Picture of roadway 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.

Picture of castle 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.

Picture of abbey 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.

Picture of cemetary 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 Italy.

Picture of mustair 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.


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