We awoke to a different day. Silence. Only broken by the brief buzz of an early car heading through the tunnel along the lake. I pull open the curtains to see the sun breaking between clouds and sending jets of warmth onto the water; transforming the lake from lagoon black into alpine blue. We’d given the pedalling a go yesterday, and now was time for a day off, a day different.
We strolled along the Limone shore, ducking through campsites and walkways until we found the official seafront path. We’d got going pretty early after another mediocre breakfast. We’d both skipped the coffee knowing we’d soon find something much better in town. We looked across and up the gargantuan slopes of Monte Baldo which dominates the view. Almost 5000 feet straight out of the water. The shade of clouds draws the contours out of the mountains, and the mile across the lake gives us a grand view of the huge expanse of unending trees. I have a plan to ride around the mountain tomorrow, but I haven’t told Christa that yet. Our early rise pays off again as we stumble upon a mother duckling coddling her chicks right next to the path. We leave them to it, and find caffeine.
As opposed to the unending vastness of 1970’s built hotels that we saw from the road, the seafront of Limone is pretty, quiet and very Italian. Every restaurant and bar has its chairs out, and we walk past lots of well dressed and expectant looking waiters standing guard over their as yet unfilled terraces. I come to realise that I am a furniture snob, inasmuch as I refuse to stop anywhere with plastic furniture; its moments like this that I realise that Christa is pretty good for me, because rather than argue she just drags me along to the first place we find with acceptable chairs. We wait for the ferry with a cup of good coffee, my love of espresso meaning that most coffee stops involve me downing a shot, and then patiently waiting for Christa to enjoy her drink at a more civilised pace. I hide my excitement that we get to go on a BOAT. A landlocked girl probably has no idea how much this seaside boy misses the waves sometimes; although the lake comes nowhere close, the lure of the open water is strong after a few months in the mountains.
The packed ferry lumbers out of the harbour and into the bay, then quickly east towards Malcesine. The 13th century castle, Castello Scaligero casts a watchful eye over the old town, and as soon as we disembark, we start winding through the maze like corridors of cobbles towards the fort on the hill.
We get lost. It’s intentional. After fighting instinctively away from the crowds, we take turns at random, winding through small courtyards and past peoples immaculately kept houses. We have no idea where we want to be, but somehow find ourselves at the castle, before deciding it was not worth the extortionate entry fee. Instead, we marvel at it from below, and go in search of some simple food to keep ourselves happy. We wonder whether people actually live here, and having grown up in a tourist destination, I also imagine what it must be like to live in a sea of passing tourists. Every other house seems to be a shop or studio of some kind, but rather than superficial gifts, the places seem to actually be rooted just a little bit in their surroundings. I note, also, the lack of plastic furniture outside the cafes, and wonder what kind of Hot Fuzz mafia is involved in keeping the town looking this good.
Three shops after deciding we needed food, we’re loaded with homemade ciabatta, salami, cheese, apples, and a strange baked product that tasted like magic, and would have to be eaten to be believed. We walk down to a small cove in the shadow of the castle to enjoy our feast. The ferries chug on by, sending the occasional big wave dancing at our feet. Even in this crowded town, all it took was walking the opposite way from the signposts to find our own solitude; 30 minutes of undisturbed lake time.
The clouds have threatened all day, and we’d taken pleasure in looking back across the lake to where we came from this morning to see the almost constant darkness shadowing the town; it seems we played the weather game well. With the sun hiding more than shining, we had little incentive to walk any further, and satisfied ourselves in a slow walk back to the ferry.
After spending the day looking at the western edge of the lake, with different mountains to explore, we meandered up and out of Limone to discover Tremosine; a small collection of mountain villages perched on the slopes above. I had no idea where we were heading, and lucky Christa enjoys the same sense of adventure as I; soon I was twisting the car around ever tightening turns, and the brief glimpses of the lake got smaller and smaller. The road turns downhill and out of the houses, and I have an inkling we’ve gone too far, but its at that moment we enter a small cobbled street, and see a magnificent pizzeria with views to die for. We ate heartily, and wished we could be transported magically back to the hotel, thus to allow us more time to drink the amazing Vino della Cassa.