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Posts Tagged ‘Aosta’

September 4, 2010, 1310 hours. Autostazione [bus station], Aosta, Piemonte, Italy.

The exact location where back in June I reached maximum gelato capacity (see earlier post). On September 4, I was back in Aosta, having arrived that morning by bus from Chamonix and enjoyed a delicious lunch of insalata, bruschetta, rose wine and caffe in the sunny central square, and still had 20 minutes to spare before my bus to Cogne. Should I put it to the test? Half of me said no, you’re still full from that big lunch, wait until you get to Cogne. The other half could not resist the symmetry of the situation, and convinced me to walk the short distance away to la Dolce Terapia [Sweet Therapy], the very gelatteria I’d bought the coppetta from on that fateful day last June. Una coppetta con fondente e pistacchio, per favore, I placed the order, which was ready within moments. It was a hot day, my hands were full with my luggage, and the gelato was melting fast, so I walked as quickly as possible back to the autostazione, dropped my bags on the ground, and began to eat.

The verdict? I could not do it. More than half of the coppetta went into the garbage can. Apparently, despite having been absent from Italy for 2 months, I am still at maximum gelato capacity.

Cogne and its surroundings are as beautiful as ever, and I’ve spent the last couple of days in the area enjoying some solo hiking in Gran Paradiso. There aren’t as many wildflowers now, and with less snow the views aren’t quite as spectacular as they were in June, but the trails are drier and easier to navigate and the scenery is still stunning. Today I’ll head back to Chamonix where I look forward to meeting the group I’ll be hiking with for the next 10 days on the Mont Blanc circuit.

…. “We look down on the Alps,” a Bhutanese acquaintance said to me a few days ago when I mentioned this as my next destination. “Yes, but they have better wine,” I countered. And better caffe I should have added. Over the last 2 months I had attempted to drink the coffee in Ireland, England, Mongolia and Bhutan and in almost every case was forced to set aside the cup of what I charitably referred to as coffee-flavoured beverage after a few sips (one of the exceptions was in a small cafe on the Aran Island of Inishmoor which served Lavazza – made in Torino! – coffee; the owner had lived for a time in Italy with a former girlfriend, and in true Irish form managed to tell a few good stories in the moments it took for me to drink my tazze of espresso). Call me a coffee snob if you want, but I can’t help it. As a character in a book I read recently said, just a few months in Italy can spoil you for life… in a good way. If any of my fellow Mongolian riders are reading, I am happy to report that the countdown is over: that first caffe in Aosta was even better than I imagined, and I’ve savoured several more since. Though my coppetta runneth over, clearly my tazze doth not.

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It was a week ago on a dead Sunday night in Aosta, the football game was over, the bars had emptied, and I was sitting on a bench with a coppetta of gelato looking up at the mountains I would be hiking into the next day. I had worked my way down to the best flavour: fondente (I type with reverence), a rich dark chocolate that even in melted form could probably keep a spoon standing. Then something incredible happened: I suddenly could not take another bite. I was full! I had reached maximum gelato capacity. Half of me gaped in disbelief as the other half got up and deposited the unfinished coppetta in a nearby garbage can.

All the preceding week since returning to Torino from Chamonix and Mont Blanc I had been restless. A series of thunderstorms was heralding the coming shift from pleasant late spring weather to sweltering summer heat, and my seasonal instincts were telling me it was time to get out of the city. On the one sunny day I decided to make use of a trail map I’d accidentally bought back in April, and headed for the hills above Chivasso 20 minutes out of Torino where I spent several happy hours exploring the forest. Apart from a rainsoaked day trip to pretty Lago Maggiore, I passed the rest of the week glumly watching the relentless downpour. As soon as the weather forecast announced an improvement, I was on the train to Aosta, and spent two absolutely spectacular days hiking in Gran Paradiso National Park.

I would have gladly stayed longer, but Marco had convinced me I should come back for San Giovanni (aka St. Jean Baptiste: Torino and Qu├ębec have the same patron saint). And yeah, there was a parade with people in period costume and lots of marching bands, a big bonfire in Piazza Castello, and a fireworks show on the river, the sorts of civic events one should participate in when one adopts a city as a temporary home … My plan to escape back to the mountains on a 6 am train the next day was foiled by a transportation strike. The next day was Saturday so I decided to make a trip to the charming little town of Alba which I’d been planning to visit for weeks, thinking that many places might be closed Sunday and it might be my last chance to get there. I finally made it back to the mountains for a short hike yesterday – this time to Limone in the Maritime Alps.

And then this morning I got on a train to Rome where I’ll stay one night (initial impression is I like it, but I think for me it’s probably best taken in small doses), tomorrow it’s back to Levanto just north of the Cinque Terre where the sea will make this heat more bearable, Thursday night return to Torino and early Saturday morning all packed up and on the plane…

As for my gelato aversion, well it’s somewhat abated. I can once again eat it with a certain amount of pleasure, but the hunger just isn’t there anymore. I really am full. This is also how I feel about Italy. There is much I love, much I am grateful for, and much I still hope to discover, and though I’m not sure I’ll ever again have the luxury of lingering here for three months I feel pretty sure I’ll be back many times to absorb more of this energy. But as with the gelato I’ve taken in about all I can… for now.

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