 18 June, there will be a referendum to ban massive cruise ships from entering the laguna (they transit through the Giudecca canal and dwarf the city). Last year, there were 600.


    Bateaux de croisière dans la lagune

    Le 18 juin aura lieu un référendum demandant que les énormes paquebots restent en dehors de la lagune (ils passent par le canal de la Giudecca et dominent nettement la ville). L’an dernier, il y en a eu 600.

  • Doorknobs (6/2/2017)

    Venetian door knobs


    Poignées de portes à Venise

  • Trieste (6/4/2017)

    After 48 hours in Venice, we spent a little under two days in the delightful city of Trieste.
    The grand official buildings, large avenues and general architecture testify to its long central European history.
    Many writers (James Joyce lived here for ten years, Italo Svevo was born here) and philosophers enjoyed its café culture. To this day, Triestinos are by far the biggest coffee drinkers in Italy.
    We’ll be back.


    Après 48 heures à Venise, nous avons passé un peu moins de deux jours dans la délicieuse ville de Trieste.
    La grandeur de ses bâtiments, ses larges avenues et son architecture témoignent de son passé centre-européen.
    De nombreux écrivains (James Joyce y a vécu dix ans, Italo Svevo y est né) et philosophes ont profité de ses cafés. Aujourd’hui encore, les Triestins sont, de loin, les plus gros consommateurs de café en Italie.
    Nous y reviendrons.

  • Trieste – we are back (7/5/2017)

    We spent our two days in the lovely and cultural city of Trieste going to a couple of interesting temporary exhibitions.


    Trieste 2 – le retour

    Nous avons visité, durant nos deux journées dans la belle et culturelle ville de Trieste, deux expositions temporaires intéressantes.

  • Monte Sibilla (10/15/2018)

    We hiked to the top of Monte Sibilla, which gives its name to the mountain range and the Monti Sibillini national park – a beautiful hike.

    Monte Sibilla has exercised a fascination on the imagination of people sensitive to the appeal of the legend that made of that peak the magical residence of an ancient oracle, called Sibilla, just like the prophets of the classical age. It has been the object of travels and explorations, since the fifteenth century, by distinguished scholars, unscrupulous adventurers and well-known scholars.

    In fact, near the top of the mountain, there is a cave: the entry point to the unknown depths of the mountain, where the Sibyl would live in a beautiful underground palace, surrounded by precious treasures and bridesmaids with enchanting beauty.

    Now, the entrance to the cave has collapsed and appears inaccessible due to the numerous attempts made in the 20th century to force its entrance using powerful explosives. But the magic is still intact because in 2000 some researchers carried out geognostic surveys on the summit of the mountain and found cavities.
    The legend lives on.

    Nous avons marché jusqu’au sommet du mont Sibilla, qui a donné son nom à la chaîne de montagnes et au parc national des monts Sibillini – une belle randonnée.

    Monte Sibilla a exercé une fascination sur l’imagination des personnes sensibles à l’attrait de la légende qui a fait de ce sommet la résidence magique d’un ancien oracle appelé Sibilla, à l’instar des prophètes de l’époque classique. Il a fait l’objet de voyages et d’explorations, depuis le XVe siècle, d’éminents savants, d’aventuriers sans scrupules et d’érudits réputés.

    En fait, près du sommet de la montagne, il y a une grotte: le point d’entrée de profondeurs inconnues de la montagne, où la Sibylle vivrait dans un magnifique palais souterrain, entouré de trésors précieux et de demoiselles d’honneur d’une beauté enchanteresse.

    Maintenant, l’entrée de la grotte s’est effondrée et semble inaccessible en raison des nombreuses tentatives faites au 20ème siècle pour forcer son entrée à l’aide d’explosifs puissants. Mais la magie est toujours intacte car en 2000, des chercheurs ont effectué des relevés géognostiques sur le sommet de la montagne et découvert des cavités.
    La légende continue.

