We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, August 2. 2009
The Centovalli Train, re-posted
A re-post from June 30, 2008. Sure is hard to believe that was one year ago, because it feels like yesterday.
With TV, you are more-or-less forced to watch the thing because it tends to grab our passive brains. With blogs and newspapers, you can easily skip stuff you chose to ignore. So if I am boring you with my northern Italy travelogue posts, please skip over them. It's just fun for me to post the photos - and it motivates me to get them organized.
One day last week we took the train up to Domodossola to catch the regular Centovalli train (not the tourists' Lago Maggiore Express which doesn't do much stopping) through the Alps to Locarno, Switzerland, on the northern tip of Lago Maggiore.
It is our travel custom to make things complicated and to plan tight connections - and to thereby create adventures, memorable mishaps, stress, and close calls. The free-spirited Mrs. BD thrives on such things, but I do not. As it turns out, The Dylanologist loves to cut things close, too, and to dash off somewhere when he has a free 3 minutes to spare.
We got off the train halfway at the whistle-stop of Santa Maria Maggiore (nobody else got off) to take a hike in the Alps. We planned to hike up the mountains in a circle through the mountain hamlets of Toceno and Craveggia, and to arrive back down at Santa Maria Maggiore in time for the last train to Locarno, to arrive there with 16 minutes to find and to catch the last boat down Lake Maggiore to where we were staying in the cozy village of Baveno.
We are tireless and intrepid walkers, but we characteristically underestimated the distance of our hike as we always do, and did not expect the heat. No water, and no cafes open. But we did get to stumble into the rarely-visited Alpine village of Craveggia (pop. 730). Eventually, with ten minutes before the train and without knowing our exact location, we swallowed our pride and flagged down a passing house painter who happily and cheerfully got us to the station in his tiny two-door rattletrap car - just as the tiny train pulled into the tiny "Disney Italy" station.
No passport checks, by the way, training into Switzerland. We brought them anyway.
Here's a map showing the northern tip of Piedmont where it pushes into Switzerland. The Centovalli train runs on one track from Domodossola to Locarno, at the tip of the Lake, over fearsome gorges and hairy mountain cliffs.
Let's begin this photo tour, though, with this northern Italian lovely in a cafe on the old square of Domodossola, who our sneaky paparazzi Dylanologist photographed on my dare. I call that "La bella figura." Plenty of real blonds up there.
Travelogue of this side-trip with lots of photos below on continuation page -
The Baveno train station, headed up to Domodossola to catch the Centovalli train east:
Alps around the Domodossola train station:
The old piazza in Domodossola, with the market - veggies, fruits, cheeses, and sausages:
An old building on that piazza:
As the train ascends the high valley, lots of woods and deep ravines, but dotted with little farms with well-cared-for vineyards:
If you get off the train at Santa Maria Maggiore, you would think you were in Switzerland:
Our hike up through Craveggio:
more: But where are all the people?
A crossroads, with a sign! The sign helped, but we were still many kilometers away: "SM Maggiore":
Finally, to the ferry leaving Locarno:
Posted by Bird Dog in Our Essays, The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 14:31 | Comments (7) | Trackback (1)
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Beautiful pictures, thanks for posting.
Craveggio is not unusual in that many of the beautiful villages simply preserve much of what was constructed long ago, but show few signs of current habitation.
Even here in the US, so many picturesque villages, the places with real character and charm, seem hollowed out. Economic prosperity today draws people to vast urban and suburban sprawls, while those who try to cling on to older, charming villages face a lonely, uphill struggle to remain viable.
I can think of a few such places in the Northeastern US where the population may have declined only slightly, but today there are only older folks and a high turnover of transients, few younger families with children.
Funny you should mention that.
Working on a post on that exact subject.
And one more point about the absence of people, Bird Dog - we were out walking right in the middle of the day! As they say, mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun, but certainly not small-town Italians, who are inside observing their siesta. Even the streets of Trastevere, here in Rome, tend to be sparsely populated between 12 and 3. Had we walked through around 8 or 9 I'll bet it would have been completely different. In fact, I'm sure it would have been.
Good points, but I would not count Craveggio out just yet. I am not of the belief that constant growth is a necessity for survival, but certainly the ability to adapt is. During our walk, we saw signs that Craveggio was not in the process of dying a slow death, but merely undergoing a transformation: elderly couples, walking out to the grape vineyards with homemade carrying crates on their backs - a scene right out of National Geographic - appeared alongside newly-renovated apartments for sale, immaculate new roadways with retaining walls built out of granite ashlars in a timeless fashion, and other signs of revitalization and renewal. The changes were subtle, by American standards, but were there nonetheless.
Will the town become a summer retreat for wealthy Milanese? A retirement community? Or will it fail to adapt and become a ghost town, a victim of Italy's own aging demographics? I do not know, but the town has evidently found a way to survive for the last 1,000 years, and I have a feeling it might be around for a while to come.
Dylandude, good for Carveggio, I hope it endures and prospers.
I wish I could be as confident about a lot of our stateside small towns. Different land use rules here, the villages seem to hollow out while any new growth is sprawl in the surrounding countryside.
In my post on The Centovalli Train, I asked "Where are all the people?" Many of these towns in Italy look neat, clean - but deserted, which adds to the stage-set feeling.Maybe it's the time of day, but part of the answer is No babies in Euroland
Tracked: Jun 30, 15:31