From Innsbruck, Austria to Lallio, Italy, via the Dolomites

April 16, 2009 02:15 – 02:15

We’re in Lallio, Italy. It’s Thursday morning, April 16th—we arrived at about 6 last night. Here’s what we see from our window.

We arose this morning in Innsbruck and had a lovely breakfast of bacon, ham, eggs, and other assorted items. After that, we loaded the car, and through the use of some different packing techniques, I finally managed to fit all of our luggage into the trunk. I’m still not sure how it all fit. This is important when traveling, since it hides the details of whatever you’re carrying—or even the fact that you’re carrying stuff—from would-be thieves.

We pointed the car south, and a short while later, we were in Italy. We went through a dozen or more tunnels, and at one point reached about 4,500 feet in elevation—we could have touched the snow, if I have been more clever about stopping. Surrounding us on all sides were snowy mountains, and the outside air temperature dropped from about 70 in the lower terrain to the upper 40s. I wish we had some of those temperatures tonight. The room is too warm, and the advertised A/C doesn’t get switched on until May. Unfortunately, people in Europe don’t seem to have discovered screens for windows, and with the windows open, we’re being treated to an influx of mosquitoes. So, it’s a choice between being too hot to sleep and too bitten to sleep. I guess we’ll give bitten a try. Tomorrow, a cold front is supposed to come through bringing rain and cooler temperatures. Perhaps the cooler temperatures will also quell the mosquitoes a little, as well as make opening the windows more effective.

Sorry to complain… but, if you’re reading this and contemplating warm-weather travel to Europe, the lack of A/C and window screens is important if you’re not comfortable sleeping in a hot and stuffy hotel room.

We’re at the Hotel Donizetti—a 4 start hotel in Lallio, Italy. Not quite my idea of luxury and comfort… but, it’s what we’ve got, and the little fan I bought in Prague is getting quite a bit of service.

Once in Italy, we decided to take the S241 road near Bolzano to the east because it’s billed as scenic. It winds and twists through the Dolomites. After a 3-mile long tunnel, it did become scenic. It reminded me of some of the deep canyon roads in Colorado. After having our fill of being tailgated by locals, we turned around and headed for Bolzano.

Bolzano is home to an archeology museum that houses the public-display remains of the Ice Man who was discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991. Before heading into the museum, we decided to grab a snack. We each got buns and a half litre of water from a bakery across the alley from the museum. Karen’s had cinnamon and hazelnuts, while mine had cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins. Both were an adequate stave to last us to dinner.

The ice man was either about 5500 years old or 46 years old. It depends on how you count. Using carbon dating, they say he lived at about 3500 BC. He was the victim of violence, having bled to death from an arrow wound to his shoulder—he was about 46 when he died. They had remnants of his clothing and various articles he was carrying.

Actually, after seeing the museum—they would not allow pictures—I thought it was misnamed. To me, it seemed more like a forensic anthropology museum than an archeology museum.

After the museum, we miraculously found our car—we’d parked it in P7, a public lot somewhere off the center of Bolzano. It’s one of those lots where you take a ticket when you arrive, pay at a machine before you leave, then feed the validated ticket to the gate machine when you drive out. Ah. But, the views at the parking lot—they were something else. Can you tell you’re in a parking lot?

Maybe not, but now you can.

Is this a view from a parking lot?

Maybe not, but this clearly is. It’s all a matter of perspective.

The views as we walked to the museum were equally spectacular.

Or just plain interesting and scenic.

Graffiti on an ancient wall… appropriate enough, I guess since graffiti is an Italian word. Did the Italians invent graffiti?

Here, we’re urged not to spend our tourist dollars in Bolzano.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but Euros.

After enjoying the museum, I set a course for Lallio, about 240 k to the south and west of Bolzano. As we passed through the countryside, it increasingly became more like the Italy I’d seen in pictures—picturesque villages and miles and miles of vineyards.

Dinner in Bergamo (pronounced bare’ ga mo)

For dinner, we asked the hotel clerk to make us a reservation at Antica Osteria de Buono Vino in nearby Bergamo. Karen had read rave reviews, and we had to try it. The drive there was harrowing, to say the least. At the outset, there was a traffic jam on the main road leading to Bergamo. So, I asked Diana (that’s what we’ve named our Garmin since the voice I choose is a British woman who sounds like Diana Rigg) to detour us. There is no “avoid roads narrower than the car” option in the Garmin, so I had no choice but to obey. After 25 minutes of fast and furious driving, we finally found the restaurant—but no parking. So, I decided to go around for another spin, twisting and turning through the narrow and creatively paved roads.

Coming back up the hill a different way, we turned and twisted and finally landed in a piazza that serves as a municipal parking lot for evening diners. A gentleman there directed us into a space, extracted 3.60€ (not bad at all), and directed us to our restaurant, which we found with the additional assistance of Diana, whom I put into pedestrian mode. Before leaving the car, however, I saved the location so Diana could help us find the car again after dinner. I often do this, and I’m always glad I do.

At the restaurant, we were 10 minutes late, but that was no problem. We were seated in a rustic room that looked at least 500 years old, with a few ancient beams visible in the ceiling. The waiter was a 40-something bearded gentleman who offered to translate the menu into any of five different languages. He reminded me of a former colleague from Inslaw, named Jack Hausner. Jack was half Italian and half Swiss, I believe. Maybe they’re related. In any case, we chose English.

To my left, an Italian woman was chatting up two colleagues, gossiping and critiquing the management of their company and other employees who were not there with the threesome. Her colleagues were visiting Americans, so we got a mixture of English and Italian coming from that direction. To my right were a 60-ish man and a 30-ish woman who were speaking in German. The man, however, spoke unaccented English to the waiter.

For starters, we had this delicious meat ravioli cooked in a butter sauce and sprinkled with bacon. For secondi, Karen had their beef cooked in a dark sauce with a mound of polenta. I had their veal with mushrooms. Hers was delicious. Mine was okay, but I wasn’t 100% wild about the sauce. I would probably go for the pig knuckles next time. I’m also not fond of polenta–way too much like grits, which I find tasteless and which have annoying texture. But, when in Bergamo, do as the Bergamites.

The wine was an excellent house red (not sure what—but it was perfect), and the bread was plentiful and fresh. Dinner cost a little over 50€ with tip.

Leaving the restaurant, we headed back the way we’d come—sort of. With Diana’s assistance, however, we arrived back at the car, and were on our way. We twisted and turned, drove through a couple of ancient archways that might at one point have been even too narrow for horses, and found our way back to Lallio.

This morning, it’s cooler and raining. I hope the rain relents. Our plan is to drive northwest to Lake Como and take in the scenery. It’s now a bit after 9am, and I suppose we should head down and see what’s for breakfast.

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