  • To Monte Priora (10/24/2018)

    The sun was back for our last hike in the national park of Monti Sibillini.
    We walked up to Monte Priora in the company of Colin, one of the last peaks in the area he had not climbed yet.
    The views were fabulous and stretched all the way to the Gran Sasso national park in Abruzzo. A wonderful end to our stay.

    Le soleil était de retour pour notre dernière randonnée dans le parc national des monts Sibillini.
    Nous sommes montés au Monte Priora en compagnie de Colin. Cette montagne était l’une des dernières de la région manquant encore à son tableau de chasse.
    Au sommet, les vues étaient superbes et nous pouvions voir les montagnes du parc national du Gran Sasso dans les Abruzzes.
    Une belle façon de finir notre séjour.

     

    A couple of panoramas, thanks to Colin

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    … and we were lucky, the snow has arrived now

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    … et nous avons eu de la chance, la neige est tombée depuis

  • Le Marche (10/26/2018)

    Our two weeks housesit in San Ginesio in Le Marche has come to an end.
    We went on many shortish walks in the area, with and without Maggie and Monty, the two great Rhodesian ridgebacks we were happy to look after again. Here are some impressions:

    Notre housesit de deux semaines à San Ginesio, Le Marche est arrivé à sa fin.

    Nous avons fait de nombreuses courtes balades avec ou sans Maggie et Monty, les deux Rhodesian ridgebacks que nous avons eu beaucoup de plaisir à retrouver. Voici quelques impressions:

  • Grande Traversata Delle Alpi, GTA (7/11/2019)

    Day 1

    I had a late start from Cruina.

    Leaving Geneva at 35° I was surprised by how much snow there is on the passes. Finding your way is harder, and slower.

    We had hiked the Griespass a few years ago and were surprised by the aeolian. Now there are 4.

    Just beyond the pass is a tiny chapel / shelter. In the early 50’s 9 scouts went hiking in perfect weather; 6 came back.

    As adults, those 6 built the chapel in memory of their friends. Now it is well maintained.

    I had expected to make it to the next refuge, but was behind schedule. Alpe Nefelgiù was a welcome sight. A stone hut with an elevated wooden platform to sleep on, shelter from the weather; luxury can take on different meanings.

    I slept well.

  • GTA – Alpe Nefelgiu to Rifugio Margaroli (7/12/2019)

    Day 2

    The hut was dark, so I slept in and had a late start.

    The day started with sunshine, but became overcast.

    Hiking up the pass was hard, so I was glad I had stopped the previous day.

    With the snow, the descent was a challenge.

    Arriving at the refuge it was good to have a simple lunch.

    John

  • GTA – Rifugio Margaroli to Alpe Devero (7/15/2019)

    Day 3

    The refuge Margaroli, where I stayed, was very friendly. The food was good and I met a few people hiking the same route.

    The path starts along a lake where many spring flowers are in bloom. I never tire of their beauty.

    Maybe the long flat stretch allowed me to warm up, but the climb was easier, and I felt I hit my stride.

    At the “Scatta Minoia” pass I met a group sheltering in a big hut, “Bivacco Ettore”. I have not seen many shelters at the top of a pass. Painted bright red and white it must be easy to see in fog.

    We all started the long descent together but quickly spread. Snow still covers a lot of the pass.

    The trail goes the length of lake Devero before reaching Crampionlo. The village has been renovated, renewing the stone_roofed buildings.

    Alpe Devero is the end of today’s walk. It is larger and more spread out, with many beautiful stone buildings.

    John

  • GTA – Alpe Devero to Alpe Veglia (7/16/2019)

    Day 4

    Leaving Alpe Devero I passed through a group of stone buildings and up a forest path. I came upon a flock of sheep with some goats mixed in. I watched the shepard lead his sheep to a spur; he whistled and they all followed.

    The path goes through a wide bassin that is soggy due to the late snow.

    The first pass, Scatta d’ Orogna, had the tamest goats I have met: I turned for a photo but had to swing around and pull away a goat that wanted to eat my backpack.

    After the descent, walking along the side of a lake in snow, I came to a critical point; I was with a couple of other hikers.

