Taking the twenty-three hour bus to Milan from London is not for everyone. I’m still not sure whether it is for me. Even so, despite the claustrophobia inducing Channel Tunnel and waiting two hours in a sketchy Paris parking lot there is something to be said for the views of the French countryside, and coming out of the Frejus Tunnel to small Italian villages and snow capped mountain peaks.
My first few days in Italy have been full on. F, a friend of a friend, agreed to have me before I made the trip to Naples in exchange for some help with her toddler and twin babies. I was expecting half a week of babysitting, and instead I feel like I have been on some sort of ‘Experience Lombardy’ tour. The very first afternoon we drove to the River Adda and took a short cruise as the light was shining gold on the hills, the birds doing that David-Attenborough-documentary thing where they flap across the water and someone tried to talk to me in Italian – everything felt quite surreal.
After sleeping through lasagne, the next morning felt more like how I was expecting – taking care of the twins with their Nonna while the parents had some time off. It was a surprisingly easy morning and I realised that babies are actually not impossible to take care of. After overcoming my fear of babysitting, and a lunch that included three different types of cheese, F came home and took me to a hilltop town – Montevecchia. Montevecchia is tiny, and once it was a normal village. Now it is more exclusive, with a Michelin-starred restaurant and the residents we saw carry Gucci. Still, you can’t tell that it has changed status by looking. The houses are the same red and yellow as most other villages around, and a few stray cats taking in the sunset alongside us.
I have very rarely been sitting in a car, train or bus and found myself unable to see a single village. It seems like every inch of this country is studded with homes, perhaps it’s the pastel colours causing to romanticise the endless buildings, but spending my final day eating lunch at one of the villages that edge Lake Como it really felt like these small villages add to the scenery rather than detract. I can’t understand why F repeatedly apologised for Italy not being beautiful as New Zealand. Sitting at the lakeside, it was warm enough for gelato but cool enough to still see snow on the mountains. The water was flat, apart from the occasional waves caused by a ferry going to the other side of the lake (where George Clooney owns a holiday house), it was the most picturesque setting to learn how difficult it is to tidily eat bruschetta.
So in short, I’ve learnt that children aren’t terrifying and gelato actually is a regular occurrence in Italian diets. For someone that never actually had Italy that high on her bucket list, I’m so happy I’m here.