Leaving Italy was rather sad as we have had such a good time here, a mix of Sue, our host, who has looked after us so well (wonderful cooking, interesting day-trips, and great company), the property at Canelli, and Italy itself. We have also been so lucky with the weather, day after day of perfect sunny skies, saved by the swimming pool. Going to Switzerland is exciting though, a new country and host, and we’re hoping for some slightly cooler weather. Sleep hasn’t been that easy for the last few nights.
Sue was kind enough to drop us off at Sanremo station, saving us making another connection. Italian trains (at least the fast inter-city variety) are superb, though we were glad to have reserved our seats as it was pretty full. The trip along the coast is interesting though a fair amount is inside tunnels. It is almost one continual town stretching all the way to Genoa. Lots of apartment buildings and beaches. Once through Genoa the train heads north through flat farm land – quite different to the hilly coastal towns we’ve seen so far.
I wasn’t looking forward to a 6-hour stopover in Milan as it is too short to get out and see much, too long to just hang around. The station itself is massive and a wonderful piece of Mussolini-era architecture. Very photogenic. We dumped our bags at the left-luggage counter and headed off for a walk around the neighbourhood. As it was 35C progress was slow! And deserted. In August all the Italians head off on holiday, most shops were closed, and there were few people around. It seemed strange to wander across the big city streets with almost no cars in sight. We managed to stagger back to the station before expiring in the heat so took refuge in, dare I say it, a McCafe. Mainly for the air-conditioning and toilets and free wifi plus the cheap offer on a cappuccino and brioche. Sadly the wifi wasn’t working but we could use Vicki’s new Italian SIM card. It is working out very well: numerous free minutes and texts plus 2GB per month, all for 30 euro for the first month and 10 euro per month thereafter. You have to provide a passport to get SIM card here.
The train trip up into Switzerland was very picturesque. Lots of views of the mountains and the beautiful Lake Maggiore – a bit like Queenstown except for the castles and houses! Finally through a very long tunnel and out into a new country. There was a queue of cars at the last station: apparently you can either drive over the hills (only open in good weather) or put your car on a train to go through the tunnel.
We were wondering if Vicki's passport would get stamped. As a NZ citizen she can only stay in any one country for up to 3 months, so it would be useful to get a Swiss stamp to prove we won't have been in Italy too long by October. Apparently the passport control don't come on to the trains that often and, though they did this time, they ignored all our passports.
We were lucky to be picked up by Astrid, our new host, at Berne station and driven back to our new home for the next couple of weeks in Belp, a town a few kilometers away. So far all we can report is that the temperature is still really hot in the day (30C), but cooler overnight so sleeping is easier. And it is all very much neater than Italy, albeit much greyer (the buildings aren’t as brightly coloured). But the roads and cars are much bigger!