    The original pass around the cliff face had been damaged by an avalanche in spring. A detour had been built, which meant a long climb down then back up over snow. Six Italians went along the original path and assured us it was safe enough.

    We decided to follow them.

    Parts of the path are not even; shards of rock bigger than me are scattered across it.

    At the second pass, Passo Di Valtendra, we were hit by the wind. We retreated below the pass to take off our backpacks. A couple of minutes at the top for photos were enough.

    Then I put on my wind jacket, gloves and beanie for the walk down the snow on the other side.

    Beyond the snow it warmed up as I descended through a forest.

    Alpe Veglia was the end-point, with a friendly refuge.

    John

  • GTA – Encounters (7/16/2019)

    Day 5

    Today I walked alone yet had some interesting encounters.

    The terrain was more agricultural.

    Philippe took one look at me and recognised a like-minded hiker: light shoes and pack, equipped to be independent.

    He had not got the memo and was walking south to north; most of us are going the other way.

    His aim is performance and he has walked in 30 days what my book suggests takes 60 days.

    We exchanged information about good bivouacs and restaurants, then got onto hard-core equipment issues. He even put up his super-light tent, one I have considered many times. Am I going to buy it …..

    I do not know how long we talked, but it was fun.

    On the other side of the pass I came to a road. Although it looked like nobody drove it, I decided to follow it and hitch-hike.

    Angela gave me lift. We chatted between French and Italian. When we arrived at Varzo, I appreciated the ride all the more because it was a long way.

    I went to Varzo only to get cash. Leaving was a challenge: no bus, no train, and no easy walk. Nobody offered me a lift either.

    I walked along the road until it joined the main road. Suddenly I was in a bad place. This road was very narrow with barriers on both sides, lots of fast two-way traffic, and a tunnel ahead; walking it was not an option. Going backwards was not easy either.

    A speeding small blue car pulled out of the stream and braked hard in front of me.

    “I saw you were in a bad place and decided to give you a lift”, she said. We chatted easily and she drove me all the way to the Hospice de Simplon.

    Where I ended up having a glass of wine and sharing stories with a senior Swiss politician (whom I had not recognised).

    A good day for meeting people.

    John

  • GTA Hospice du Simplon (7/17/2019)

    Day 6

    This is a planned rest day at the Hospice de Simplon.

    I awoke to find it had snowed.

    John

  • GTA – Gondo to Bivacco Marigonda (7/23/2019)

    Day 7, 16 July 2019

    My stay at the Hospice was pleasant and restful, but I was already restless to be back on the trail.

    The postal bus took me to Gondo. There another bus was waiting to go to Zwischbergen. So I took that and saved myself 2.5 hours that I anticipated being dull.

    From Zwischbergen the hiking was through forest, not yet alpine terrain. Once I reached Tschawiner See it was more alpine.

    If John skinny-dips in an alpine lake and he does not take a selfie, did he make a splash?

    It was cold; I must be out of practise.

    At Rifugio Gattascosa a simple lunch of cheese and cold meats was good.

    Yet it was too early to stop, though the next stage is “easy” and 5 hours. So I decided to keep on; there are other places to stop.

    Philippe had mentioned a great bivouac. When I reached it I could not believe my eyes. It has all comforts, including a fire stove.

    I made a fire which took the edge off the chill. Lucas and I chatted to the small hours, meaning 10 pm.

    The moon tonight is full, beautiful and low over the alps.

    John

  • GTA – Bivacco Marigonda to Refugio Colma (7/24/2019)

    Day 8: 17 July 2019

    Luxury: there was some coffee in the bivouac. So Lucas and I chatted and shared a light breakfast. Which made for a late start.

    I arrived at the end-point, Refugio Cheggio, too early to stay. Reading the guide book, the next refuge was described as having good food.

    So I stuck out my thumb and got a lift down the valley road to the foot of the 1,000 m climb.

    I arrived just in time for dinner and received a warm welcome.

    The setting is great.

    John

  • GTA – Refugio Colma (7/24/2019)

    Day 9: 18 July 2019

    The food is good and Patricia and Olindo welcoming.

