Wednesday 6th August;; Day 51 ITALY!
Descending into Bergamo Airport on Wednesday morning was a pretty good feeling! And even though I knew my friend Mattia would be there at the airport to pick me up, I really didn't know what I was in for as I hadn't planned anything. I had just booked my ticket and that was it, as usual lol! This was also my first time flying without checked-in luggage so it was awesome just being able to walk straight past everyone and into the arrivals area. It doesn't sound like much but don't doubt it until you try it; it saves so much time and you don't risk losing your luggage. I'd say travel with only a small backpack whenever you are going on small trips up to 2 weeks in length. You may think you need more but in reality you will hardly wear anything you pack and as long as you have your Passport and some fresh knickers, you'll be fine haha :)
My flight was about 20 minutes early which I would say is unusual for RyanAir lol so after about half an hour waiting for Mattia, I walked outside and met him at the car! It was such a strange feeling meeting up with a friend that you've met in Australia, and now to be seeing each other in Italy, in their motherland. It is quite an interesting story how I met Mattia and I don't think we ever really expected to remain friends or keep in touch as he works away. But he had taken a months holiday back here in Italy to see his family after 2 or 3 years and so we spontaneously just decided a few weeks ago that I would come over to visit. I remember we joked about it earlier in the year that we should meet in Italy so it's funny how things work. Regardless, we were in the car heading towards Mattia's home town of Lake Iseo. Mattia had sent me a few photos of where he lives but due to his constant sarcastic humor you end up not believing much that he says haha, but as we arrived into the area of Lake Iseo, I could not believe my eyes. I felt like I had suddenly entered a movie and I was George Clooney cruising through all these old Italian streets with the most amazing views. George Clooney apparently has a house near here as well fyi!!! To our left was the lake (Lake Iseo), stretching about 60km in length. It was stunning...And huge. In the middle of the lake was a huge island with a church on the top and I could not believe that he was actually telling the truth for once about where he lived! Why did he ever leave this place that's what I want to know!!?! As we approached the village, I suddenly saw this little island in the water that was in a photo he sent me that I literally just laughed off and said 'yeh right you live opposite that!' Well apparently he does and the little island has the most stunning castle built into it that the public can't access but some rich lady owns. Despite having no sleep the night before, I swear I would never sleep again if I could have this view every morning! Mattia explained that his friend from Australia, Archie who works in the mines was visiting at the moment as well as he was traveling around Europe on a motor bike (not bad eh!) and so he would be meeting us soon along with Mattia's best-friends girlfriend, Irena. First stop was going to Mattia's Father's house to meet him and his partner. They live in a beautiful little house/apartment that is spread over 3 floors. It's beautiful and cute but hard to explain how it looks lol. They can't speak much English so I get out my Italian translator on my tablet which proves more accurate than I would have thought! They think it's fantastic and help me with pronouncing some of the words. Spanish and Italian are similar in some ways and I found Italian is actually a lot easier to speak. Just before leaving, I met Mattia's brother and then Mattia took me to a little bakery just on the corner of his Fathers house but it's not like your typical Australian bakery; this is like home-made, creamy, floury, sweet-smelling bakery goodness that you can imagine only comes from Italy and can only be made by the plump little old Italian ladies who live here. Of course though, I'm not meant to eat any of these delicious treats so I resist...for now! From here we take a stroll to get a coffee each; but not the café latte with soy milk that I'm used to back home haha, this is your true Italian shot of black rich yet creamy coffee that makes you feel like you've had an adrenalin shot once you've drank it! It seems people here drink coffee instead of water but at least they are saving the Murray...right?! Haha. From here, Mattia's Father picks us up and drives us up the village which is set into the mountain and overlooks the lake. Mattia's Father has a 'holiday' house that's only a 10minute drive away but it's mainly 10 minutes upwards around little windy roads! As we arrive at the house, which is this huge old stable-looking mansion cottage?! that has obviously been divided with one family living in one side, and us in the other. It was amazing and as I looked around I suddenly saw the view of the lake. It was absolutely breathtaking, I couldn't believe it. It was beautiful from the bottom of the mountain but here it was just something completely out of this world. Not only was it beautiful, it was also calm and relaxing at the same time. There was no noise, no buildings, no smoke, no cars screeching; just a few birds and some Australian girl running around squealing in disbelief! Lol. It honestly felt like I'd just won the lottery!
Solo Travelers Tip No. 9; GO TO LAKE ISEO BEFORE YOU DIE...!!!! Hahaha..but really, you have to.
Okay anyway, Archie and Irena soon joined us and we headed into the house and upstairs into the kitchen where a window overlooked the lake in perfect view. I didn't think the view could get any better, but I ended up just staring at it, into it, and through it for about an hour and a half. (That's what my blog photo is of!!!) Mattia went outside to make a call and so I just sat on the inside ledge of the window with my feet up looking out onto the lake. I felt like I was within a postcard. Complete peacefulness, bliss, serenity and beauty...and was only disturbed by a little dog and then a little black cat running along the path below me crying and wanting to come up lol. I could have sat there forever, but as still hadn't slept, I found myself dozing off at one stage and that probably would have resulted in me falling out of the window, so I gave in and retreated to the room!! Even Mattia was blown away by the view as he was yet to see this house or the lake from here.
