We’ve made our way from the sea to the mountains. The Dolomite mountains of Northern Italy, to be precise. We’re in South Tirol, Italy’s northernmost province — a meeting point between the Alpine Germanic and the Mediterranean cultures, which is what gives the region its unique character. It’s fully bilingual, with Italian being more commonly spoken in the warmer valley towns and German up on the mountains. The cuisine, too, is a fortunate mix of the best of each — hearty dishes that the Austrians and Germans do well, such as Knödel and Kaiserschmarren and Apfelstrudel , and then the amazing Italian flavors of mozzarella, tomato, olive oil, basil, good bread, gelato…
I probably don’t need to tell you that much of our day revolves around planning our next meal. Especially since mountain air, and hiking up and down these slopes all day, apparently builds up a very healthy appetite.
The house we’re staying at belonged to Dan’s great-grandfather, and it’s where his grandmother and her sisters grew up. We’re fortunate that the family has been able to keep the house, as that allows us to come and stay for an extended period — and, this time around, host some good friends up here on the mountain. Our days are spent hiking in the postcard landscapes, always with a coffee break at one of the many Hofs along the way. In the evenings, we cook a meal together and make a fire and play board games or watch a movie.
This is the kind of landscape where you can half expect that, from behind some picturesque rustic fence or old stone wall, the von Trapp children will soon emerge, holding hands and singing songs in matching dirndls. The cows look fat and healthy and happy. The brook runs pristine down the mountain… as it trips and falls over stones on its way… (I’m sorry. Enough with the von Trapps now.) The farmers are out making hay, with traditional blue work aprons, many of them doing the work manually with scythes. The church bells are ringing. The cherry tomatoes are sweet as candy. Everything feels so wholesome, almost to a point where it’s a bit too much.
Until the next day dawns and I get up to go to the bakery for freshly baked muesli buns and I find myself ready, quite ready, for more.