Nice to Alpbach, a small mountain village in the Tyrolean Alps, where we’d booked a few nights at an inn and would meet Walter and Klaus, old friends from Germany. Inbetween those two circles we’d have six nights. Where would you stay? What would you do? How would you get from A to B? This would be the least thought out part of our trip. Holland was set before we left, so was France. I thought we’d sort of wing it in Italy, and see how things go. We could have just picked a city, arranged cheap lodging with airBnB or something, spent the whole time there, and got in and out with the fast train. Instead we chose to take local trains and make short hops all the way until Austria. We’ll see if that was a better plan.
First leg: Nice to Cuneo. Like I said, we spent so much time swimming around Nice we left none to do other stuff, and the little towns in the Alpes Maritimes on the way to Italy that we’d planned to explore would have to be seen in passing on the train. There is a direct Nice to Cuneo train, but the Ventimiglia option worked better for our schedule. Note how after you change trains in Ventimiglia you go back into France. Why would the Italians run a line from V. to C. through France? Probably because the land used to belong to Italy. Even Nice was once part of Italy; In Nice, I saw some old signs with street names in both French and Italian.
I’ve read nice things about the coast from the French border to Genoa, but Ventimiglia didn’t have the charm that all the French towns from Nice to Menton did. It was congested and noisy and looked way past its prime. The only interesting thing about our 1.5 hour layover was a fat Russian lady and her young son throwing bread off the Pasarella Squarciafichi, a pedestrian bridge that spans the Fume Roia, which trickles into the Med. It was a good battle between the seagulls, ducks, unknown shorebirds, and swans that hang out here. The feisty seagulls ruled and mostly fought each other, while the swans, although by far the biggest, were complete pushovers.
Tende, I believe.
After the long tunnel under the border, we emerged at the hiking/skiing village of Limone in Italy, and about a half hour later arrived at Cuneo, a small city at the foothills of the mountains, about one hour south of Turin. We missed a turn on the walk from the station to our hotel and took a roundabout route into town. The weird thing was, in the 15 minutes that took us to get to the hotel, we saw not one Italian face nor heard Italian spoken. Every person we saw, the men loitering around the fountain at the train station, men walking the streets, leaning against buildings, talking on cell phones, some on bicycles, some on the veranda of apartments on the old streets, were sub-Saharan Africans. Hmm, what were they doing in this not-so-well-known, mountainside town of Piemonte, Italy?
The next morning I asked the concierge what was up and he shook his head and said, “It is a huge problem in Italy now. The refugees come across the sea from Africa to Italy, in the South. Then they come to the North.”
He went on to explain that most of them are trying to get to the UK and other countries in northern Europe. The problem is, France has blocked them and apparently Austria has too so the Northern Italian cities are full of homeless, jobless Africans wandering the streets, talking on their cell phones, trying to get North to the promised lands of Great Britain and Holland, where there is no unemployment, a surplus of affordable housing, race relations are perfect and the citizens await unskilled 3rd world immigrants with open arms. Those meanies in France block the border and so Italy must provide food and housing for the unfortunate travelers. The scene in front of Cuneo station repeated itself in all the cities we visited in Northern Italy.
We found our hotel in Cuneo, the unsmiling Algerian gave us our key, and we went on a search for sustenance. We found a Mexican restaurant, of all things, just a few blocks down a narrow road in the old town. The owner was a friendly guy from Mexico City who had been in Italy since he was 15. He was full with group reservations on this Saturday night, but he made a spot for me and Keenan. His father came up and asked in Spanish if we’d been attended to. I blame it on the fact that I’d been trying to speak French the last four days and today had tried to switch to Italian-I answered, “Si, nos atendimos.” (Yes, we attended to ourselves.) blaaa.
I asked Raul how is it he had come to Italy. “My father was a police officer of Los Federales. He couldn’t abide by the high level of corruption so he left the country.” K. Had enchiladas, I had a burrito, and we walked the town a bit and headed back to the hotel. In the morning we took it slow leaving.
Some Cuneo Pics: . See-through bathroom window .
The all-important look at yourself upside down mirror.
I can manage an extended vacation away from home if I get my regular dose of WWF.
Glazed nuts. Pure decadence.
italian Willie Nelson coming to town.
I asked K. to smile here but he was suffering from some sort of millais.
I’m sorry this collection of photos doesn’t do justice to Cuneo, a real nice town in Piedmont. Next time you are on your way from Torino to Nice, by all means stop by.
Next: Italian Americanophiles