A visit to Italy this year took me to Verona.  Verona is quaint and charming, but my four day stay was a tiny bit too long.  So, a bus trip to Lake Garda was definitely in order.  My friend, Alison, and I walked through pretty

Verona, italy, Romeo & Juliet

Verona

Verona, and then trudged up  the not so pretty stretch to the bus station.  One of the shops was selling tickets, so I marched in and asked, using my very best Italian, if I could buy a ticket to Lake Garda.  The dark haired Italian woman behind the counter looked amused.

“Where on Lake Garda?” she asked me.  “There are many towns.”

Shit.  I had no clue.  I raise my eyebrows sheepishly.  “Peschiera del Garda?” I point to the map she has shown me, and it is the first town I see at the bottom of the lake.

“No, no, no!”  she announces, shaking her head emphatically.  “You go to Sirmione.  Much nicer place!”

Ummm, ok.  Who am I to argue?

So I pay the euros and tuck my ticket into my pocket.  Alison does likewise, and we head out into the late morning heat to hunt down our bus.

Our driver was very nice, and when I asked him if he would let us know when to get off (“Mi scusi, posso mi dici quando devo scendere?), he graciously agreed.     He was also rather patient with my multiple questions – “we get off here?  Is this our stop?”  He would just smile and say “non ancora, senora” – not yet.  Thank you kind bus driver!  You see,  I was a tad nervous about my first local bus trip… Why you ask?  I have no idea, but new situations put me out of my comfort zone, which leads to nervousness.  So, in my never-ending quest not to be a chicken-shit ninny, I push myself into new situations.  It’s working too, I’m pleased to say.  I’m much less of a chicken shit than I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

Soon enough, our bus rolls to a stop and the doors open.  Our driver smiles and gestures, “Adesso, senora”.

Sirmione - Lynn smallWe were here.  Our first views of Sirmione were of the lovely clean waters of Lake Garda.  We ambled slowly over to take in the views and breathe in the fresh air.  GullsSirmione, lake Garda shrieked and swooped over our heads and the sun shone, quickly warming our ever-bronzing  skin.  We found some massive cement block steps that led into the water, and Alison and I quickly shed our shoes and splashed down the first two steps.  Refreshing lake water covered our legs to our sun kissed thighs (they looked shockingly white under the shimmering waters, however!).  Boats bobbed on the clear water, and other tourists strolled by and shared friendly words.

But this was only the beginning of our explorations.   To our right is a huge old castle with a surrounding moat.  Just before crossing the bridge, I am greeted by the following sign:

       MOTORBOATS FOR RENT

       NO LICENSE NECESSARY!!

God, I love Italy!  In Victoria, you are curbed from danger at every turn.  The breakwater is getting railed for fear of people falling (even though no one ever has), fences are put up to keep people from falling down steep embankments, and signs abound warning us of self-imposed dangers.  In Italy, the attitude is, Certo!  Take out this motor boat!   If you are stupid enough to crash it, I cannot be held responsible!  But I will visit you in hospital and bring you wine!  (I’m just guessing; they might bring you grappa or beer).

Babies in Sirmione

Baby ducks in Sirmione

We moved into the main town square, and as we cross the bridge that spans the castle moat, I’m thrilled to see a mother duck with her baby ducks that had all been born on an old chunk of door that was floating in the centre.  A cozy nest housed at least 6 little ones, and was a wonderful precursor to our afternoon.

Despite my fascination with the ducklings, we move on, and take in the ancient castle that is the centrepiece of the small town.    For a price, you can climb to its upperView through the castle bars in Sirmione battlements and survey the countryside – so we did, and it was well worth the price, as you can see!

Gelato.  Italian ice cream.  This is a very different beast than North American ice cream.  The concentration of the flavour is so intense and the texture so creamy –  I love it!    I sampled gelato in each and every city and town in Italy I visited, and Sirmione was no exception.    I had my favourite combo – coconut and pistachio.  Not as good as David’s gelato in Sorrento, but still pretty damn good.

It was a glorious day to be in a lake town.  We strolled toward the pebbly beach, rolled up our pants, and waded into the clear, warm waters of Lake Garda.  Families filled the beach, and little ones frolicked in the water.  One adorable little girl wore a pink swimming cap and frilly pink bottoms to a bikini, and romped around without a trace of self-consciousness.  I can recall an episode when I was a similar age, and my brother and I had a similar opportunity to go swimming, but I didn’t have my swim suit with me.  My mother assured me I could swim in my modest pink nylon undies.  Yay!  So I did – until a boy pointed at me and shouted, “mom, why isn’t she wearing a bathing suit top?!”  Even at that young age, I was mortified.  So part of me enjoyed her carefree nature, and part of me envied it.  Could it be the difference between Europe and North America?  Over here, one little wardrobe malfunction gets televised, and the masses are screaming their disgust, and writing into television networks.  In Europe, the human body is what it is, and catching sight of a human appendage seemingly goes without any special notice.  No wonder we have body issues here…

View towards the lovely beach from the Castle

More Sirmione from the castle battlements
More Sirmione from the castle battlements

But I digress.  Enough time in the blazing sun, Alison and I wander back into the town center for a little vino break.  We discover a restaurant with a lovely covered patio and a warm breeze that cools our heated skin.  Did wSirmione main town squaree want a pitcher of white wine?  the waitress asks us.  Si!!  We are on vacation, so why not??  As is typical in Italy, uno spuntino libero (a free snack) arrives at our table, and we sit back, munch our snacks, sip our vino, and relax.

The afternoon passed way too quickly, and all too soon it was time to catch our bus back to Verona.  As is also typical in Italy, the buses travel on their own unique schedule, which doesn’t necessarily match up to the posted schedules.  After boarding the wrong bus, we wait another hour for the next bus to arrive.  Our new driver was terse and abrasive and took obvious pleasure in telling us that our already validated tickets were no longer usable, demanding that we buy new tickets.  Tired, buzzed from our wine, and intimidated, we acquiesced.  It certainly didn’t help when he turned to one of the passengers, and spit out a string of Italian, gesturing at us and laughing.  What a stronzo!  Ahem, I’m sure you can pick up the meaning!

Finally we make it back to Verona, still steaming a bit from our experience with the bus driver.   But the walk from the bus stop cools us down and we grab another bottle of vino and some dinner, and head back to our cute

little apartment for a quiet night.  We are to leave Verona the next day and say good bye to each other.  I am heading to Venice on my own, and Alison is heading to Munich, Germany to continue her travels.  It will be tough to say farewell, but I’m anxious to see my beloved Venice again, with its crooked alleyways and endless canals.

We have a tearful parting the next day and I board my train to Venice for my last two days in Italy.  While I will soon have to leave, I know I’ll be back.  Italy gets into your blood, and pulls you back time and time again.  I’m already feeling the lure and I know before long, I’ll be standing in an Italian cafe, sipping strong espresso, and soaking in la dolce vita.