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I’m home now after a  magical month spent in Italy. There were so many wonderful moments, a weekend trip to the glistening blue sea of the Ligurian coast and eating Giundujotto chocolates in Turin to name a few. However, there was one day a few weeks ago that I’ll always remember.

The morning broke – as most mystical sort of days do – in the midst of a thick mist. Despite the weather, we packed a picnic and began our slow ascent in the car up a mountain path, away from civilization towards sparseness, isolation, bleakness. Climbing higher, higher, higher, infringing the clouds, air becoming thinner until it felt so crisp, so fragile that it could shatter at any moment. That’s what being 2500 metres above sea level does to you. It takes you to the highest mountain passes where not even trees attempt the struggle to live. It’s a world dominated only by marmots, their shrill warning cry tearing through the thin air.

At the summit there was a tiny chapel, a handprint of man in this wild land. It stood above a black, lake, its sheer surface reflecting the surrounding, dark mountains.

We trod carefully over the swampy marsh, heading towards the perimeter of the lake. Boots wet, socks damp we collapsed onto one of the many granite rocks littering the ground. There we ate foccacia; paper thin slices of soft smoked beef (bresaola) and chocolate. An Italian picnic in the middle of nowhere. Alone. Thankful for the familiar sweetness of chocolate.

Later that night, after having descended from the mountain; a storm threatening in our wake, we went to a favourite restaurant. Visiting cousins, grandparents and aunties came too. It was the epitome of good food: pasta in asparagus sauce, cheese fondue and apple and peach tarte tatin for dessert. Warmth after that bleak, lonely point.

 

 

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