It was supposed to be a family affair, the four of us. “Have we got enough petrol?” “Yes, of course we have.” Of course we have enough petrol.
“Excuse me, how much further is it to the start of the walk?” I ask. The man cycling upwards pulls a face. “Oh, about four kilometres.”
Not so long after we’re sitting in the back of a car of a couple from Milan, myself squashed between my two kids, and I’m telling them the story of how my husband dropped us off earlier and is now somewhere on the shores of Lake Como with a petrol can, and thanking them profusely for giving us a lift up to where the walk is really supposed to start.
It’s all worth it though. Granted, there’s the occasional sheer drop and excessive scree but that’s what it’s like up Grigna, that huge mountain massif in the province of Lecco above Lake Como. It’s calcareous and dolomitic for a start – just like the Dolomite mountains that stretch across Trentino and Alto Adige – and renowned for its huge rocky peaks and world-famous climbing opportunities. Today we’re walking the stretch from above Cainallo to Rifugio Bogani up at 1900m. This matters for my son. How high is it, mum? How hight is it? There are several people already coming back down. They greet us with the friendly air of people who walk regularly in the mountains. No pretences, just a genuine appreciation and respect for all that is around them. Mountains can be a great leveller.
There is a famous saying by an Italian Alpinist Beato Contardo Ferrini, a Franciscan monk who also became a saint. “It is by overcoming the obstacles of nature in the mountains that you learn to overcome the obstacles of life.” It’s carved onto a slab of rock in a valley where the cows are taken to pasture in summer and fresh cheeses smell of meadows and the cycle of life; and it’s always there at the back of my mind.
Mum, I want to go to the top. Mum, can we go right to the top? Mum, when can we go right to the top?