Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow in Firenze and memories of Longarone

It's snowing in Italy this week and I'm so sorry to be missing it. Friends have posted pictures of Firenze covered with a blanket of snow. The city has been silenced! Leo writes that total quiet like this is rare! Pedestrians have full freedom to walk without sharing the streets with buses, cars or motorbikes. Even the trains and airplanes have stopped running. I saw a iPhone video, showing snow boarders enjoying outdoor stairs, which had been transformed into perfect slopes.

I have experienced the snow several times in Italy. This morning I am remembering a special weekend I spend with Leo.

Leo had a work assignment in the village of Longarone. He sent me pictures of snow capped Alps. I checked the internet to learn more.

Longarone is located on the A27 highway, above Belluno, in the alpine area of Veneto, the same region which includes Venice (Venezia). The town is mostly made of up of new buildings.

From Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longarone

"Longarone is a town and comune on the banks of the Piave in the province of Belluno, in North-East Italy. It is situated 35 kilometers from Belluno."

"The village was destroyed in the Vajont disaster on October 9, 1963, when a landslide from Monte Toc forced 50 million cubic metres of water (seiche) over the top of the Vajont Dam. Longarone lay in the immediate path of the wave of mud and water which swept into the valley below. 1,909 villagers were killed."

A few years ago, Leo and I made several trips to Longarone, but the first one was most special. Leo drove. I loved Leo's car. It was a French car with comfortable leather seats. The car had a voice warning system and a woman's voice spoke to us (in Italian) every so often during our many trips together. I loved that voice, although I never understood everything she said.

We picked up a colleague of Leo's one Thursday afternoon, in the Spring. We each brought a small overnight bag. There was work to be done for the comune (county government seat) but in addition, Leo had planned several side trips for me.

It was already dark as began our drive up the two lane mountain road. The signs showed we had passed the cutoff for the province of Belluno. I could feel the change in altitude as we drove but I felt no sign of car sickness. The highway was unlike the mountain roads I had hated as a child in California. Missing, were cutbacks and winding hairpin curves. I was wishing it was daylight, so I could enjoy the scenery. Now I understand something! Leo prefers to drive at night, the exact opposite of me. I feel terrified during dark night drives. I never worried about Leo's driving, but was always concerned about the sobriety and judgment of everyone else out on the road.

It was around dinnertime, (normally 8 pm in Firenze) when we pulled into a tiny parking lot of a small roadside restaurant. When the car doors opened, cold frigid crisp air flowed over me. Luckily, I was wearing my new Italian winter coat, which I had recently purchased with Leo in an outdoor market in Padova.

We left our bags in the car and entered the warm restaurant, already crowded with families. The atmosphere was similar to family-style Amish restaurants in Pennsylvania. Very cozy, homey and non pretentious. The proprietor greeted Leo by name.

We had a wonderful dinner. I choose eggplant, always my favorite in Italy. The waitress/owner described to me how they rolled grilled eggplant slices and filled them, with a local soft cheese, thin slices of ham and then into the oven for a short bake. I wanted to go right into the kitchen to watch its preparation. I was too shy to do this at that time, but now I would not hesitate to make this request.

Because of my beginner's Italian, I had not realized, this place was also an inn. We had rooms booked for the next two nights. We retrieved our overnight bags from the car. I noticed frozen icicles hanging from the outside of the building as we took the back stairs up, to find our room. The simple room had a big Alpine type window, with double shutters, inside and outside.

I opened both shutters and the window to see exactly where we were. By the light of the moon, I could see snow capped mountains nearby. Wow! I was really in the Alps for the first time in my life.

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