Monday, May 5, 2008

Short trips

From the lakes, to the mountains, to our backyard (kind of), we have been enjoying the beautiful spring weather AND the many holidays that included a couple of long weekends. First it was Independence day, then Labor day or May day. We like day trips because they can be improvised at the last minute. One only needs to have good weather, gas in the tank, a couple of friends willing to take off without much notice, and off you go.

CHAMPOLUC is a small village nestled in the Val d'Aosta, close to France. My good friend Pien loves this town, as she and her family have spent many winters here. We went to check a particular trail where the town hosts an annual run. We will like to run it (ahem! walk it!) too, and so we went to get a feel of the land. It is STEEP! I will have to train really hard in order to run it... but it is beautiful! From Champoluc you hike up to a little town called Mascognaz, which still boasts traditional architecture. A very nice hotel, with an spa and fabulous pool and restaurants is opening soon, and it looks like a great place for a weekend getaway. From Mascognaz, you keep on trecking up the mountain in the direction of Crest, and somewhere up there you turn away from the mountain and back into Champoluc. A beautiful, yet hard hike. My son and the dogs had the time of their lives. When we got to town, we had lunch at a great little restaurant, where we drank really good local wine and eat whole grain pasta with vegetables and cheese... My mouth waters just remembering.

SANTA CATERINA DEL SASSO is a sanctuary built on the rocks on the Lombard shore of Lago Maggiore. The sanctuary can be reached by ferry, which provides amazing views of the buildings, or by car. If by car, one has to go down 283 steps to reach the sanctuary (and then go up those same steps to the parking site!)

The sanctuary was founded by Alberto Besozzi di Arolo, a merchant that survived a shipwreck in the rocks bellow the site. He built a small chapel to Santa Caterina. The Dominicans built other two chapels to Santa Maria Nova and San Nicola in the XIV century. The three chapels were unified into one in the XV century. Today, after a lengthy restoration supported by the Province of Varese, the monastery has been entrusted to the care of the Benedictine monks and has once again become a religious and tourist destination.

Thanks to the restauration, the visitor can admire magnificent frescoes dating from the XV century. What a beautiful place to visit for some inspiration!

A lazy afternoon spent with friends in the neighboring fields, eating great food, drinking good wine, and tossing a frisbee. What else can you ask for?

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