9th August 2020
Life in a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week Two of my Italian Trip
As I start the second week of my stay in Madonna di Campiglio surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains I feel relaxed, happy and far away from the UK, the coronavirus, and COVID-19.
Italy is also affected by 'il virus' but is dealing with it in such a way that the safeguards in place soon become second nature. They are living the new normal here, in Madonna di Campiglio, and not fighting against it. I feel safe here and ready to enjoy some more lovely walks in the mountains as the UK moves into week 19 of lockdown.
Friday 24 July 2020
I wake up this morning to the sound of rain thundering on the roof above my small attic room. I am unsure about going ahead with my planned excursion to Vallesinella today. But, as I have used my Dolomeet Card to book a free shuttle bus to take me into that valley this morning I feel I should go ahead if I can. The rain has eased off by the time I finish breakfast so, I put my iPhone in the pocket of my waterproof jacket and set off. I take my walking poles as I have a twenty-minute walk to the pick-up point. I wanted to walk briskly today and also I know the path will be slippery in places and the poles will be a great help. I set off along the section of the Giro di Campiglio that goes past the back of the Hotel Lorenzetti. As the path goes through the forest I am sheltered by the trees. At first, it is downhill all the way until I cross a tributary of the Sarca River. All these little tributaries unite by the time they reach Pinzolo, the next village down the mountain. Finally, the Sarca River flows into Lake Garda.
When the shuttle bus arrives there is no-one on board. The driver does not want to see the digital ticket I had carefully downloaded on to my iPhone. Lockdown has been an education in apps for me. As we drive up the road to Vallesinella the rain starts getting heavier. I decide I will still walk up to the waterfall, Cascate Alte. I ask the driver if I can take an earlier bus back instead of waiting for the one I have booked. We are both sure they will not be full today. It is raining steadily and there are large puddles across the path. I can hear thunder rumbling around me. I don’t hang around and I am soon at the bottom of Cascate Alte. It is very atmospheric - tons of water crashing down out of a wreath of mist at the top. I take some photos and then return to the parking area just as a shuttle bus arrives. I sit, dripping, in the bus until it departs ten minutes later. I call the hotel and ask their shuttle bus to collect me. The two buses met on the road. I jump out of one and into the other and back to my warm, dry hotel room.
Saturday 25 July 2020
Today I decide to indulge in one of my favourite pursuits while in the mountains – marmot spotting. I have been walking in these mountains for more than twenty years and I know where they have their burrows. I take the cabin lift to the top of Spinale. When I get to the top I am distracted by the sight of a new chair lift and decide to investigate further. I walked down the steep slope beneath it to take some photos. I then decide to try and get across to my intended destination. This involves some steep red runs and almost sheer drops between them.
I emerge, triumphant, near the mountain restaurant, Malga Montagnoli. My walk had been quite a feat for someone with two artificial knees and no walking poles. I did not have my walking pols as I was carrying my SLR with me so it involved good balance as well. I took some photos of Malga Montagnoli. COVID-19 safeguards require restaurants to have one entrance and one exit so some of the mountain restaurants are ringed by fences to comply and to limit numbers. I walk on to Lago Montagnoli an artificial lake that shimmers beautifully in the sunshine.
After skirting the lake, I follow the Via Sofia to Piazza Imperatrice. This little viewpoint is named for Sissi, wife of the Emperor Franz Josef who stayed in Campiglio and, it is said, would climb up here to enjoy the view. From there I went down some steps leading to a path that crosses the black ski run known as Schumacher’s Wall before joining a path that leads into the town centre. It comes out by the church. From there I walked along the road back to my hotel.
