What is your favourite colour?
Mine is green.
I love green, but the funny thing is that I wouldn’t wear anything green-coloured (large emeralds in the style of Angelina Jolie excluded), nor would I actively procure green items to use as home interior accents.
No, my relationship with green stretches beyond such small declarations of love. In fact, looking around me just now, I can’t see one green item among the things which surround me on a daily basis.
How come is then green my favourite colour if I wouldn’t even show it a bit of everyday appreciation?!
Well, first, I am not that unique, actually. Apparently, green is the third most liked colour by women right after blue (yeah!) and purple (bleurgh!). Second, I like not so much the colour green or a specific hue of it, but the idea of green. The notion of looking at green and being surrounded by green in the shape of vast green pastures, deep green forests, terraced green mountains jutting vertically towards a blue (for a nice contrast) sky.
Or give me a wall artistically covered by a creeper plant and you can be sure that I will stop, look at it for some time and take a picture or two as a memento of this green island of beauty in my otherwise grey-ish world.
Yes, even though I live in Italy – a statement which has the power to invoke the green-eyed monster (you see what I did here – green again, albeit not in a positive connotation), everyday life in the Bel paese can be as greyish and as monotonous, if you like, as everyday life anywhere else in Europe.
You wake up, do your bit around the house, do your bit with your family, do your bit in terms of work and earning money in order to support your lifestyle and then you go to bed. Lather, rinse and repeat.
Pretty soon the strong current of the pebbly River of Daily Responsibilities and Obligations can drag you down keeping you just under the surface and letting you take a big gulp of air only every now and then – just so that you don’t suffocate completely with everything that, funnily enough, you need to keep on top of.
So, green is the first colour which slowly but surely drains out of your life.
If you don’t have a garden (or if yours just like ours is populated by thirsty mosquitoes), if you don’t live near a park (or if going there begins to feel like yet another obligation), if all of a sudden you start spending too much time in front of the computer (without really doing any productive work), the first symptom of your disconnect with nature will be the lack of green in your life.
It’s interesting, isn’t it. We spend a lot of time actively trying to keep in touch with family, friends and the news. We celebrate cornerstones and occasions, we make time to meet with people of interest to us and talk over a cup of coffee or dinner about work, kids and life. We also make arrangements to go see the latest concert, exhibition, film or event in order to feel well adjusted, cultured and in sync with human life.
But, how many of us schedule an appointment in their busy lives to connect with nature? To surround ourselves with green? To go out there in the meadows, woods and hills?
Actually, I am sure many people do that. So, when I am asking such grand questions, they are addressed entirely to me.
You see, late last year I started to notice the lack of green in my life. Even though we try to go out and about, exploring the many corners of Veneto as much as we can, for the longest time our little trips were centred on discovering mainly cities and towns. Well, they have the culture, the castles, the art. So, nothing wrong with it.
Still, after a while, I was beginning to get a bit drained. Once you have seen ten castles, you may not get that excited about the eleventh and the twelfth. Once you have visited more museums than you can care about, you (shock/horror) start to feel like you really don’t care much about another painting or statue in your life.
Yep, I think that at one point late last year I had sort of lost the balance. And almost lost the plot, too. For when you are tired of art/history/Italy, you are tired of life or something like this.
Anyway, as a simple way to get back to nature and to get out of the constant cultured sightseeing trap we had fallen in, we started this year half-seriously promising ourselves that we would attempt some nature walks and hikes on a regular basis. At least twice a month we were to pile in our little red car and drive to a green place which we would then explore by foot. It didn’t matter if there were no castles/churches/paintings nearby, as long as there were some trees and some nice views.
I am so pleased to report back to you that so far we have kept on track.
After our first timid venture into the bosom of the Berici Hills, we grew more confident and explored Italy’s green landscapes further afield. The Euganean Hills won us over with their green beauty and, among other things, we managed to, so far, tick off a visit to a birdwatching oasis (see the last entry in this list) and spent many enjoyable hours in large gardens and parks in all their spring green glory after a long winter sleep.
So, today, I want to share with you the latest and greenest place we have been to so far this month.
It is called Laghi and it is a tiny village in the Venetian Pre-Alps.
It is known as the commune with the smallest number of inhabitants in the Province of Vicenza. Apparently, only 133 people live there surrounded by up to almost 1900 m high mountain peaks and two small alpine lakes which justify the village’s name – Laghi, meaning ‘Lakes’ in Italian.
We decided to go to Laghi on a whim on Easter Sunday. That morning and in sync with Italian traditions we had given each other chocolate eggs of half a kilo each. We all made a good dent in them, so a nice little walk was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.
