The driver of the taxi we got from the Bergamo airport into the centre of town was a young guy who spoke passable English.
He was friendly and talkative but that was probably a part of his tourist routine.
Still, he wasn’t worried about putting forth his opinions. I liked that.
After going through the standard patter about Bergamo and its sights, he asked us where we were going after Bergamo.
We told him we had booked four nights in an apartment in the town of Edolo in the mountains of north east Italy and after that, didn’t know where we were going but we had an eye on another town deeper in the alps called Bormio.
Why do you want to go to those places?
We wanted to go walking, we told him.
It’s was as if he didn’t hear us. Possibly he didn’t rate walking in the mountains too highly.
There’s nothing there!
They’re dead those places!
You should go to ….
We didn’t catch the name of the place he thought we should head to besides the fact that it began with a ‘L’.
It was north of Bormio and deeper in the mountains, close to the border of Switzerland, and it was the place to go.
Warming to his subject, he began extolling its attractions: it was a skiing destination in winter and walking in the summer and autumn. There were lots of bars, restaurants, shops….it was really alive!
We didn’t say anything but each of us thought to ourselves: this place sounds like the last place we would want to go to!
But of course he was a young guy and he saw things very differently to us.
From our perspective, we’d come to Italy go walking and our preference was to base ourselves in in historic towns. It was a great combination: walking and history. And as far as history goes, there’s no country in Europe like it.
But of course being a young guy – and Italian – the taxi driver thought walking was boring and as for history – well, he had grown up with it.
It was the modern, the new, which for him was exciting.
We spent two days in Bergamo, four days in Edolo followed by 4 days in Bormio. Each place was an experience in itself: a historical experience. From the feudal era to the baroque in Bergamo, followed by the middle ages in Edolo – a small village nestled on the mountain side – to Bormio, a town with a maze of narrow side streets, open squares, grandiose churches and behind it, the mountains.
Europe’s greatest museum.
At the end of our stay in Bormio we ran into a problem.
We were deep in the mountains but were running out places where we could stay and walk.
Perusing our map, Livigno came up on our radar.
It was an hour on the bus and close to the Swiss border – and we had completely forgotten about the taxi driver in Bergamo.
But sure enough, the ‘L-‘ came to mind after the bus descended into a long deep valley in between soaring mountains. We were a thousand metres above Bormio and the peaks here were heavy with snow.
But it wasn’t the mountains which got our attention.
It was the 8 kilometre long sprawl of chalets, apartments, boutiques, shops, supermarkets, bars, restaurants ….
‘L’ for Livigno.
This was not the place for us. This was anti-history. No character. Sterile.
Getting off the bus and walking around aimlessly with our rucksacks (we couldn’t check into our apartment until 4pm) it was as if we were more lost than we had ever been on our walks in the mountains. And we were experts at that.
I wondered why anyone on a ski vacation in this place would want to buy fashion clothes or watches or perfumes and so on? A ski vacation was not cheap. But I was missing the point. People liked to spend whilst on vacation.
And the taxi driver from Bergamo then? Did he save up all year whilst driving his taxi around the busy roads of Bergamo just to have a week or two in Livigno?
It took another day for us to put matters in perspective.
After that is we bought a map from a book shop and noticed an impressive network of walking trails on both sides of the valley.
Because this was a popular tourist destination, walking trails had been established especially to cater for summer tourists. Without that 8 kilometre long stretch of tourist town those trails wouldn’t be there.
Things came into view alright in more ways than one: this was a beautiful valley. We had fine weather and endless trails to follow. The history was now past tense.
The present was what mattered and yes, L had turned out to be a good recommendation.