The drive from Garda to Val di Sole was immensely beautiful. The road from the lake quickly darted up a side valley, and we found ourselves in the surrounds of huge forested slopes. Big clouds again aided the definition of the contours, and it wasn’t long until we’d climbed up through Madonna di Campiglio and over Passo Folgarida. Christa’s last trip to the area was as a junior ski racer, and foggy memories were continually cleared as we wound through half-familiar towns. We entertained the stray cats in Madonna before descending into the ghost-like Val di Sole. Off season here had hit hard, and we pulled into our small village without seeing another car. The hotel seemed pleasantly disorganised, and the family management became quickly apparent we we were passed from daughter to mother to father before finally getting our room. The hotel, a chalet style house of light wood and bright red decoration felt warm and welcoming. More importantly, compared to Garda, it was dry.
With a day and no plans, and significant miles in our legs from yesterday, we unanimously agreed on a walk. Even the copious good coffee was barely enough to pull Christa out of a miles-induced daze, and we ate our breakfast of bread cheese and meat quietly. It seemed only the Italian supplement of breakfast-cake was enough to put a smile back on her face. I’d browsed the map as soon as we arrived, and found a nice looking loop around a lake in Stelvio National Park, in the shadow of some very big mountains. We parked at the end of the road, and walked up the singletrack under the dam, expecting a magnificent view to unfold before us. We crested the top to find the vast expanse of the lake almost empty, save for a small pond in the bottom; a long way down from the path we walked along! Coupled with the overcast skies, we didn’t have the huge alpine feel we were looking for, but instead breathed in the total silence, and absence of other people. Lake Garda is lovely, but its much much too busy!
The village of Ossana turned out to be a one hotel, one restaurant kind of place, but lucky the food was excellent. Again, we ordered up a carafe of house wine, safe in the knowledge that whoever wrote the menu had a far superior knowledge of wine than us. We weren’t disappointed, and it accompanied our stereotypical meal of bread followed by salad followed by pizza followed by an assortment of excellent deserts. For having no idea where we would stay, Christa had managed to find an amazing hotel, and it went a long way to allaying her fears of last minute hotel bookings! We even had a perfect view of the castle out the window!
We left Val di Sole wishing we could have spent more time at our beautiful hotel, but in reality we had absolutely no idea what we would do for another day in the valley. With almost every shop, restaurant and cafe closed, the place was eerily quiet. I could hardly believe that the world cup mountain bike circus would be invading in just a couple of weeks. We packed up the faithful car once more and headed over Passo Tonale; the location of one of my childhood ski trips. This drive was a little different from the 30 hour coach journey from Devon though, and I certainly don’t remember seeing the vast fields of glaciers skirting Monte Ademello