Travel

Rewarding trek up timeless valleys

Lake Orta, northern Italy.
Lake Orta, northern Italy. Liz Light

I TRACE path over folds of the map and fret; the altitude lines between Lakes Orta and Maggiore are close together and I note a town called Alpino. There is, it seems, a mountain range to walk over. I wonder if I'm up to it, if my knees will last the distance, and what about blisters? There are daily walking schedules of around 15km - I sit at my computer all day so am not mountain-fit.

Romans walked these paths 2000 years ago, so if bootless Romans can march for months I can walk for a week; it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.

In the morning my anxiety has gone. Lake Orta is silver shiny and the ancient monastery on its tiny island looks pretty in a medieval way. We turn our backs to it and head for hills, the peaks of which are cloaked in cloud.

Kath, friend and chief navigator, reads the Inntravel walk notes carefully and we soon leave the road for a forest path. The vegetation is lush and the forest-filtered light is awash in green. I can almost hear the trees growing. I quickly learn to avoid nettles. Ouch. The old tale about juice from dock leaves easing nettle stings is true.

We follow skinny lanes uphill to round a corner and grin at the pinch-me-I-might-be-dreaming 1566 church of San Rocco. The facade is decorated with statues of saints. In the adjoining bell tower a cluster of bells wait to strike the hour and steep steps lead to the solid wood door. Religious artwork, much of it as old as the church, adorns the interior. In our world this is found only in history books.The path, originally for horses and carts, curls upwards to Maisino, a village of cobbled lanes, stone houses, some with plaster finish painted in frescoes - vines, flowers, stylised lions - and a piazza. We sit and ogle at the buildings around the square. The houses, both modest and grand, are 300 years old, and still are people's homes.

A lane leads to an open valley with small farms in it where cows graze on knee-deep grass. Their bells dong gently as they move. Hamlets of five or six houses hunker into hillsides. Some have magnificent vegetable gardens with fat cabbages, tall beans, spinach, tomatoes, aubergine and scraggly artichokes. We pass roses rambling over fences, hedges of sweet jasmine and flowers - tiger lilies, petunias, geraniums - bright with summer.

Farmland turns to forest and the walk notes direct us along a riverside. The river warbles, cuckoos call (the same sound as grandma's cuckoo clock), misty rain falls and we walk on, losing track of time and distance. I'm tired, but pleasantly so.

The sun breaks through just before we climb a steep zigzagging path to the hilltop Mesma Convent. There are chapels along the way, 12 of them, each with a picture depicting Jesus's journey, shouldering his cross, to the top of Calvary. It's a long, hot, steamy climb for us and we feel progressively sorrier for poor Jesus. When he finally got to the top of his hill he was crucified. We drink cool water gushing from a stone lion's mouth, rest on a seat surrounded by flowering rosemary and eat chocolate and almonds that we packed for such moments.

It's downhill from here, back to Lake Orta, 12km done and four to go. These last four are hardest. When we eventually stagger into our hotel I'm hot, footsore and have just enough energy to put on my togs to immerse myself in the lake. Ahhh, it's cold, clear and just what my tired body needs.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  italy travel travelling trek


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Local jobs a priority

LOCAL JOBS ARE A PRIORITY: Senator Chris Ketter is in Emerald for a round-table discussion about local jobs.

Labor to hold a round-table discussing local jobs.

CQ housing market starts to recover

MARKET RECOVERY: Things are looking up for CQ real estate.

CQ housing market continues to gain traction says Herron Todd White.

Getting the right message

Bridie Duggan who was awarded the Northern Territory Australian of the Year.

Bridie receives top honour as NT Young Australian of the Year.

Local Partners

WATER UPDATE: Supply improves thanks to rain, residents

UPDATE SUNDAY 5.30PM: WATER supply to some CQ towns that was placed on emergency restrictions has cleared up due to rain and residents adhering to restrictions.

Kernaghan's a 'boy from the bush' with a timeless quality

Country music singer Lee Kernaghan.

Lee Kernaghan is celebrating the 25th year of his breakthrough song.

Beating the heat in the school holidays

Ellie Dyer on the monkey bars at a fun filled playground.

Looking for something to do these school holidays?

Santa is coming to Isaac libraries

CHRISTMAS CRAFT: Join in the special Story Time sessions at Isaac Libraries December 5 to 9 and create your own Christmas craft like Sophia, Evie and Ashley Williams.

Santa is dropping in to the libraries in the Isaac Region.

Chris Pratt's 'mental preparation' for going nude on screen

Actor Chris Pratt

New film took some mental preparation for Chris Pratt

Spiderman star used fake name to research role

Spiderman star Tom Holland.

Spiderman star went undercover at Brooklyn highschool

What's on the small screen this week

A scene from the TV documentary Running Wild: Australia's Camels.

TWO new Aussie docos will pique your interest.

EXCLUSIVE: Meet Robert Irwin, wildlife photographer

SNAPPER: Apart from wildlife, photography is Robert Irwin's great passion.

Steve's boy has a passion for photography

Louis Tomlinson's tribute to late mother

Louis Tomlinson's new single is a tribute to his late mother.

Justin Timberlake stuns students with secret class

Justin Timberlake stunned high school students in Sydney

Essential to get new Maroochydore CBD fundamentals right

LOOKING AHEAD: The central business district at Maroochydore is planned to be the heart of the Sunshine Coast.

SunCentral reports good progress on 53ha Sunshine Coast city heart

'Crucial' farm land eyed by defence department

Lawson Geddes moving the Brangus cattle to higher ground - which is the land the Defence Department is interested taking for the Shoalwater Bay expansion.

"You can't have one without the other.”

Former Shark Show for sale for $1.3 million

Vic Hislop at the old Shark Show.

TALK about a jaws-dropping real estate opportunity.

There's a whole lot of luxury in this home

The Endeavour Foundation's latest prize home in Mountain Creek.

WHEN it comes to desirable homes, it's hard to go past a prize home.

Ipswich City Properties asset portfolio retains its value

Ipswich City Council Administration Building, South Street, Ipswich. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times

New website launched by Ipswich City Council

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!