Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lake Orta -- Sept. 9, Day 7

This morning, with the sun coming up over the mountains in the east, Lake Maggiore shimmered. Thousand of golden flashes shone off the water, boldly brightening our final day in Italy. It was an ideal ending. Our first few days were drenched with near constant rain. Yesterday -- and especially today -- has been picture perfect. We can finally see what the mountains beyond the lake look like. It's a three-dimensional postcard.

Many of the places we've visited on this trip have been old -- 15th, 16th, and 17th century old. Lake Orta, though, is old. Part of the basilica we toured today on Isola di San Giulio was built in the 4th century. The crypt of San Giulio himself is in the basement and ornately, yet respectfully furnished.

Much of the current building dates to the most recent millenium, but it was easy to see the ancient beauty of the place. One of the most interesting things pointed out by the guides was the graffiti decorating some of the frescos on the inside of the church. The year was scratched into the stone: 1666. Maybe graffiti really is an art form.

We had a couple hours to ourselves in the town of Orta, on the mainland, after touring the church. There was a neat scruffiness to it that was absent in the touristy (yet incredibly beautiful) towns we saw yesterday. That's neither good nor bad. Just a bit different and a refreshing change.

It's the middle of the afternoon now and there is a farewell reception at 6:00 p.m. Our bus leaves for the Milan airport at 4:15 a.m. on Wednesday. That'll be a fun ride. I'll write an update sometime in between.