    Today I stay here.

    A short walk to a hill top to admire Monta Rosa, but she hides under cloud.

    We were 10 for dinner. One person plays guitar, so we had a singalong. Olindo is a music teacher so he kept adding instruments. His harmonica playing on Dylan was superb.

    John

  • GTA: Special request (7/24/2019)

    Andi asked me to publish this photo.

    We had passed a fun night at Rifugio Alpe della Colma.

    Olindo has taught music, so when someone picked up a guitar, he joined in with his guitar and harmonica. All the hikers sang.

  • GTA – 2 days (7/25/2019)

    Days 10 and 11: 19 to 20 July 2019

    The descent from Alpe della Colma included walks on terraces built for chestnut trees.

    After lunch in Molini, I had a steep climb to the unmanned Rifugio Alpe del Lago. Michel arrived late so we chatted over breakfast.

    It was foggy most of the day. Bivacco Alpe Pian Lago was better situated than where I had stayed: water and a stunning view, although all I saw was fog.

    Campello Monti is surprisingly pretty. This is my first “Posto tappa”, an old school converted to dormitories for hikers.

    John

  • GTA – Campello Monti to Alpe Baranca (7/25/2019)

    Day 12, Sunday 21 July 2019

    Everyone speaks about a great restaurant at Rimella, and I was looking forward to trying the antipasti.

    Yet Sunday lunch, was a family gathering likely?

    All they would serve me was pasta. Oh well, keep moving.

    I hiked through deserted villages and villages that are renewing themselves.

    Alpe Baranca is reputed for a warm welcome and good food. After compleyeing two days hiking in one, I arrived just in time to enjoy both.

    John

  • GTA – Alpe Baranco to Rima (7/26/2019)

    Day 13: 22 July 2019

    A climb to Colle d’Egua before a long descent to Carcoforo.

    Carcoforo appears as a dense network of stone roofs. Once in the town it is pretty, with some Walser buildings.

    Lunch was cold meats and cheese.

    The next stage is described as long and challenging. Rather than spend the afternoon in Carcoforo, I decided to start the next stage. Two water points along the way offered potential places to stop and camp.

    There was nowhere to camp. The second water point was at a goat farm with a guard dog. He merely growled as I passed, but made it clear stopping was not welcome.

    As I was making good time I continued to Rima.

    Rima is pretty and prosperous. It is higher than many villages which gives it a good view.

    John

  • GTA – Rima to Sant’ Antonio di Val Vogna (7/26/2019)

    Day 14: 23 July 2019

    Just before Alagna is Pedemont, with many beautiful barns that remind me of Valais.

    Alagna Valsesia looks like a ski resort. One shop was open selling ripe fruit. I bought apricots, prunes and a small dark purple prune I have never seen. Then I sat and ate them all.

    To finish this stage was walking along a road. I was offered a lift all the way.

    The refuge here is attractive, so I decided to end early and stay the night.

    John

  • GTA – Surprises (7/27/2019)

    Day 15: 24 July 2019

    Hiking is experiencing nature.

    And surprising encounters.

    Many trails are old trading routes, often for smugglers.

    Three horses, two men and a few dogs came round a bend. I had time to get out of their way.

    A photo of eight bottoms did not seem interesting.

    John

  • GTA – Refugio Rivetto to Santuario San Giovanni (7/27/2019)

    Day 16: 25 July 2019

    Last night we had the spectacle of local trail runners climbing 1,100 m in 45 minutes, drinking beer and wine, having dinner, then running back down using headlamps. They laughed on the way down.

    My descent took two hours.

    Rosazza is surprisingly big with grandiose buildings.

    It was a pleasant stroll through forests to Santuario San Giovanni.

    John

  • GTA – Decisions, decisions (7/28/2019)

    Day 17: 26 July 2019

    “Celui qui regarde trop la méteo, reste au bistrot.”, is a French saying among sailors that roughly translates as: if you watch the weather forecast closely you will not get out and play.

    Those of you who have sailed with me might remember some exhilarating moments.