Archie and Irena were lovely and Archie is definitely your typical Aussie minor bloke with his shoulder-length scraggy surfy hair and his dominant 'g'day mate' accent! It was actually weird hearing it but it gave me a sense of home. He has been traveling around Europe for a few months now on his Dads motorbike and doesn't really know when he'll be going back to Australia; I'm glad I'm not the only one! He's been traveling on and off for 10 years; working in Australia and then just taking off somewhere for 3-6 months. I guess with the amount of money minors make, this is possible, and I totally love that he chooses to travel and see the world with this money rather than just spending it on the pokies, booze and babs (girls)...He talks to us about some of his travels and definitely fuels my dreams to see the world as much as possible. Irena on the other hand is quiet, pretty with pale skin but with this big Julia Roberts-style mane of red curly hair!! She looks more English than Italian but speaks Italian so beautifully...she is fluent in English as well, and maybe French as well?! She is the girlfriend of Mattia's best friend who Mattia has been friends with since the day they were born, but I am yet to meet him.
In the afternoon, they decide they want to take me down to the lake and jump in the water; sounds good! But I soon realise the jump is from about 10 metres above the water on a bridge that drops over the lake set within the mountain!!!! By the edge of the water is a little grassed area with a small bar and there were people spread out everywhere in their bikinis (but it wasn't hot?!?!). We set our things down and headed back up onto the road and over to the bridge. Irena had jumped yesterday despite her fear of heights so only Archie, Mattia and I proceeded. Standing on the edge of that bridge wall was not the most comforting feeling that's for sure haha! But I'm all for a thrill so we all braced ourselves and on the count of 3 jumped into the air with a little scream from me before hitting the water and being submerged by this opaque greeny-blue water that was so cold but so good and refreshing at the same time! I felt amazing and despite the vastness of the lake and how mysterious the water was, I didn't want to get out!!! ..We ended up jumping 2 more times and managed to get Irena to give in and jump with us too hehe :) Definitely an unforgettable experience and if I lived here I would wake my self up each morning by coming down here and jumping in!
After relaxing for a while on the grass, Archie mentioned he was going to be having dinner with Mattia's Mum and partner Ben tonight where he had been staying since arriving here in Italy, and so Mattia decided we would all go and that way I could meet them as well :) We went past his Mums house on the way from the airport but no one was home. They live about 20 minutes from where we were staying. So at night (it gets darker a lot earlier here than Spain which felt weird at first) we drove over and pulled into this little one-way cobble-stoned street that barely even fit one car and we stopped at two big roman-looking wooden doors with nothing but stone wall surrounding it. Mattia's Mum Denis, opened the gates and we were suddenly welcomed into a lovely garden with a beautiful house to the left and a church just outside the property to our right. It was as if we had just been given access into the grounds of a palace lol. The property overlooks some of the town and as the sun began to set a warm orange tone, I could see why Archie had enjoyed staying here so much! I was introduced to Denis, Ben and Mattia's sister Clarissa and we were soon welcomed upstairs to a dinner that Denis had prepared. How lucky were we! At this stage Irena's boyfriend had joined us and we were amongst a feast full of pasta, bread, tomatoes, wine and cheese...but not just any pasta, bread or cheese; this was Italian pasta, bread and cheese lol, which tastes completely different to Australian, English or Spanish and is mouth-wateringly delicious. I'm not meant to eat gluten or lactose but it is officially impossible to have dietary requirements when you are in this part of the world! It's pretty much eat bread and cheese or starve as they don't eat much else haha, but that's okay because I love these things and it tastes so much better AND doesn't contain the preservatives or crap that other bread or similar things seems to contain. So I just went for it! I didn't want to be rude after all ;) but Denis is an amazing cook and we all enjoyed being together and talking; half Italian and half in English. I felt like I had already known the family for years and to be honest, I felt at home. Ever since arriving here in Italy I felt a sense of calmness and fullness within me (maybe that's the bread haha..) that I haven't experienced elsewhere yet...a total sense of serenity -I could definitely see myself living here one day....maybe once the tax isn't as high as 70% though haha!!!...
The evening consisted of sitting around the table outside all together with the boys playing chess and drinking wine with the rest of us talking, eating more, drinking wine, coffee, tea and it was as if this is what we did every night; well I'm sure they do but you know what I mean :) we spent hours out there simply doing what Italians do best; nothing! "Il dolce far niente"!! - "the sweetness of doing nothing!"...Denis and Ben are also into healing, massage and crystals, and Ben is a Reiki Master. All these things are totally 'me' and so I got looked after with a neck and shoulder massage, along with some reiki on my knee, that's been causing me grief, and then given a healing stone to hold against my belly for all the naughty foods I'd been eating. Some people don't believe in these things and that's okay, but I definitely felt like I could have stayed there forever living with them and being a hippie lol!
Probably around 2am, we said good night and headed back up to the house in the village. I felt completely relaxed, definitely looking forward to the next 4 days that I would be spending here but I just wished that I was staying longer :)
A truly beautiful part of the world and I am so grateful that I've even been able to visit it and spend this time here.
Apologies for this being such a long blog but I guess I like Italy! :) hehe