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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sunset Lago di Garda

I was feeling a little low on Sunday as my sister and brother and their families had been out for the preceding ten days, they had all gone home by Saturday evening and things seemed very quiet.
Then I received a phone call from our friends Livio and Tania, inviting us out on his boat for the afternoon, it was a beautiful sunny day and very hot, so a boat trip was just the tonic to lift my mood.
I’ve already been out a few times with him this year for a spot of sardine fishing, although each time our trips were cut short by a sudden change in the weather. The sardines in the lake are superb, same texture as salt water sardines but a milder flavour. I will tell you more about sardine fishing in a separate post. Sardine season is over so Sunday we would be fishing Coregone.
Coregone is a fish that slightly resembles Seabass both in appearance and texture. But again it is a lighter, milder flavour,  absolutely delicious…..I quite often eat them in restaurants.
We met Livio and Tania and then drove to Sirmione, where Livio’s boat is moored. 

“Sirmione is a one of the most popular towns on the lake with the tourists. It stands on a peninsula with a minimum broadness of 120 mt which stretches out for about 4 km in Lake Garda from the southern shore.

In ancient times Sirmione - “Sirmio” for the Romans – used to be a "road station" at the basis of the peninsula and a renowned place for holidays and thermal bath for nobles.

Sirmione still holds all the ancient ruins of the famous villa which is said to belong to the famous Veronese poet Caio Valerio Catullo who lived in Sirmione during the first century B.C., especially the part which stands on the peninsula was also inhabited in late ages (Byzantines and Longobards built fortifications), it received municipal orders in the XII century, and from the XIII century it was ruled by the Della Scala family of Verona.

Since 1405, Sirmione, as well as the other Lake towns of the area of Brescia, became part of the Republic of Venice.

Sirmione is nowadays an important touristic-climatic and thermal bath centre: the first information on the underwater Boiola source (69 °C), collected in 1889, date back to 1546; the first establishment dates back to 1898.

In the recent years there has been an significant development due to thermal cures.”
Livios boat is moored right under the bridge at the entrance to the town, in a very pretty little port. It always feels a bit special setting off from such an enchanting location.
Once out on the water Livio set up his sonar fish finder, he knew where we needed to be, but to stand the best chance of catching Coregone you need to find the right depth of water. One we arrived at the spot, the girls relaxed on the front of the boat, while Livio gave me a lesson in coregone fishing….which is fairly difficult. We spent about three hours fishing, taking breaks to cool down by diving into the lake and drink a beer. We caught three nice sized fish, but many more got away.
As the sun started to dip in the sky we packed away the fishing gear and set off to the town of Garda for refreshments. In the 14 years I have been coming here I have never visited Garda town before, I wish I had, like all the other towns on the lake it is very pretty, but with its own character.
It has quite a long promenade with lots of bars and restaurants, which were filled with holiday makers taking their aperitivo or eating an early dinner. The atmosphere was such that I felt like I was on holiday…a ‘holiday moment’.
It was still very hot, so we decided to venture into the back streets in search of a bar to drink a beer. We found a very quaint little place, complete with aircon. In most bars when you order a drink the bring you a little plate of crisp, olives and maybe a one or two other little snacks. This was one of the places where they lay it all out on the bar and invite you to help yourself….which is a bit dangerous, because I don’t think they expect you are going to eat your first meal of the day there at 6.30pm.
The salami in particular was very good, the beer they poured us was to die for. I could have quite easily sat and drank three or four, but it was getting a bit late and we had to get back to Sirmione before it got too dark.
The trip back was out of this world as the sunset was spectacular (check out my video on my Facebook page). The effect of the beer only added to the experience and I had a massive grin across my face and a feeling of content. 

We moored up in Sirmione and rounded the day off with a pizza in Livio’s friend’s restaurant ‘Erica’. The pizzas here are fantastic as is the fish and indeed the rest of the menu.
Perfect end to a perfect day.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Cuel - A new place to meditate

The old rustico where I like to meditate is owned by a family who use it most Sundays during the summer, and they probably will into hunting season. Now that it’s August and Italy closes down for holiday they spend more time there during weekdays. Anyway, the consequence is that I have had to find alternative places to meditate.

On our mountain there are a number of clearings in the woods, where the hunters set up pill boxes and bird traps. I stumbled across one of these just ten minutes further on from my rustico. If you forget what it actually is, a place to trap and kill animals, it is a very peaceful and pretty place. I have sat and meditated here a few times, but even though I am not squeamish and probably have eaten some of its trappings in my local trattoria, I eventually decided that meditation in a place set up to kill didn’t tally and so I went in search of another spot.

I’d been told that there was a clearing high up, called Cuel, where some of the trees where very old, one in particular was said to be 500 years old. Apparently there had been many more trees this old but they had been chopped down during the war to build cabins for partisans. I went in search of the 500 year old tree, sure that it would give me the perfect energy for my meditation, which after 18months of practising I am still struggling to master.

It wasn’t difficult to find the clearing, it was only another ten minute walk from the hunters spot. When I arrived at the clearing the first thing that I noticed was the spectacular view across to the pre-alpi, interrupted only by the puffy white clouds that floated past, some of which I was looking down on.

Then I noticed the wild apple and pear trees,

then another old rustico and standing beside it was the beautiful old tree.

The trunk was about 2.5m, maybe 3m in diameter and the lower branches at least 1m.

The bark low down was thick and craggy like the skin of a really old person who had lived their whole life in the sun, but up above I could see that new healthy branches had sprouted and the tree looked as if it would easily live another five hundred years.

I walked around the tree looking for somewhere comfortable to sit and meditate, and I wasn’t surprised when I discovered low at the base of the trunk a bench like formation inviting me to sit.

 So I sat, closed my eyes and meditated. To be honest, I still couldn’t master it and I haven’t been able to since, maybe I never will, but I have had glimpses of where I think it will take me. These glimpses and also the calm and peacefulness I find sitting under the old tree or outside the old rustico set me up for the day and make me more prepared for any difficult situation that may arise. Mind you I sometimes wish I could stay up there all day, but knowing I can go there the next day I can walk back down with a smile on my face and spring in my step.