On Thursday morning, we left Venice and headed north into the Alps and the
province of Trentino. This took us first through the Valpolicella wine
region, and then into the Dolomite Mountain range. This picture was taken
from the roadside in the vicinity of Bolzano.
This region has castles on nearly every mountain and hilltop. They vary from
a few stone walls and ruins to well-kept fortresses that can be toured. We
didn't stop at any, and we saw so many that we're not even sure where this one
was. Some small town in northern Italy.
As we approached the Swiss border, the roads became narrower, the mountains
higher, and the towns smaller and less frequent. The last Italian town we
drove through was completely walled and featured cobblestone streets that
were barely car-width. The first town in Switzerland, Mustair, was our
destination. Here is located the Abbey of St. John, built in the 8th century.
18 Benedictine nuns live and work in this abbey still.
The most fantastic feature of this abbey are the Carolingian frescoes in the
chapel. Many of them have decayed in the intervening 1200 years but what remains
is truly incredible. Naturally photography is prohibited inside so you'll
just have to take our word for it. There is an amazing sense of antiquity associated
with the building and its relics as well. This is the cemetary behind the chapel.
The castle on the mountain in the distance is actually back across the border in
The valley of Mustair and the town itself are worth seeing as well. The surrounding
Alps disappeared up into the clouds while were there. This section of Switzerland
speaks Romansch primarily - a local dialect which we assure you is completely
unintelligible to those of us who are restricted to English, French and Italian.
We left Mustair and followed a high pass back into the Italian Alps. A blizzard
raged at the top of the pass before we went into a long tunnel towards Livigno,
our next destination.