Sunday 26 July 2020
This morning I set off for Spinale again determined to find some marmots. At the top of the cabin lift I took a direct route to the blue run where I know they have burrows. It is another lovely day and I pause to enjoy the sight of the Adamella-Presanella glaciers in the distance. When I reach the top of the blue run I see a marmot scurrying away. The alarm has gone up and I can hear the piercing whistle of the marmot watchman. I creep slowly to the top of the slope. Below me, there are four marmots, three on guard and a youngster trying to work out what they are looking at. I make my way very slowly towards them. But the wind is not in my favour and they catch my scent. A shrill warning and they all vanish from sight. I make my way below their burrows and find somewhere to sit and wait. One marmot emerges, very slowly. He surveys the land around him. He is not happy and dives back into his burrow. A young marmot pops his head out of another burrow. He sounds the alarm and withdraws. He continues to sound the alarm even though he is underground. The echo of his shrieks follows me as I climb back up the slope to the cabin lift. I have enjoyed my interlude with the marmots.
Monday 27 July 2020
One of the most important people in any Italian town or village is the hairdresser. Madonna di Campiglio is no exception. This morning I have an appointment with Chiara, owner of a saloon named after her. It is my first visit to a hairdresser for seven months. As the sun is shining I walk into town. I am the first appointment of the day and I am early so I put on my face mask, sanitise my hands as instructed and sit outside to wait until I am called inside. Hairdressers in Italy have been open again since May. They are subject to safeguards including the wearing of face masks and a limit on the number of people who can work in the salon at any one time. The salon is much quieter than usual and I have Chiara’s undivided attention. Chiara, like all my Italian friends, is curious to know about the situation in England. I tell her I feel safer here than I do at home where the wearing of masks in shops has only just become mandatory. As it tods not take as long as usual I have time to stroll through the small public park by the lake on my way back to the hotel. Known as il Giardino di Campiglio this small park celebrates the history of Madonna di Campiglio which is related on the information boards along a pathway.
Tuesday 28 July 2020
I have booked a place on the shuttle bus from the centre of town to Patascoss. It is free with my Dolomeet card. All shuttle buses and car parking have to be booked to limit numbers. There are eight spaces available on this particular shuttle but twice that number congregate around the bus stop. Those that have not booked are soon sent away by the people who have booked. When our vehicle arrives I am slightly concerned that it is an eight-seater minibus – but everyone is wearing a face mask and the driver ensures we sanitise our hands before we get in. The other seven passengers are from Bergamo. They talk, loudly, throughout the journey. I did not book a return journey. My companions have booked a return and need to return to the pick-up point which limits the walks they can do. They don’t have a map with them. I set off along the road to Malga Ritorto, a farm, and a restaurant. The echo of their chattering follows me all the way. When I take the path back towards Milegna they are still wondering what to do next. I stop at Malga Milegna to enjoy the view as it is a perfect day.
When I set off again I meet a man who appears to be looking for porcini mushrooms. I say hello and ask if he is looking for porcini and he says there are none. I know he is too high up and I know where my friends find them but dare not divulge their secret. We walk to Panorama together. He points out the poisonous funghi (mushrooms) to me. He has lived in Campiglio for ten years and before that, he lived further down the valley in Spiazzo. He asks where I came from and when I say London he wants to know how come I understand Italian. We part company at Panorama and I walk back to the hotel.
Wednesday 29 July 2020
After a quick breakfast this morning I catch the bus to Pinzolo at 08:09. I have a Trentino Guest Card but I don’t know how to use it. The bus driver does not know either but he lets me on the bus. When I get to Pinzolo the cabin lift has just opened. I go up to the mid-station in the cabin lift and spot a local deer, capriolo, on the way up. From the mid-station, I go on the chair lift to the top, Doss del Sabion. At the top, there are several people about to float off on colourful canopies. I watch as they strap themselves into harnesses and then run down the slope to catch the wind. After a while, I take the lifts back down again and stroll through the local market before catching the bus back to my hotel.
Breaking news in the UK today. The British government is still concerned about a second spike of COVID19 cases and are blaming the younger generation for not obeying restrictions. Of course, we have witnessed this throughout lockdown in Dorset – aided and abetted by irresponsible parents. It does not help that the wearing of face masks has not been made obligatory in pubs, restaurants and cafés and social distancing is not happening in some of these places. The government has now appealed to the younger generation to behave responsibly and consider the health and safety of their parents and grandparents. Probably six months too late now.
