Northern Italy, June 2013


I originally planned to spend two days of sightseeing in Torino, but a flight got cancelled and so I spent half a day being bored in Munich airport instead.

But, luckily, the movie cinema stays open late on Saturdays (until 11pm), so I did manage to visit the place.

Fake caffee at real movie museum

I visited the museum more than a decade ago, and while it is a neat museum on its own, the most interesting thing about the place is the elevator.

The Torino cinema museum is located in a building that was originally designed (but never used) as a synagogue and is (essentially) a tall spire,

Cinema Museum, Torino

And there's a viewing gallery close to the top of the spire.

And the elevator that leads to that viewing gallery is just hanging straight down from the ceiling - no elevator shaft at all, just four guidance cables at the corners of the glass elevator. So the experience of riding that elevator is quite impressive, especially as it starts at the 'cellar' of the building, so it starts like a normal elevator ride and then suddenly the view 'opens up'.

View from glass elevator View from glass elevator View straight up from free hanging glass elevator

The only other elevator I have been in that 'feels' similar is the one at La Defense in Paris.

This is what the elevator looks like from the inside of the museum:

Torino museum elevator Torino museum elevator Torino museum elevator

Obviously, once you reach the viewing platform, there are also nice views across the city and the surroundings, but the main attraction is still the ride up to it.

Viewing gallery at platform level View of Torino from Mole Antonelliana View of Torino from Mole Antonelliana

On Sunday I wanted to have some more views over the city - but this time not from within the city, but from a hill nearby. Fortunately, I didn't have to climb up the hill, as there was an old 'tram' (using on a rack system) running up to the top. The tram is mostly a nostalgic tourist attraction so it doesn't run that often (mostly about once per hour) and it's kind of old fashioned. But it's a nice ride and gets you to the top easier than walking.

Torino rack tram Torino rack tram Torino rack track

Ostensibly, the purpose of the tram is to make it easier for people to reach the basilica at the top of the hill.

Superga Basilica near Torino

Though, more realistically, it allows them to walk down on one of the hiking paths in the area. Or just to sit there and enjoy the view.

Looking towards Torino

And it's not only humans enjoying the view.

Lizard staring Lizard staring

It's a great vantage point for seeing the whole landscape around Torino, but it was a bit of a hazy day, so it doesn't look as impressive on photos as it did in real life.

View of Torino from Superga View of Torino from Superga View of Torino from Superga

An oddity of Torino is this rather eccentric building - the first three floors are real and (as far as I can tell) inhabited, but the upper three floors are just a facade.

Half-real building, Torino Half-real building, Torino

Tremosine Canyoning

I needed to be in Como the following week, so I had the opportunity to spend another weekend in Northern Italy. I looked for things to do around Lake Como. I couldn't find anything that sounded exciting (there probably are exciting things to do there, but I don't know about them), so I decided to drive to Lake Garda instead, since they offered canyoning.

I did do canyoning in Greece last year and it was fun, so I wanted to try a tour in Italy as well.

Booking the tour took a bit of negotiation. The company I went with offers eight different tours and I wanted to do one of the easier ones, as I've only done it once before and I'm also not really even in the "sportive canyoning beginners" group. So something nice and easy seemed appropriate.

But they have a minimum group size of three people and had only two other bookings - for a tour towards the tougher end of the spectrum (a tour I didn't really dare to go on). But (a bit of stroke of luck here) there had been a lot of rain two days earlier and the river for the harder tour had a high water level and wasn't really safe for a tourist tour. So they convinced the people booked for that tour to 'downgrade' to a mid-level tour (which was following another river where water level was much less critical) and convinced me to 'upgrade' the difficulty and try to do that instead of the easy tour.

Which worked fine.

The tour I went on looked quite scary on paper, but was fun and surprisingly easy to do.

Though part of the 'easy to do' has to do with being able to use alternatives. For example, there was a 10m jump, which was quite scary, but it was always possible to opt for going down on a rope instead. (Which was what everyone but the guide did...)

What was quite different from the tour that I did in Greece last year was the wider variety. In Greece, it was a 'pure' abseil tour, so you walk down the river for a bit, abseil straight down, walk a bit further, abseil straight down and so on.

