Well, it finally happened—a hotel reservation that didn’t have to be cancelled.
The booking had been made months earlier and not completely understanding the fluctuating colour-coded traffic lights of COVID19 in Italy, and floored by the impossibility of completing the 20-page Visitor’s Testament, we contacted Sylvio’s albergo directly.
He instantly replied “Thank Okay You” which we took to mean the coast was clear. We grabbed our newly-important old yellow International Vaccine Passports and headed off. Ah….driving above the grand Lake of Geneva, the wide-open Rhone Valley, the chilly winds of the Simplon Pass, a ferry across the sparkly bright-blue Lago Maggiore and up the Holy Hill of Saint Mary in the province of Varese.
The travel plan was glorious in both its variety and simplicity.
Crossing the border above Domodossola was only slightly awkward as the customs men were busy searching inside suitcases of several cars. One asked where we thought we were going? As there were no more parking spaces for in-depth examination, we mentioned the possible destination of Brissago (a Swiss-transit trip). He seemed to be relieved that we were not trouble-makers and told us to carry on, but not to stop at any restaurants.
We had a picnic lunch so could assure him of our culinary propriety, and motored off. Cheering, we reached the ferry in Verbania and were overwhelmed by the seething humanity on the 2pm boat. It was packed full of teenagers taking their transport home from school. Lounging picturesquely on steps and two-tone hair-dos are immensely chic in this part of the world. Purple, red, and shiny black being the most popular colours.
A guy with a serious case of acne winked at me. Ah, Italy.
Our arrival in the small hotel with its little high-ceilinged pink room with the strawberry wallpaper was delightful. We were so happy that we didn’t care that they didn’t give us the promised welcome drink or that the car got a nasty dent in the parking lot. The skinny-wild-grey-haired woman had enough to do hauling bags around She couldn’t do everything. We laughed merrily at finding a dusty pair of socks and a half-empty water bottle and an open pack of Kleenex under the bed.
Sylvio’s cooking was a miracolo, and once we discovered that we shared the common language of French, the chef came to visit our table often. The fresh porcini. The hand-made mozzarella. The sweetbreads. The Sicilian lemon-zest at the bottom of the risotto.
Nothing could make us angry. Not the roaring motor-bikes. Not the Giro d’Italia plugging up the roads over the weekend. Not Ebony and Ivory on the music loop being played down by the lake on Saturday night. Not the complete lack of postage stamps or open Tabac kiosks. Not even the noisy low-flying planes hauling planers up over the top of our hill to let them soar free.
All was fine. All was Italy. All was right in the world.