“Go there today,” the woman in the café tells me. “You don’t get many days like today.”
“Not up the Spluga. You probably get about five clear days every summer, really clear days.”
I’d set off that morning, passport at the ready, with the intention of going up the border into Soglio in Switzerland. It was once voted the most beautiful village in Italy and it would have been beautiful – the perfect Alpine picture postcard – and I would have sat in a bar and drank coffee and eaten a brioche or whatever else was on offer, and thought I was in some earthly paradise.
She mentioned Spluga and I was off. I’d forgotten the road or rather I remembered it as far as Campodolcino and had forgotten about the sharp bends on the stretch afterwards up to Madesimo. The part where you literally traverse up the mountain pass and if my husband were driving, he’d have been belting his way up there, and I’ve have been shouting (possibly screaming) SLOW DOWN. Just SLOW DOWN. It never had that effect when I first met him. We’d be up and down mountain passes at all times of the night, on icy roads and with thick snow falling, and I don’t remember screaming at him. Then I got a bit older, and I’d met mortality. And that made me want to slow him down.
Anyway, today I was in control.
Then, after I’d driven up the few hair-raising bends, the whole landscape opened out. I’d left the trees behind. It was late March and the snow was still on the ground, although not as much as during some years. Where it had melted, the mountains were brown and in need of more days of sunshine before they would take on the colours of summer.
It was strange being up there in the snow. It gave the whole place a sense of false calm, as if the snow was covering its true nature. I’d expected it to feel wilder, more remote. Whereas it felt crisp and beautiful and slightly too perfect, or maybe that was the effect of the clear blue skies.