On this trip there were more 'sloped' abseil parts, unroped slides and jumps (in addition to the 'normal' abseil parts).

For example, right at the start were a couple of steep slopes where you don't abseil down the 'usual' way (i.e. feet pointing towards the wall), but where you lie on your back and then 'slide' down in a controlled way by lowering yourself on the rope.

Abseil slide on canyoning tour Abseil slide on canyoning tour

After the first 'abseil slide' was a short one, we followed the river for a bit.

Following the river while canyoning

But there were also higher slopes to move down the same way.

Abseil slide on canyoning tour Abseil slide on canyoning tour

And for those slopes that didn't have any nasty protruding rocks at the end, there was always the option to have the rope just a bit shorter than needed, so the end of the rope would slip out and you could splash down the final meter or so (you can see the rope coiling back a bit above the climber in the next picture,

Abseil slide on canyoning tour

Some water walking down the river...

River hiking

...and then some 'normal' abseiling.

Starting with a small waterfall. I went down there alone, but the other two decided that it would be fun to go down at the same time, which, admittedly, looks much more impressive.

Abseil next to a small waterfall Parallel Abseil Parallel Abseil

Not everything was a 'real' abseil, though. At easy places, a just grabbing a fixed rope was sufficient to walk down a rock.

Down a knotted rope

But also lots more regular abseil bits. (I am not quite sure whether it is really the right place, but I think that was the point where there was the option of having a 10 meter jump. But nobody took that option, so everyone abseiled down. The thing flying through the air in the third picture is just the rope/equipment bag the guide was carrying.)

Abseil close to a waterfall near Tremosine Abseil close to a waterfall near Tremosine Abseil close to a waterfall near Tremosine

A couple more 'minor' bits and then the 'big one' was looming up ahead.

The big drop...

In the description it was described as a "60 meter abseil", but the reality was not quite as scary as that sounded.

For one, the actual altitude difference is only about 45 meters (Though I didn't measure it, but that's what the guide said) as it's not straight down, but has a slope at the beginning. So while it's about 60 meters of rope needed to go down, you're not really hanging in the air 60 m above the ground.

In fact, the first part you slide down on your back, similar to what we did on the first sections of the tour. And then, probably about half of the way down, you roll over, move a bit to the left and 'walk' down the wall for the rest of the distance.

So instead of being scary, it was quite enjoyable doing this bit.

Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall Big abseil at waterfall

The only one having to work hard on getting down was the guide.

Climbing ropes have a 'standard length' of 60 meters. So we could get down without a problem. But if the guide would have done the same, there wouldn't have been any way to unhook the rope once he was at the end of it. For that reason, there is an additional attachment point at beside the waterfall about halfway down, so the guide can double up the rope, climb down to that point, and then pull at the other side of the rope to get it out. And then pull the rope through the lower attachment point and do it again.

Guide descending waterfall Guide descending waterfall Guide descending waterfall Guide descending waterfall

The rest of the trip added one new element: Unroped slides.

There are a couple of places where the river has created a (mostly) smooth channel that wasn't too steep, so we could just sit in them and be swept down with the water.

This is a lot of fun, but a bit more scary than the other stuff, since you got no control at all once you start sliding. You are specifically told to keep your arms close to the body and never, ever try to steer or brake, as it won't do any good, but can make things a lot worse.

Unfortunately, I only have one picture from doing the first slide - the reason being that sliding down is quick and easy to do (no roping up or anything), so by the time you arrive at the bottom and take your camera out and ready, everyone else has already come down.

Rock slide

After the water slides there was a bit more river walking and the option of a closing 3 meter jump. (Which I didn't to - but I did a rather unplanned one meter jump when trying to get into a good photo position to photograph someone doing the three meter jump and slipped on a rock...)

River walking River canyon near Tremosine

A great tour and, to my surprise, completely appropriate for my (rather limited) skills in canyoning.

The rest of the day was spent mostly at the terrace of the hotel I was staying in, writing postcards and enjoying the rather impressive view.

Tremosine panorama view, Lake Garda below Tremosine panorama view, Lake Garda below Tremosine panorama view, Lake Garda below Tremosine panorama view, Lake Garda below

It also turned out to be a night of full moon, so (after a nice dinner), I could also enjoy the view of the moon rising and looming large over the mountains.