    For two days the talk amongst hikers has been about the forecast violent storms for Saturday and Sunday. Where to stay?

    Some decided to stay at Oropa. Arriving there, I decided to keep on for the next stage; there were a few options to stop on the way.

    The gondola up to the start of the hike disappeared into clouds. Did this make sense?

    As I walked the air switched between cold cloud and warm sun.

    I arrived at Rifugio Coda at about 15:00. Staying was possible, but if it meant spending two nights, it would have been long. It was already lost in clouds.

    The next stretch was really tough: climbing along the crest and an ever receding hilltop. To the left a cold wind blew clouds upwards, to the right it was warm and dry.

    “Bushwhacked” is a great Australian word which conveys somewhat more than being lost.

    Off the crest I was bushwhacked. I wasted an hour looking for the trail. Now I was going to arrive late without knowing if there was a bed and whether I could get food.

    The agriturismo welcomed me and prepared food even though I arrived at about 21:00. It has been one of the best meals I have had so far.

    John

  • GTA – Rest day (8/2/2019)

    Day 18: 27 July 2019

    Good food, forecast bad weather, it was easy to stay a day here.

    The weather forecast was accurate; we had a violent hail-storm. It was good to be sheltered.

    Yesterday’s decisions were good.

    John

  • GTA – Trovinasse to Rifugio Chiaromonte (8/3/2019)

    Day 19: 28 July 2019

    Much of the walk down was on old mule trails. So much work to build, and now mostly used by hikers.

    Closer to the valley bottom are terrassed vinyards. The feet of the vines are planted back against the wall, trained up 2 m and spread on trellaces to get maximum sun.

    In the valley all the private gardens were rich with fruit and vegetables.

    Quincinetto is tiny with only one bar open. Gelato and coffee were welcome.

    Then began the steep climb to La Capanne. The track emerged at a hair-pin bend. Cars coming, I stuck my thumb out and got a ride all the way up.

    Sunday, there was a big fiesta, organised the last Sunday of every July.

    Happy to have been given a ride, still I wanted to hike more. So I started the next stage.

    I arrived later than I expected at a closed refuge, so decided to camp there.

    John

  • GTA – Rifugio Chiaromonte to Fondo (8/4/2019)

    Day 20: 29 July 2019

    The air was clearer in the morning giving good views over the busy plain.

    Hiking down was straight forward, leading through Succinto, a village which announces when it got electricity and a road.

    Fondo is deep at the end of the valley, with a beautiful bridge built in the middle ages.

    The next stage is described as long and difficult, so I stay here.

    John

  • GTA – Fondo to Piamprato (8/5/2019)

    Day 21: 30 July 2019

    The air was clear today.

    Walking up a gentle valley beside a pretty stream. The pools were hard to resist for a swim, but I was worried I would lose my momentum.

    At a small family farm I asked if I could buy cheese. One of the young sons disappeared into a cellar in the rocks and came back with a small round of cheese; “it is a bit young”. Both sons were shy. I bought half of the cheese. It made a good lunch.

    It was a steep climb to Bocchetta delle Oche, 2,417 m.

    On the way I met the men clearing the path. It is good to be able to thank those who make this possible and exchange a few words.

    John

  • GTA – Piamprato to Talosio (8/6/2019)

    Day 22: 31 July 2019

    A long bus ride took us to Ronco. All the hikers and backpacks filled the small bus.

    The bus dropped me in front of the post office. My tent and some other kit are now in the post, lightening my backpack a lot.

    White cows with black tails watched me pass.

    I went through a pass and asked two men the way. They pointed lazily. When I came to a cliff, one came after me and told to come back, then showed me the correct path.

    At Colle Crest, the day’s highest point at 2,040 m, the sign was decked with drying clothes of two people sleeping beside it.

    At Talosio the Posto Tappa is again an old school.

    John

  • GTA – Walking in the Clouds (8/12/2019)

    Day 27: 5 August 2019

    Leaving Balme was a long climb in mostly clear weather. Over the Colle Costa Fiorita, 2,465 m, the cloud rolled in.

