Thursday, September 4, 2008

Intra, Pallanza, Baveno -- Sept. 4, Day 2

Walk toward the water.

That was the advice I gave one of our travelers while we were joking about getting lost in the small town of Intra. We were being let loose for an hour of individual exploration before reconnecting for lunch. Intra was our first destination of the trip ... about a 30-minute bus ride from Baveno up the road that hugs Lake Maggiore.

My thought was, as long as you can find the water, you can find your way back to the restaurant, which was within a pebble's throw of Lake Maggiore.

About 45 minutes later ... I couldn't find the water.

There were all these three-story buildings in the way. All my life I've been blessed with a prety good internal compass. Apparently, that compass doesn't speak Italian. The town of Intra is actually not a tourist town, according to guides. Our stop would be an opportunity to see how regular workaday Italians live. The answer is a lot like the rest of us (although many take a three-hour lunch, which minimized our shopping ... still, some of our travelers bought handbags and negotiated 20 percent discount ... I'll need to shop with them a bit more).

My goal was to see as much of Intra as possible. And that meant going beyond the square, which was the focus of our guided tour. Just prior to shoving off on my own, I got to take a quick glance at a map of the town. The street layout wan't a grid. It was more like a pile of pick-up sticks. No two roads were parallel. This didn't worry me, though. Intra was a small place.

It's also an attractive place. And old. Many buildings in Intra date back centuries and the miles can be seen on the faded walls. The majority of buildings were three and four stories high. I thought that would be a nice bit of trivia, until I realized that after 45 minutes of wandering past stores and resturants and churches and kids on bikes and now leisurely exploring a residential area ... I couldn't see the water. Or much of anything. The buildings were too high. And the sun was behind clouds, so I had little idea of what direction to take.

So I turned right (which I thought COULD be the correct way) and kept walking. And walking. Faster. Finally I came upon a major road. It must lead toward town, so I turned again. And walked. And turned a corner. And saw Lake Maggiore.

I made it to the restaurant at 12:44. One minute early. That's better than I do for most meetings.

At the EAA we like to talk about the Emory Travel Program as "educational travel." Yes, we get to see wonderful sights, but we also introduce travelers to local experts who put those sights and the surrounding area in historical and cultural context.

Patricia (who also was one of our guides) lectured in the morning about the history of the Lake District. In the evening, Massimo, whose day job is as a high school teacher of history and philosphy, lectured about the history of the Borromeo family, who owned most of this area before the Age of Napoleon. The information was fascinating (like 50 perecent of aristocratic girls became nuns because the marriage traditions of the time were so restrictive) and to a person our travelers devoured every nugget.

Tomorrow, we learn about the Age of the Renaissance. It's at 8:30 a.m. My policy as a student wasn't not to sign up for any clss before 10, but I'll give this a try.


Intra was not the only place we visited. We walked along the lakeshore in Pallanza, just south of Intra, along the lake. We also spent some time in the village of Baveno, centered on its cathedral, portions of which date to the 5th century.

All in all a very successful day. Tomorrow is a boat trip to the Borromean Islands. Let's see what these lakes are made of.