So, for the second year running, I've spent new year in Italy. This time, I've
been in the North. A very different kettle of fish from the south and Tuscany.
The drivers are much better, although I've still seen three road accidents, one of
them quite serious, at least for the car; drive slow when there is ice seems
I've been staying in Gavardo; this is a small town which is about 200m above
Lake Garda. It sitting on a glacial moraine, in a classic U shaped valley,
with magnificent mountains in the background. It's got upper-course river and
a canal which seems to have been constructed mostly for the purpose of energy
and irrigation rather than transport. There's still hydroelectric power
coming from it, and a old mill building which would have had five wheels
Lake Garda itself is beautiful, with the mountains coming right to the Lake.
There are a large number of villages and towns around the edge; the ones on
the lake are shopping and accommodation orientated.
One tradition I didn't know about, was the presipio. The Italians seem made
for these; essentially these are nativity displays, but they put the hut with
three figures that Worcester has to shame. Gavardo had at least three,
complete miniature towns, with lighting effects moving through the day, sound,
snow, rain and smoke (well steam I think) coming out of the chimneys. Most of
them are static, but some of them are mechanised, with hundreds of moving
figures. Perhaps to my surprise, I've also discovered that I am appear to be a
few centrimetres taller than the average Italian; the presipio's are tunnels
you walk through and I kept on scraping my head; just a scrape rather than a
full headbutt, Japan-style.
I also went to the bath in Morano which is in the South Tyrol; it's a
German-speaking part of Italy (or bilingual anyway). The terme there are
magnificient; lots of pools, and a closed, adult-only sauna area, where I got
to sit outside, in the buff at -2C, surrounded by snow-capped mountains,
cooling down from sauna. Clearly, the Germany language isn't all that has
remained here; I got told off three times for not obeying rules (sauna "au
naturale", keep your feet on the towel and don't talk too loud. Eech.
Moreno was a day trip from Trento; I know some people from the University
quite well, but I've never been there. It's a magnificient city. The
architecture is constrained, but beautiful, but dwarfed by the mountains
It's been a good trip, but I'm looking forward to flying home tomorrow. Being
surrounded by a foreign language can be tiring at any time; in Italy it's made
slightly worse because Italians tend to talk loud (i.e. shout). So I'm
suffering from a sensory overload, and there is a bit of hyperreality about
Back to a school away day to start the year on Monday. Perhaps hyper-reality
doesn't seem so bad after all.