New Normal Italy
So, now we are allowed to cross our Southern border again - and what would we expect?
We spent the last weekend outside Switzerland for the first time in almost four months - quite exceptional in our lives, as we used to have one place to live in, like, in a base camp, only to go from there to wherever we want to. At least once a month.
To touch ground in Zurich after a long distance flight always felt special. Sometimes because you had almost forgotten about the neatly arranged fields and gardens you see while approaching the airport - compared to when you came from, let's say, Eastern Africa or the South of India. Then again you might come back from Naples or New York - and looking at the same boring landscapes while landing, you might want to leave right with the next flight.
As flying will not be an option for a long time now - the circumstances on board are quite frightening, to say the least - we went to Italy, just three hours away from our hometown.
Luckily our oldest friends have the most beautiful house in the hills above Lago Maggiore - we have spent wonderful weekends here before and just loved to get back there. But: How would it feel to be in one of the hardest hit regions of all Europe, Lombardy, the countryside so close to Milan?
Actually? Quite wonderful!
First of all, you feel safe. Everyone, really everyone, wears a face mask as soon as they leave their house. Only restaurants that can afford to follow the strict rules of distancing and hygiene are open, the lake sites are not packed yet, you walk among palm trees and through romantic little alleys - and even though Switzerland´s Ticino might only be 20 miles away you feel like in a completely different world.
If you do not want to rent a house or an apartment, stay at one of the traditional local hotels, like Camin Hotel in Colmegna (not the one in Luino!) with its beautiful gardens and great Italian food, have a swim in the lake or in one of the pools and take a hike in the mountains.
And If you read German, you might follow one of my favourite books as a lead to the incomparable spirit of Northern Italy. One of them I found on my in-laws book shelves: "Ein Balkon über dem Lago Maggiore" ("A Balcony Above Lago Maggiore"), it is full of vividly written travel reportages, and you understand, why they bought a house here in the early Sixties of the last century.
Or you go for a murder mystery story, one that takes place in the dreamy little town of Maccagno? I just read "Tutto Bene" by Andrea Di Stefano, obviously a local, and I think, I understand a little more now about the differences of the two lake sites and the two countries meeting in the middle.