Full moon near Lake Garda Full moon near Lake Garda Full moon near Lake Garda Full moon near Lake Garda

Arco Quad Tour

I got up early next morning to do some driving to do some driving.

I had booked a quad tour and that was starting in Sarche, about 20 km north of the northern end of Lake Garda.

Lake Garda quad tour Lake Garda quad tour

The tour was one of the longer quad tours (about four hours), though it was mostly sightseeing oriented. So while we were 'off road' and going through stuff like wine yards and along meadows for a bit, most of the tour was on gravel roads, small mountain roads and regular roads. The main focus was on enjoying the view and visiting places and not about doing crazy driving in gravel pits, hillsides and driving through rivers.

After about two hours of driving (and having some fresh strawberries at one of the strawberry fields in the area, we stopped at Drena Castle, which not only has some odd sculptures, but also a tower with a great panoramic view.

Drena Castle Drena Castle sculptures Drena Castle sculptures title=Drena Castle sculptures
Drena Castle sculptures Drena Castle view Drena Castle view Drena Castle view

Another stop was at a semi-ancient roman bridge. While it had been built more than 2000 years ago, it had collapsed in 19th century and been rebuild (mostly from the original rubble) in 1865 or so. So, depending on your view, it's about two millennia or less than 200 years old.

It would also have been another chance for an impressive jump (people have jumped from the bridge into the river for fun), but as that was easily 15 meters down to the river, I declined the opportunity.

View from roman bridge down to water

The next stop was at a much, much older relict.

Walk (to) the dinosaur

A rock nearby showed some footprints made by a Scelldosaurus about 200 million years ago.

Scelldosaurus tracks

A Scelldosaurus was one of the smaller dinosaurs, but I still found it somewhat irritating, that my feet fitted quite nicely into the dinosaur tracks, which made me feel a bit like a dinosaur myself...

Me in the dinosaur tracks


After a fairly active weekend near Lake Garda (with canyoning and the quad tour), it was time to travel to Lake Como.

The Town of Como was pretty much as expected. A nice lakeside town with shops, restaurant and a lakeside promenade.

Como lakeside Como lakeside

And it wasn't quite as dull as my previous search had made me believe.

The Aero Club Como is located right at the lake and offers sightseeing flights with floatplanes.

They had an interesting selection of float planes, including some with a 'floating hull'. While floatplanes often are 'normal' small planes, where the wheeled landing gear has just been replaced by swimmers, there are some planes that were designed to be floatplanes and the hull acts as a floating device.

(Well, technically they are not float planes at all, but 'flying boats'. It seems that officially only planes with seperate swimmers are called 'float planes'.)

Aero Club Como Floatplanes in hangar Floating body plane

But ultimately, I didn't go 'flightseeing' and just did the 'standard' tourist attraction, the funicular up to Brunate. (Going up the hill on the middle-right of the next picture.)

Cable car going up the hlllside at Como

Unlike the train in Torino, which drives up the hill on its own power, the 'train' here is pulled up by a cable.

Como cable car

Oddly though, once you arrive at the upper train station, the view is somewhat limited and there is no really good view point. (But maybe that is not that odd. The cable car wasn't built to give tourists a nice view, but to transport people below the 'lower' city and the 'upper' city, so the houses up there surely have a great view, but they block the view for tourists.)

Como view from top of cable car

But there are great panoramic views a bit farther on. About a kilometer walk (uphill all the way) leads to a lighthouse and that has a fairly unrestricted view.

Lake Como view Lake Como sunset view

Having a lighthouse on the top of a hill seems a bit odd. It's not really useful for navigation and Lake Como is small enough that ships can easily find their way without it.

The lighthouse is more a memorial than a nautical feature. Alessandro Volta was born in Como, so they built the lighthouse to commemorate his death a hundred years earlier.

Volta Lighthouse Volta Lighthouse

As the lighthouse turned out to be a good place to watch the sunset, it was already fairly dark when I took the funicular back down to Como (at that time of day it runs just once an hour anyway) and was quite surprised that the whole track was brightly lit.

Funicular track

Not really related to all of this:
At the university in Como, there was a dead end corridor, which would have probably have been just left blank almost everywhere else, but they painted in an escalator, which is a nice idea...

Not really an escalator

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