I don’t intend to tell about the places we’ve seen because people who went that route know them well, and those who did not should make that trip.
Our final destination was the Lago Maggiore. The few larger cities we saw on our way were Lugano in Switzerland, Torino (the city of the famous shrouds) and Como around Lake Como. We passed picturesque villages, sprinkled with small houses, each telling tales about their inhabitants.
The beginning of our Italian adventure was not good. Getting to our airport and to the passport control, one of the ladies in our group discovered that she’d left her passport at home. She phoned Haifa and one of her relatives made a mad dash from Haifa to the airport and brought her the forgotten passport. Our nice guide Arie and our own Nitza got quite upset in the meantime and I don’t know how they managed to hold up the flight. We took off with some delay and prayed to God that further mishaps would and could be avoided.
We landed in Milano and the waiting bus took us to a small village called Baveno where we had our hotel, located right on the shore of the lake. We entered the hotel and opened our eyes wide. A lobby like a museum, a luminous ceiling of stainless glass, precious carpets on the floor, and marvelous paintings on the walls. We received the cards to our rooms, we dumped our luggage there and started out on our Italian adventure by boarding a motor boat and sailing around the lake. Our guide talked about the surrounding islands which most of us knew and had visited in the past.
Back at the hotel and in the dining room we enjoyed a beautifully served dinner while looking out at that wondrous lake which surrounds the hotel. Quite tired because we had been on our way since 4 o’clock in the morning we entered our rooms.
Every unknown hotel room gives reason for interesting discovery. I took a look at the bathroom which was dark. I switched on the light. And suddenly all the lights went on all over the place. But I wanted the light in the bathroom only and nowhere else. This seemed to be impossible. It’s either the whole place or nothing. I played with the switches back and forth and lamps went on and off never where I wanted them. Here and there I found myself in complete darkness. I decided to leave things as they were and have a shower anyway.
The light became a problem again when I noticed that the balcony was brightly lit. I did not need that, and bright and shining light on my bed stopped me from falling asleep. I started to play with the light switches again, which kept me occupied for quite a while and then I finally phoned the desk.
“Lady,” said the receptionist, “leave it, it turns itself off automatically at 10 o’clock!”
Wasted labor, time and energy.
Traveling in our bus we were awed by the magnificent region, the sheer beauty of a European country which has enough rain and sun and lakes and everything a country needs in order to flourish. I stood with Nitza on a small bridge and said to her:
“Look at all that, the lush woods, the waterfalls, even the trees seem to be smiling which is no wonder because they are so well-fed! Look at all those things which they have and we don’t!”
“Yes,” she said quietly, “but they don’t have Jerusalem!”
In Torino a local guide boarded our bus for a city tour. A pleasant woman with a weird knowledge of English. She kept on translating from Italian I suppose, and said things like:
“Now after we pass the next fire…”
What fire? Which fire? Well, maybe we misunderstood or didn’t hear well, but when she kept on saying:
“Now we get to the next fire,” Nitza came up to me and whispered:
“A fire? Where is the fire? She scares me!”
It became clear to us that by “fire” she meant a red traffic light. I don’t really know if this translates from the Italian. We were kind of relieved when she left us.
In a village, or maybe it was really a small town called Casale we visited a synagogue which was well-kept and tended with love. The place has only 8 Jewish people living there. No minyan or maybe just for the high holidays when local people who have left for other big cities come back to visit their hometown.
Traveling for hours in the bus we never tired of looking at the magnificent scenery and realized again and again that God has been so good to the Italians.
Our tour came to an end and one morning we were on our way to the Milano airport which is called “Malpensa.” I was considering this name and thought why should an airport be called that? “Mal” means bad in several languages, “pensa” means “thought” so together it would be “Bad Thought.” When we entered the airport we finally knew why.
We were walking and walking and hardly knew why, where and how. Somebody really had had a bad thought!
Now, after a full week of La Bella Italia, it’s good to be home!