A driving hour later we found ourselves taking our first glimpse of Laghi.
The village stood on top of a small hill backed by craggy peaks. A green lake sparkled at its foot. The bell tower of the church was reaching high towards the skies and the colourful houses huddled together around it like a fluffy flock of adorable lambs.
Grey clouds covered the sky promising thunder and rain.
Still every now and then the sun would break through them and its light would fall in a perfect stream on a peak, a meadow or Laghi itself.
It was picture perfect!
We parked right by the wide foundations of the bell tower of the church and after spending a minute admiring the large drinking fountain nearby…
we headed out to explore.
Our first stop was the local Trattoria della Santa, which was housed in this cute building and where we found all the locals enjoying their traditional Easter lunch.
We grabbed some drinks for our walk and the owner kindly gave us also a map of the local hikes. We were ready to explore.
The road took us past another fabulous drinking fountain from the vantage point of which a great view opened towards the nearby peaks.
Looking around us I realised that we were truly surrounded by green. Everywhere I looked, green reigned supreme. The most wondrous thing about it was the infinite number of hues and shades it came in.
Tall trees and dense shrubs covered the sides of the hills. Each of them was green in its own way – there was bottle green and dark green, light green and speckles of chartreuse, there was sparkling green and tender shoots’ green and then there were lush meadows the green of which was beautifully emphasised by a carpet of dandelions in bloom.
My heart felt light and happy and we started on the path leading down towards the first of the two small alpine lakes at Laghi’s foot.
A white swan glided on the green water just then, perfectly choosing its moment.
A second later and the swan opened its wings and flew above the water, quickly alighting again and thus creating thousands of ripples across the lake. It was great to see.
We usually think of swans as of these gentle romantic birds, but up close I couldn’t stop marveling at the might of the swan’s wings. They were powerful and had a big span.
A small mound next to the lake served as a picnic area and people had set up lavish tables with big bowls with salads and whole Easter cakes. Barbecues laden with sausages, veggies and cutlets produced the most wonderful smoky smell.
We claimed one of the wooden tables for ourselves and laid out the picnic we had brought with us. In line with the Bulgarian Easter tradition we had some painted hard-boiled eggs, complemented by some delicious Italian Easter cake and several other tasty things.
From the top of the picnic mound we could see the other small alpine lake at the foot of the village of Laghi. It would seem that it had suffered a terrible drought, as a dry waterline ran high above the small quantity of murky water at the bottom of the lake.
Yet, the meadows and the trees around it were bursting with green, so we decided to go for a walk around this second lake.
The path took us through the meadows dotted with walnut trees and large boulders covered by succulent plants.
The little doggie of a couple of fellow walkers came running towards us, making us squeal with delight at how cute it was.
No matter which way we looked, the views were stunningly beautiful.
It was very peaceful, too and we took our time walking and stopping every minute or so to observe up close such wonderful things like a long line of huge ants making their way through the grass, a cobweb which had caught several dainty dandelion fluffsicles…
some wild strawberries in bloom…
and even a length of the path’s wooden railings which seemed to have been attacked by a particularly wood-loving bug.
I admired the perfectly terraced land surrounding the houses at the foot of the peaks and wondered what it must be like living there far from the cities and their grey convenience.
We also picked walnut shells from the ground, planning to wash them as soon as we got back home and paint them as ladybirds and bees in one of our home craft sessions.
Towards the end of the path, when we were nearing Laghi again, we saw a fast and furious stream running right at the village’s foot.
The water was clear and cold and the stream criss-crossed the valley, passing through the half-dried lake and then flowing into the first alpine lake further down from us.
We reached the end of the path where a little sanctuary had been raised up.
Across from it three gorgeous ponies were quietly grazing grass. Upon seeing us, they ran towards us and very kindly let us pet their manes in exchange for the apple we still had in our picnic bag.
From there, it was a short walk up right back to the little square at which the village’s church, its formidable bell tower and a war monument stood.
We had spent several hours simply walking around and feeling the green. We rounded off our little excursion with ice-creams from the local trattoria.
It was a great day! And even though the skies had been threatening us all the way through, it only started raining in earnest once we were safely back into our little red car and driving back to Vicenza.
Back home I kept the hiking map we were kindly given by the owner of Laghi’s trattoria. It has several options for hikes lasting 3, 4 and even 8 hours. Next time that I am in a desperate need to surround myself with 50 shades of green, I know where to head to.
Are you one of those people who regularly goes hiking and exploring spots of natural beauty? Or do you prefer staying firmly put in the city? Most, importantly, which is your favourite colour? Let me know!
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