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WEST ESSEX RAMBLERS IN NORTHERN ITALY


On a late June morning 54 West Essex ramblers arrived at Verona airport en route for a walking holiday in the Trentino Highlands with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. We boarded a coach which eventually began the climb via many hairpin bends up into the alpine hills.   Our destination, at just under 4,000 ft., was the small village of Chiesa in the rural district of Lavarone.   The Grand Hotel Astoria was an impressive and welcoming sight and made a comfortable base for the next seven days.


With three leaders, the Group had three options on each walking day.   One leader, Karen, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of   wild flowers which were the major focus on two of her walks with over 90 different plants identified on the holiday, including 12 different orchids.   The holiday had been specifically timed to get the best of the late spring in this area.   The fields and waysides were like an artist's palette, full of colour.   Even with the multitude of stops on these particular walks, a good mileage was covered with plenty of ups and downs - well we were in the foothills of the Alps.   The two other leaders, Chris and Fred, were gamely followed on walks of varying levels of greater difficulty, their participants achieving higher heights and more impressive mileage - or perhaps we should say 'kilometres'.


Whilst now a haven of peace and beauty the high ground on which we walked was, before and during the First World War, battlegrounds involving border disputes between Italy and Austria.   Close by were seven Austro-Hungarian forts built as defence against Italian attack.   Most of the group walked to Fort Belvedere, now a museum recording the grim events that took place there.   The views from the top of the fortress, overlooking the valleys of Torto and Astico, were spectacular.


Time was allowed for a day of culture and relaxation.   Over 30 members headed down to the Trentino Valley for a city tour of Verona, followed by an evening performance of the opera Carmen, returning back at 3.15 a.m.    A smaller group took off to Bolzano and the Ice Man exhibition.   Some stayed at the hotel, relaxing on the terraces and balconies, enjoying the view down to a small lake (Lago di Lavarone) which usually had a beautiful reflection of the surrounding hills and higher peaks beyond.


All too quickly the week was over.    We had been so lucky with the weather and Ramblers Worldwide Holidays had done us proud with a lovely hotel and three great leaders.   The holiday seemed to have had something for everyone.   Easier (nothing was totally 'easy') walks to some quite long and challenging hikes including a bit of scrambling, the beauty of the flowers and the mountains, great food and good company.


Pat and John Juchau


Photo by Len

Trentino Highlands  2014

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