Thursday 30 July 2020
Today is my last full day here and I decide on a walk from the top of Spinale back into town. I take the cabin lift to the top of Spinale rather than walk as it is a relentless, two-hour trek. It is very misty at the top. A marmot looms out of the mist just after I start my walk – he was so astonished at this meeting that he forgot to whistle. I saw quite a few as I strode down the path. A path that took me past the nine-hole golf course that surrounds a little lake. I had my walking poles with me as it is a long walk back down to the bottom of the Grosté cabin lift and I needed to keep up a good pace. I was down very quickly and, courtesy of the hotel shuttle bus, back in the hotel in time for a mid-morning coffee.
Friday 31 July 2020
I have a leisurely breakfast this morning and use this as an excuse to sit at the table with the best view of the mountains. The first leg of my journey is the local bus to Trento. I am always sad to leave but I know I will be back again soon.
When I arrive in Trento two hours later I get another local bus to Rovereto where I am staying the night. Originally my return flight to London departed too early for me to get to Verona airport in time. I booked a hotel in Rovereto. Two days before I was due to leave Madonna di Campiglio British Airways put the time of my flight back two hours. I could have stayed another night in Madonna di Campiglio but it was too late to cancel my hotel booking. This is the new normal – flights will change and have to be prepared for this. After checking in to my hotel in Rovereto I got the bus into town to explore. It was very hot (35°C) so I was grateful for the shade of this old town’s narrow streets. When I went into a church to cool down a young man appeared and told me the church was closed. I apologised for opening the door and entering. I had been trying to take photos of its interior but an old ladder in the centre made this difficult. He told me it was an art installation.
Today, in the UK, the government has reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases in more than a month. A total of 846 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, the highest UK total since 28 June (901 cases) – and mostly in the north, increasing the likelihood of more local lockdowns. Today is the last day vulnerable people in the UK have to self-isolate.
Saturday 01 August 2020
Breakfast in the Hotel S’Ilario in Rovereto is the normal, help yourself buffet. This was a bit disconcerting so I avoided all items that might have been touched by other people. Coffee and boiled eggs were served at the table as well as individual jugs of milk so I had a bowl of cereal, two boiled eggs and two cappuccini. I catch the local bus to the train station and then the train to Verona. I have to wait for the shuttle bus to the airport so I have time to capture a very striking image of an advert for the opera, il Travatore, at the Arena in Verona.
As I have checked in online and I only have hand luggage I do not collect the get out of Italy form. I am the last to board and have to fill out the form at the boarding gate. When I board the plane I discover I should have filled in the online public health declaration form to get back into the UK. I had assumed that arrivals from quarantine exempt countries did not have to do this. I was wrong. All arrivals into the UK have to comply. I could not do it during the flight so I did it on arrival before going through passport control. No-one asked I had completed this form and I was soon on my way home.
Sunday 02 August 202
It is 6 months since I met up with my friend Alison and her mother and today we are finally able to get together for lunch. I will be the first time I have eaten out in the UK since lockdown began. We had agreed to meet at Battler’s Farm where there is a very nice restaurant, appropriately named the Bull Pen. I walk there and arrive before my friends. As this restaurant does not take bookings there was a queue for tables outside, in the full sun. But, tables are available inside and well-spaced out so I claim one of these. We have a very pleasant lunch – we have a lot of news to catch up with. It is all waitress service and customers are limited to an hour and a half at the table. We are not moved on when we exceed this. When I get back to my flat I decide to drive down to Dorset this evening when it cools down. I arrive in Dorset at 10.30 pm. There are signs of another busy day. But, there are signs that this is now under control. The road beyond my flat is has been designated a tow-away zone.
Some Government Statistics
On Friday 24 July 2020 at 5:04 pm the total number of confirmed UK cases was 297,914. The total number of COVID-19 associated UK deaths was 45,677 and the number of deaths that day was 123. By Sunday 2 August 2020 the total number of confirmed UK cases was 304,695 and the cumulative total of deaths from those confirmed cases was 46,201 with a daily additional number of 8 COVID-19 associated UK deaths.
More next week
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for ExperiencedTraveller.com and regularly contributes guided city walks to GPSmyCity.com