Italian Language Blog

Walking on the Clouds Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Culture

The wind curves over the ridge tearing at shards of cloud and dragging them down towards Lago Santo which lies way below us in its natural amphitheatre. The ragged fragments of cloud dissolve amongst the pines and beeches. We are enveloped in a bigger cloud, visibility drops to a few meters. This draws our attention away from the spectacular vistas and towards our immediate surrounds, a kaleidoscope of alpine flowers, surreal in their intensity and dimensions. Aquilegia, Ladies Mantle, Gentian, and Alpine Roses carpet the steep mountainside to either side of the rugged sentiero (footpath) which we are doggedly following towards Il Passo dell’Aquila (The Pass of the Eagle).

Serena follows the sentiero towards Monte Marmagna


Lago Santo at 1,500 meters in the Appennino Tosco Emiliano

We’re at 1,700 meters in the wilderness of the Appennino Tosco Emiliano, the sun is low, it’s nearly 7.00 p.m., and it’s time to make the final effort to reach the summit of Monte Marmagna, a hundred and fifty five steep meters above us. The wind up here is much colder than we expected but we’ll save our final layers of clothing until we’ve reached our destination and sit down to eat our cena al sacco (packed evening meal). We follow the narrow trail along the ridge, surely it can’t be much further. Suddenly the cloud up above us is torn aside by the wind like a great curtain, and before us lies an almost theatrical apparition, La Croce del Monte Marmagna.

At around 7.30 p.m. Don Lorenzo holds mass before the Cross on Monte Marmagna

Around one hundred of us have made our way up to the summit for a special celebration: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Club Alpino Italiano, or CAI. We are a mixture of CAI members from Pontremoli and Parma, walking enthusiasts and mountain lovers ranging in age from 7 to 70. We meet friends and acquaintances, amongst whom are Don Lorenzo, who has come up to hold a mass, and the mayor of Pontremoli, Lucia Baracchini. I chat with Proff.ssa Baracchini, mentioning that I hadn’t imagined her as a montanara (mountaineer) and she explains that as a child she spent a lot of time walking up in the mountains, but now, unfortunately, she never has time.

… it’s something that words really can’t describe

At around 7.30 Don Lorenzo holds mass, followed by a sermon in which he talks about his spiritual connection with the Appennino mountains. He tells us that he usually visits these peaks alone so that he can be in contact with unspoilt nature, and wonder at God’s creations. And here, above the clouds, far from the noise, smell, and confusion of towns and motorways, with the sun completing its daily journey down towards the distant horizon, one certainly feel a sense of … well I suppose it’s something that words really can’t describe. You’ll just have to come here and find out for yourselves.

I wrote a blog article about CAI back in 2008 which you can find HERE

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  1. Edoardo:

    Thank you Geoff, your report give me a lot of peace,I enjoyed it very much.

  2. William Auge:

    Allora Geoff, stai creando una lista lunga di cose da fare per noi in Italia.
    Ciao, Bill

  3. Francesco:

    Always enjoy your posts. You were very helpful and timely during the Italian class that I took last year. You were an excellent supplement to the text. Keep up the good work.

    My interest in and appreciation of my Italian heritage was awakened, unfortunately, after my immigrant grandparents, my father, aunts and uncles have passed. So, blogs and columns like your own are an important part of this second generation Italian-American’s understanding of the culture deep within.

    Please keep ’em coming!

    Grazie mille.


    Have you seen the blog called, The Smiling Eggplant? She also has a Facebook page called, Italian Food Words. She was also very helpful as I tried to understand the “if” clauses and the subjunctive. JFV

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