Monday, November 14, 2011

Loving Livigno

Just across the border from St. Moritz, Switzerland lies the town of Livigno, Italy. Spread out in a valley 6,000 feet above sea level, Livigno looks like an Italian-style outdoor mall, except one with alpine grace and wotten-waven pizza. Located in a duty-free zone, Livigno has slot machines and a casino, but surprisingly little booze.

On either side of the Livigno valley, gondolas take you up to 9,000 feet high mountain ridges. Since I had ridden in cars, boats, buses, planes, and many kinds of trains, it was high time for my first gondola ride.

As we rode up the Costaccia gondola, I sat on Mom’s lap and looked down at the valley below. Livigno is one of the few places in Italy where the water flows into the Black Sea.

As we stepped out of the gondola, the operator came out of his booth to say, “Ciao.” He and my dad talked about our route along the ridge. It had snowed the week before, so we were concerned about the trail. But all was clear, said the operator: "Nessun problema!"

We climbed 2,000 feet to the highest point along the ridge with mountain views in every direction along the way.

At the top, we met a British couple who live in Sri Lanka. They were visiting family in Britain but flew over to see friends in northern Italy for a week—and because they love the cool, mountain air. The man had an intent gaze; when he listened, he heard. They told us about a road trip they took around Switzerland in the eighties before moving to Sri Lanka. Based north of Colombo, they do extensive volunteer work and were very much involved in tsunami relief efforts. We asked about the Sri Lankan civil war, which they said is over now. Bombs had exploded near them in Colombo, but bombs had also exploded near their homes in London in the eighties.

"It's amazing what you get used to," said the woman.

Our mountain top friends are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I think they gave us a silent blessing. It sure felt that way.

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