    Sometimes, when hiking, a song goes through your mind in repeat. “Walking in the rain”, Grace Jones cover, became walking in the clouds.

    The landscape became eery, fading in and out of view.

    Someone had recommended staying at the Albergo Rocciamelone in Usseglio.

    It has an old-world charm and home made gelato. So I had coffee and gelato as I considered my options.

    Staying was tempting, but they were full.

    Reading my guide book I learnt I can hike Rocciamelone, the mountain: 3,538 m.

    So I headed to Refugio Vulpot for the night. Here they explained my options to get there.

  • GTA – Rocciamelone, looking down on the world (8/13/2019)

    Ten minutes into my hike, it started raining and the clouds were dark and low. I went and did something else.

    Two days later, 8 August, I was back to hike the 1,700 m ascent in clear weather.

    The climb to Rifugio Tazzetti was straight forward; I had lunch.

    From there it was a climb up a crest with views to Rocciamelone.

    Above the crest it started to get hard. There was climbing, and I was having trouble finding the path.

    After a while I stopped counting the grave stones and concentrated on climbing.

    Two younger men caught up with me and we started hiking together. It became easier, being with other hikers.

    Next we came to the glacier. It is wider than I had been told. My friends had crampons; I did not.

    There is no marked path, but we found our way. Getting off it was tricky.

    The final ascent is up an exposed crest, buffetted by strong winds.

    It was an exciting hike, but there were moments I was scared.

    It was worth it.

    One of the young men said to me: “Respect. That was a hard hike.”

    I was touched.

    John

  • GTA – Rocciamelone, Brocken Spectre (8/14/2019)

    Hands up anyone who has heard of a Brocken Spectre. Nor had I.

    An English-speaking man asked if I had seen my Brocken Spectre? See yourself in a rainbow that circles you. The conditions are right, and rare.

    I could not understand what he was saying.

    So he took me to the top of the cliff, the sun low behind us, clouds rising from the valley.

    There was my shadow on the cloud with a rainbow around it.

    John

  • GTA – Strange stones (8/20/2019)

    15 August 2019

    It was a beautiful alpine hike over a couple of passes, starting at the beginning of the river Po.

    I came to a field of stones pointing to the sky. At first I thought it was natural, and some were.

    Hundreds were man-made.

    Next was a small brown cliff-face that people had inserted grey stones into.

    All a mystery to me.

    The day ended with fireworks in the village where I stayed

    John

  • GTA – Two firsts (8/21/2019)

    20 August 2019

    I love hearing the marmots calling out to each in the alps. I always try to spot them.

    Today was the first day I was close enough to photograph one.

    Two mountain-bikers I had dinner with last night were kind enough to wait for me to show me a surprise.

    Edelweiss.

    I have never seen one before.

    John

  • GTA – Onsen in Italy (8/22/2019)

    21 August 2019

    After a pleasant 6 hour hike I arrived in Strepeis.

    Just down the road is a closed thermal centre, Bagni de Vinadio.

    On the other side of the road are a few improvised thermal pools by a stream.

    Soaking in the hot water released my tight muscles.

    Then a quick rince in the cold stream.

    John

  • GTA – Accordeon (8/25/2019)

    25 August 2019

    In my early years in Geneva I saw a film, “La Trace”, which I enjoyed.

    It tells the adventures of a man who travels from France to Italy, before they were countries, selling ribbons and buttons and sewing materials.

    Somewhere in the plain in Italy he meets a German selling accordeons, and buys one.

    The accordeon becomes a character in the film.

    Today I stopped at Rifugio Morelli for a coffee. There on the table stood a beautiful, small accordeon.

    Paolo Giraudo told me he is a carver and started making accordeons. He has made about 40.

    The one I admired is not for sale; he made it for his daughter from old chestnut wood he recovered from furniture.

    Today I had my Italian accordeon moment.

  • GTA: The end (9/16/2019)

    31 August 2019

    On the hike to Colla Mosse I decided to stop. I got a lift to Sanremo.

