Around any turn
Amazing, amazing, just amazing. Every single turn in the Dolomites prompts the same response. After weeks of relentless sun and heat in Southern Italy we swallowed hard and rented a tiny Smart car that just fit us and the albatross, we call “the bag” and headed north.
Our last experience with a rental car in Italy had been an unmitigated disaster. Twenty years at rental car desks refusing the additional insurance had become a habit. I did it again, not considering that I was no longer employed or that my home car insurance was in sleep mode. Anyone looking at all the dented brand new cars in Italy would recognize that this is a hazardous place for smooth metal panels. Spend seven days in the Walmart parking lot, increase the speed tenfold and you get a feel for driving here. $3000 poorer from the last experience we were fully insured this time as we headed off on the relative sanity of the Italian Autostrada, a 600 mile long toll road that sweeps up the agricultural center of Italy all the way to the Alps. We just needed mountains and cooler weather.
We overnighted in Bologna for the simple reason that I had read about it in John Grisham’s book “The Broker”. I think I’ll use his books as travel guides from now on.. Who would have thought a town named after a luncheon meat would offer so much. The huge historic area, off limits to all but a few local cars, was a warren of beautiful squares, parks, pubs, cafes and markets. Pocketed with so many Medici towers and churches it looked like a playful giant had collected them over time and carefully placed all perfectly in one spot., except for this one crazily tilted tower that makes the leaning tower of Pisa look upright.
It’s the walkways that most impress. Miles on miles of soaring, vaulted, arched, covered walkways. These colonnaded walkways with mosaic tile floors remain cool and breezy even on the hottest day. Think the UMC fountain area on steroids.
Topping it all off was the two mile long covered stairway visible from any high point in the city that lead up the green foothills to the Cathedral of San Lucca. Imagine a gorgeous covered breezeway from Pearl Street to the Amphitheater on Flagstaff Mountain and you get the picture.
We headed north again across the one hundred miles of flat plains between Bologna’s foothills and the Alps backing Romeo and Juliet’s Verona. As the highway headed up the valley and the sky became deeper blue and our tiny car’s inadequate air conditioning finally caught up. Sixty miles later we were in Bolzano. We bailed ourselves out of the Autostrada “58 Euros, per favore” and turned up the hill at the first “Pensione” sign we came to. Within minutes we had spiraled our way up a one lane highway that we would call a bike path back home. In just minutes we found ourselves on an incredibly green alpine shelf backed by soaring granite spires and picturesque mountain farms. We were hanging over the valley below, with jaw dropping mountains all around us and yet we were still 2000 ft below Boulder. It was better than home, it looked like the 12,000 foot alpine meadows you find on West Maroon Pass, but we could breathe!