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Report 2015: Alpine Adventures and Other Travels in the Rhone, Rhin and Rhön

By wendy lynn from California USA, Summer 2012

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Page 4 of 21: Swiss Alps: Lavertezzo

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Lavertezzo, Switzerland

It's Sunday morning, and while everyone else sleeps, Joe wakes up early to explore the small stone town up the hill from our hotel. A short and hard rainstorm catches him mid-walk and he has to duck for cover in a doorway. Church bells ring over and over. Wendy feels like she's finally over her jet lag. The skies are clearing, literally. The mountain views from our windows are amazing.

After Joe's return, we rouse everyone for a family morning walk. It's only 7:00am and breakfast isn't served until 8:00. Joe's toe is still a problem, and Julia is not quite 100% either, but we head out anyway.

There appear to be numerous, beautiful options for walks in the area, and we take the nearest path from our hotel, simply heading up the hill toward another small village in the opposite direction from Joe's earlier walk.

The paths are clearly marked with red and white stripes. The houses are amazing and authentic, not overtly catering to a tourist crowd although a few of the houses are available for summer rental.

Gorgeous wildflowers and charming red and white Swiss flags stand out beautifully against the gray stone of the houses. Numerous artesian wells allow for a quick and satisfying drink.

We meet an older Italian couple from Milan on our walk. They are surprised to hear we think the food in Switzerland is expensive! Is Italy that expensive ... or perhaps it says something about the strength ... or lack of strength ... of the US dollar.

We head back so that we will be in time for breakfast. The breakfast is very good, although not as special as the Acanthus -- plenty of meat and cheese but lacking on the special, small dishes. The bread is warm and fantastic. The kids appreciate the fantastic hot chocolate made with milk. Good coffee.

Right outside the breakfast room is a great view of the Verzcasca River. We walk outside and see a small handwritten sign "cascata." There's no one around, but at mom's insistence, we follow a short path to a waterfall. So much to see here! It's a shame, but it's time to check out of the hotel. We wished we'd had one more night here. But we still have the day to explore. We pack up and check out.

We drive two minutes and park by the river. It's already busy as the weather looks sunny and warm. It's the weekend and parking is short term, limited and expensive. Joe goes back to the hotel to ask about parking there, but the owner only allows us one extra hour of parking. I suppose she needs to keep her few spots open for new guests and restaurant patrons. We walk down to the river to swim.

The day is gorgeous! The rain cleared the sky, and it's warm, sunny. Blue skies and puffy white clouds. We all get in the frigid water. The water is so cold that it takes your breath away. Mom lasted one minute and was afraid her body was so cold that she wouldn't be able to get out again.

Alex and Julia do the 20 foot cliff jump over and over again. Julia watches as a pair of seven and 10 year old brothers jump from the 40 foot Roman bridge. The crowd gasps and claps. Alex wants to do it. So does Joe, who is more hesitant. Holy cow! Mom's not so sure.

Alex gets up the courage and does it! Truly impressive. Not many people make the jump, and when someone does, the small group below claps in appreciation. Joe eventually does it once. Alex does it two more times. When it becomes clear that Wendy is the mother, a few people walk up and share their admiration for Alex's bravery.

Alex's confidence grows. He walks up to the bridge by himself although he will need help to get up on the bridge's stone railing. In order to jump, you have to balance on top of the stone bridge's two foot tall edging. It's precarious and intimidating. As we watch from below, Alex asks a stranger to help him step up on the edge. To our surprise, the adult stranger immediately assists Alex up. It's hard to imagine this happening in the States. Wendy knows she wouldn't ever help a kid make that jump, particularly a child she didn't know.

Mom watches in terror below. Alex successfully makes the jump. We watch a few men dive in headfirst. Incredible! Next a young couple jumps while holding hands. They twist awkwardly on the way down and they hit the water from the wrong angle. Everyone watching winces. They both come up with faces full of pain and struggle to the edge of a nearby rock.

Mom's heart can't take this anymore, and the day is getting shorter, so we leave the Lavertezzo bridge and head for Brione about a 15 minute drive further down the valley. Brione is a town halfway between Lavertezzo, where we're staying, and Sognogno which is at the end of the valley.

We get to Brione and eat a snack of bread, goat cheese, and chips. Julia wants to rest, but everyone else goes on a hike while Julia waits behind on a bench. The hike takes us through the town and out to another part of the river. We see a broken stone house that allows us to see the construction. We crisscross the river a few times, seeing occasional hikers and swimmers down below. We cannot get over the amazing landscape and the staggering beauty everywhere around us.

As we walk back to Julia, we know that we still have to head for Italy today. It's time to leave the valley. Alex is sad. We all are. How can the rest of the trip possibly live up to this standard of beauty and outdoor adventure?

We drive back through the valley, past Lavertezzo and finally reach Locarno. On the way we see the dramatic Selvatica Dam used in a James Bond movie. Locarno surprises Wendy with its Mediterranean feeling. We follow Lake Maggiore's shores SW toward Italy.

We soon enter Italia and stop at a supermarket. We are on our way to our B&B -- Les Maisons -- in Donnas, Italy. Donnas is a small town in the Valle D'Aosta area. The drive to Donnas from Lavertezzo takes us 2 1/2 hours. We are still feeling a little sad to have left Lavertezzo, but excited for Italy, and, hopefully less expensive dinners.

Our B&B is a little tricky to find, and we don't have the right Nav CD installed, so our Italy maps are less detailed, leading to mistakes. Nevertheless, we do eventually find our home for the next three days. We notice that this area of Italy also boasts stone houses and dramatic Alpine vistas -- perhaps a little less pristine than Lavertezzo, but striking and beautiful nonetheless.

Les Maisons is authentically old and charming. But also seems to have good, modern plumbing. This time there was no family apartment option, so we have booked two rooms, but they are close to each other and both quite nice if not huge. They are a bit dark, but the house is very old and made of thick stone, so it's all rather appealing. Wendy and Joe's room has a balcony overlooking the back garden and the nearby mountains just beyond. The kids' room on the other side looks toward the town and the other mountains further away, on the other side of the valley.

Lea, the owner, directs us to the restaurant Les Caves for dinner. It's a giant meal with multiple courses of local food, local wine, drinks and dessert for all. The waiter keeps offering wine to Julia, who is only 14 years old. The meal is very pleasing and filling, but not anything special. Still, the entire bill is €78. A much better value. At dinner, we chat with a Dutch couple who speak good English. We return home and are in bed and asleep by 11.

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