In true backpacking fashion, Kendall and I arrived in Garda, Italy only to hear from a local that there weren’t any more buses going to Assenza (where our Airbnb was located). We found wifi at a lovely restaurant, messaged our Airbnb host, Gabriella, to request a ride, and ordered a bottle of red wine, a pizza with ricotta, spinach, and spicy salami, and another with mushrooms, artichokes, and other fresh veggies. Amidst the quick rerouting of our expectations and plans, a calm washed over us - what was there to worry about? We were safe, fed, and together - all of which were cause to be blissfully happy and at peace. We savored our meal, and, just as we finished and started questioning what our next move should be, Gabriella arrived. She was a sweet, older woman who was half Italian, half British, with an Italian husband. After driving on dark, curving roads, we arrived to find that our apartment was beautiful with hardwood floors, lots of natural light and space, and a balcony with peekaboo views of Lago di Garda.
We began our first full day with a walk down a dirt path that wove in and out of our neighborhood to an outdoor market where we bought as much delicious, fresh food as our arms could carry. We returned to the apartment, and reveled in the taste of the reddest of strawberries and strongest of Italian coffee. Our conversation rippled around reflections on all the challenges we’d conquered and how grounded we felt as a result. Perhaps gravity felt stronger, yet we knew we were the ones who were changing.
I wrote for a while, and then we unpacked. The balcony called us to indulge in more of our market findings. We delighted in bites of salami, cheese, baguettes, and sips of beer. On full stomachs and too much coffee in our veins, we ventured on another walk, but veered instead towards the lake and tourist office where we were given lots of information on the town we were in. For two hours, the shore’s edge guided us, and we followed along willingly. The petite town and towering mountains made us feel right at home, as if we’d discovered a kind of Lake Tahoe abroad, but with a sweet touch of Italian architecture and the smell of purple wisteria in the foggy, humid air.
The next day, we went to a medieval village, situated high up in the hills amongst the olive trees, looking down on the current town. The hike was quite steep with long, winding roads through scattered neighborhoods nestled in the mountainside. The feudal village had only one family living there, and the scene was out of a fairytale. We leaned over windows to see frames of houses taken over by ivy, inviting us to imagine the families that lived there long ago.
Eager to spend our last day captivated by as much of the area as we could, we took a bus to a winery a couple of towns away. Upon arriving, we found out that we couldn’t tour the actual winery, only the museum section, as there was an expensive wine tasting happening on the premises. Our course recharted, we waited for over an hour for the bus and got caught in the rain. However, we still succeeded in enjoying our time together wherever we were, as we’d been reminded to do so earlier on in this trip. The next day, I hopped on a train to Grenoble in France, and Kendall boarded a train to Croatia, but Assenza on Lago di Garda in Italy has never left our reminiscence.