Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sirmione. Falling in Love Again!!!

From my travel journal of last December 2009, when I visited Sirmione during my winter trip to Verona, Italy...

I am here, in Sirmione, in the middle of winter... I am walking the same streets I walked with my dear husband of 30+ years as many years back, when we were still discovering each other, still dating, still falling in love.  Nothing has changed, no new streets have been built, no new houses have gone up, no gas stations, no McDonald, no Walmart, no major hotel chain has taken over and overdeveloped.

What do I want out of this brief escape to the shores of Lake Garda?  I am not sure yet, but I certainly am not going to rush to see "stuff".  I stop just outside the walls of the old town, and admire the colorful fishing boats anchored to the moor. The water, the turquois green so typical of Lake Garda, is clear.  Few swans are swimming ...or better yet... floating in what was supposed to be a ... moat?  I remember the swans in this body of water..., these couldn't be the same swans...., I wonder how long swans live?  Like other tourists in heavy coats I take pictures of the castle, the boats, the moat, the swans, the draw bridge to the old town...Aereal pictures of Sirmione.

Small shops line the narrow stony streets, and it does not take long to get to the end of the old town to the Terme di Sirmione, thermal spas originally built in the roman era.  In the middle of winter, in December, people were in the hot pools of the mineral waters ...  I head to the hall to check out what services are offered as I see people walking in at a steady pace.   Services seem to be very extensive with a wide variety of optional packages.  Here is a link to the official site of the "Terme di Sirmione"  I WILL NOT miss a day at the Terme on my next trip.

Lunch at the Ristorante Pizzeria La Roccia is good.  I have a very good pizza with radicchio, a salad, a house wine, and coffee.  The service and prices are good, and so is the family athmosphere. 

After lunch I head to the water, and get to the small beach by walking the narrow street behind the castle. There it is, what I was longing for... even in this cold hazy day in December the view of the Lake and the mountains surrounding this ancient body of water is breathtaking. 

I walk down the path by the water all the way to the tip of the peninsula.  On my way I walk by a bride and groom with their photographer taking wedding pictures.  They are clearly of Asian origin, the bride so beautiful.  What a gorgeous setting for wedding pictures, I can promise they will hold beautiful memories ... for 30+ years...

I walk up the hill that is at the tip of the peninsula and I am now in what I consider Roman territory.  This is where the terraced olive grove overlooks the lake and envelopes the grounds of the Caves of Catullo, an archeological site of the roman villa of the poet Catullus (54 BC).  See Grotte di Catullo .  Looking over the horizon, I can see Monte Baldo and the chain of.... mountains that thousand of years ago housed the glacier that eventually formed Lake Garda. 

The park is closed, but visitors continue to arrive, several couples holding hands... are getting in the way of my taking pictures...  There, at the entrance to the park I can now see the westerns "riva" of Lake Garda, and the mountains of the Brescia province.  What a great view, how lucky am I to be here...  If the couple exchanging kisses by the railing had moved over some, I could have taken a better picture of the Roman ruin down below... and what is the deal with the cats?  There are several cats roaming under the olive trees.  Does it have anything to do with Rome (city of cats) and the Roman ruins?  Just kidding, but ... who knows?

I start down the hill on the main road and find myself again by the entrance to the Terme.  Yes, the Romans always could find the best places to get inspired by, to settle in, to vacation at. This sliver of land has not changed at all in 30+ years, it couldn't have been much different 2000+ years ago.  As Catullo said about this magical place.....

Venusta Sirmio


Pupilla delle isole,
e delle penisole, quali nei laghi lucenti
e nel vasto mare sostiene l'onnipossente Nettuno,
con quanto piacere, con quanta letizia ti rivedo,
io che a stento posso credere di aver lasciato la Tinia e i campi Bitini,
e, sicuro, posso contemplarti di nuovo.
Che cosa c'è di più bello,
quando, sciolti da ogni cura, la mente depone ogni fastidio
e, stanchi del viaggio e delle fatiche,
torniamo ai nostri Lari,
abbandonandoci nel letto
a lungo sospirato?

Questo, soltanto questo, dopo tante fatiche.
Io ti saluto, bellissima Sirmione,
e tu gioisci del signore che ritorna.
Gioite anche voi, onde del lago di Lidia
e tutti quanti ridete, sorrisi della mia casa.

(Trad. Alessandro Natucci)
Catullus Poetry

I walk back to the bus stop, and stop by the small church of Sant'Anna built in 1400 by the castle's walls for use by the guards.  Inside it is a true jewel.
As the day turns dark and I travel on the bus back to Verona (city), I reflect back on my brief escape.  Nostalgia?  No.   Did I find what I wanted? What did I really want from the trip anyway?   Reassurance?  May be...reassurance that this enchanted place is still here and will be here untouched for me again next time?  Or may be I just wanted to fall in love all over again!!  Wellll ...,  mission accomplished!!  I am in love, Sirmione!!

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