Picture of valcamonica There are only about three roads connecting the valley that Livigno is in with the rest of Italy. Two of them were closed for the season still so we followed the road through Bormio down into the lake district of Italy. Once out of the higher Alps, we crossed one more valley to the east so that we could drive down the Valle Camonica shown here. As you can see, the mountains tower over the center of the valley. The town in this photo is Capo di Ponte.
Picture of castle The main reason we visited this valley however, is the rock art sites that can be found throughout it. Parco Nazionale Incisione dei Rupestri contains the greatest concentration of these, and is located precariously high up on one side of the valley. For the record, you are supposed to park at the bottom and hike up to the top. We had a few problems deciphering those instructions out of Italian so we not only drove up the little cobblestone path to the top - we also went back down it in reverse. Incidentally, we know nothing about the church in this picture. It is visible across the valley from the national park.
Picture of deergod There are over 140,000 petroglyphs in this valley. The inscriptions are not deep, and thus can be difficult to see, even standing in front of the rock. The range in the valley is phenomenal, from paleolithic animals and neolithic designs all the way to Roman inscriptions. Those pictured here are Iron Age figures. At right is the so-called 'Deer God' believed to represent the forces of nature. Other common subjects include duels, boats, dogs and weapons.
Picture of us The park itself is heavily forested and nearly every rock too big to be carried off has inscriptions on it. After staring at highlighted areas of certain rocks for some time we decided that you might have to be a trained archeologist to see some of them. Particularly interesting, some rocks had original iron age carvings with later inscriptions added by Roman legions who visited the area.
Picture of street From renaissance Venice to medieval Switzerland to prehistoric rock drawings, we had now run out of history going backwards, so the only thing to do was head for the nearest resort area and have one last good dinner before we left Italy. Our choice for this was Bellagio, a town on the end of a peninsula which juts out into Lake Como. Bellagio is perched on the side of a cliff that comes down to the lake (which can be seen briefly in this picture). As a result roads going towards the lake are basically cobblestone stairways. The lower floors of buildings contain restaurants and shops. Particularly common in the shops here are leather goods, estate jewelry, and amber. We stayed about a mile or two out of town and drove back in for dinner. The town seems to be particularly popular with British tourists and in season (summer) is quite crowded (or so we were told).
Picture of como From the surrounding hills, various villas surrounded by Lombard poplar trees look out at the lake. Ferries also criss-cross the lake connecting all the villages along the shores. We ate dinner in a restaurant where nearly every other patron was English-speaking. We had been somewhat unaware that Bellagio was quite so popular, but we'd chosen it based on a magazine article, so perhaps everyone else had read it too. For dinner, David had what was quite clearly the best bolognese sauce imaginable. We also both had affogato for dessert. We haven't mentioned that yet, but it is an Italian concoction of ice cream and espresso and it will definately leave you awake and something like alert.
Picture of bellagio We stayed at the Hotel Silvio, and there is no hotel we stayed at on this trip we would recommend more than this one. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, the rooms have balconies overlooking the lake and surrounding hills, and the public areas are fantastic. We spent the evening in between the bar and the fireplace (which was complete with sleeping dogs) sampling a variety of amaro liquors. Amaro literally means 'bitter' and is an entire class of Italian drinks which are just that. They do vary considerably however and we found several of them to be excellent. We left early the next morning to go back to Malpensa, the Milan airport, which is really not very close to Milan at all. Malpensa can be translated as 'bad idea' which pretty much sums up the way Italians feel about it. Despite that we had no problems in Malpensa on the return trip and would instead recommend that Ft. Lauderdale Int'l airport be renamed Badidea.

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