    After a few days I went to Ventimiglia and walked a couple of kilometres back up the trail. Then I walked into Ventimiglia and to the sea.

    I finished my hike, my way.

    My phone had stopped working, so sadly I have no photos of my arrival.

    It was a great hike, and I met many good people.

    John

  • GTA – Mountains of Piemonte (9/16/2019)

    This post is for Jenny, who found I had not posted enough photos of mountains.

  • Sicily: My Etna experience (9/17/2019)

    14 September 2019

    In Sicily we had planned to do some hiking. Waiting for Jenny I went to hike Mt Etna.

    As we neared the mountain, we were told the rim has been closed for 4 days.

    Avoiding the crowds I hiked along an old mule track, up to a ridge.

    The views over the lava fields and to the summit were good.

    John

  • La Sicile baroque (9/24/2019)

    We met in Catania and drove down to Sicily’s south east, known for its baroque towns. Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Caltagirone and Piazza Amerina (for its wonderful Villa Casale) were among the visits. The hills, between 400 and 700m, were surprisingly cool and we even had some fog.

     

    This was followed by a couple of nights in pretty Siracusa, returning the car and a train ride inland to get to Palermo.

    Nous nous sommes retrouvés à Catane et avons loué une voiture pour nous rendre dans le sud-est de la Sicile. Les visites ont inclus les villes baroques de Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Caltagirone et Piazza Amerina, avec sa superbe villa Casald. Nous avons été surpris par la fraîcheur des villes à 400-700m d’altitude et avons même eu du brouillard.

    Ensuite, nous avons passé deux nuits dans la jolie ville de Syracuse, rendu la voiture et pris le train, par l’intérieur, pour Palerme.

  • Valle dei templi (9/29/2019)

    Despite its name, the valley of the temples actually sits on a crest between Agrigento and the sea. Built in the 5th century B.C. and listed on the Unesco World Patrimony, its Greek temples are among the best preserved of the Antiquity, although several were burnt or destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 B.C.

    This area also host a number of Girgentana goats, with corkscrew-like horns that can reach 70cm in males. This ancient breed, believed to have been brought by the Arabs in the 9th century, had almost completely disappeared when the Slow Food movement started a campaign to preserve them. There are about 500 of them now, down from 30,000 in the 1950s.
    20190930_172218.jpg

    En dépit de son nom, la vallée des temples se situe sur une crête entre Agrigente et la mer. Construits au 5e siècle avant J.C et sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l'humanité de l’Unesco, ses temples grecs sont parmi les mieux préservés de l’Antiquité. Ceci, bien que plusieurs d’entre eux aient été brûlés et détruits par les Carthaginois en 406 avant J.C.

    Le parc abrite également quelques chèvres Girgentana, avec leurs cornes en forme de tire-bouchons pouvant atteindre jusqu’à 70cm chez les mâles. Cette race ancienne, que l’on croit introduite par les Arabes au 9e siècle, avait presque complètement disparue quand le mouvement Slow Food a lancé une campagne pour sa préservation. Il y en a maintenant à peu près 500, alors qu’il y en avait encore 30.000 dans les années cinquante.

  • Sicily – churches (10/3/2019)

    Sicily has, unsurprisingly, many churches and some particularly stand out, such as the Arab-Norman churches in Palermo and the cathedral of Cefalù, with their Byzantine interiors.

    Sans surprise, la Sicile possède de nombreuses églises mais celles de Palerme et la cathédrale de Cefalù, de style arabo-normand et aux décors intérieurs byzantins sont particulièrement remarquables.

  • Sicily – markets (10/4/2019)

    Markets are a pleasant daily (in Palermo and Catania; once or twice a week in smaller towns) occurrence with seasonal vegetables and fresh fish.

    We both prefer Catania to Palermo and we enjoyed strolling around the town.20191004_093556.jpg

    Les marchés sont un plaisir quotidien à Palerme et Catane (bi-/hebdomadaire dans les autres villes) avec un large choix de fruits et légumes saisonniers et poissons frais.

    Nous préférons Catane à Palerme et avons déambulé dans la ville.