Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | Category: GUEST POSTS
Milano on the Mountain
Ed. Note: Martin Nolan is a travel enthusiast who likes to spend his winters on a mountain carving tracks and his summers on a beach sipping cocktails. He loves all things travel and travel related, and you can follow him and his views on Twitter at @martinnolan7. Read as he comes face to face with la bella figura on a recent ski trip . . ..
As much as it pains me to say this, stereotypes exist — whether they are offensive, inaccurate, colourful, funny or, dare we say it, true. Well, my stereotypical view of Italy is based on watching too many daytime cooking programmes. Almost every programme had an Italian chef. They may have been different shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of facial hair, but they all had one thing in common: they were massive extroverts. They passionately and flamboyantly waved their arms about as they cooked, as if they were conducting an intricate orchestra. They bellowed loudly after each sip, as if they had just tasted the nectar of life. Every movement they made, and every word they said was extroverted. Maybe it wasn’t a true reflection of Italians, but it was the only one I had. So, when I picked up the phone and booked my ski trip to Italy with Crystal Ski, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Surely, it was going to be completely different? I mean, food defines Italy. Whereas skiing, well I thought skiing was pretty much unheard of. Actually, before I decided to book the trip, I probably couldn’t even name a single resort. It was only after a bit of research about the 3Tre that I knew about Madonna Di Campiglio. And it was only after I knew about Madonna Di Campiglio that I went skiing in Italy. So Italians can’t be as extroverted when skiing as they are when cooking, I thought. It is just not possible.
Well, I was wrong. But it wasn’t until the second day that I realised just how wrong I was.
The first day was spent admiring the resort. Exploring every curve of the mountain. Slaloming my way from high runs in the mountains, down to the tree line. Carving track after track in the powder. Very few moments were spent even acknowledging what was around me. My goal was to enjoy the mountain, and the best way to enjoy the mountain was to go fast. Flying down the runs, while the Dolomites [in northeastern Italy] become blurry in my peripheral vision, was all that my mind was willing to take in. It wasn’t until later that I even noticed that there was anybody else in the village. It was as I walked to dinner, having to slalom in and out of couples, who were slowly strolling along the path in expensive looking outfits. It was the weekend, so I brushed it off. People always make more of an effort on the weekends. I ate, and then I went to bed, readying myself for the next day’s runs.
Your second day skiing is like the second time you kiss someone. There is less anxiety. You have
more time to realise what you’re doing and what’s around you. You’re basically much calmer. Your mind has more room to take in what’s around you. But it wasn’t the quaint village basking in the sunshine that caught my eye; it was the way people looked. They were turned out immaculately, not a hair or stitch out of place. There was me, bedraggled looking, having eaten so much powder that my face resembled Jack Frost’s. Maybe they were just better skiers than I was? Maybe they just didn’t try to push their limits as much? Yeah, that was it, surely?
As soon as evening came, I realised that Madonna Di Campiglio is the Milano of the mountains. The fashion capital. This town started life as a place for people crossing the Alps to settle at night, but now it is a trendy resort to see and be seen in. A place to strut your stuff, a place to promenade. (Ed. note: It’s the passeggiata of the peaks!)
Almost every evening before dinner, people set out in some of their finest clothes. Methodically walking along, each step well thought out, they meandered, in a slow purposeful manner, through the pedestrianised village, stopping at the boutiques and the stores selling hand-crafted goods. The point wasn’t to purchase anything; the point was to be seen. In true extrovert style, they wanted to be noticed, they wanted to make an impression. Their backs were straight and their heads held as high as a peacock’s. Maybe it isn’t done with the same fervent passion as the TV chefs, but the flamboyance was still there. Suddenly, it all made sense. It was as much about being in the resort as it was about the skiing.
That’s why their clothes were immaculate, and that’s why their faces were ice free. It wasn’t that they were better skiers. It wasn’t that they were more cautious. It was that they wanted to look better!
Madonna Di Campiglio was a place to be seen, and you wouldn’t want to be seen looking dishevelled, would you? As the days went on, I couldn’t even blame them. When the sun started to set and the lights went on, I also wanted to look good. It was almost like a cue to enter the stage. You started to feel that it was your duty to complement the sights around you. And with the views on offer from the surrounding Dolomites, it would be rude if you tarnished their photos with grotty clothes.
The slopes are great at Madonna Di Campiglio, with the 3Tre being a real highlight. But it is the views and the village that leave the biggest impact on you. It was enough to make this coy Englishman walk a little slower, dress a little smarter, and want to be seen. Not all stereotypes are bad and I was glad that a little of the Italian stereotype rubbed off on me. It made me an extroverted introvert. Well, at least for a week.