The Good, the bad, and the absurd

As most of my readers know by now, I write about all sides and faces of Italy. We would all like to imagine a perfect place on earth called “Paradiso” but the truth is that it only exists in our imagination. So here is my daily dose of reality in the midst of my last adventure.

My husband and I just spent 5 glorious days on Lago Maggiore. This lake is big and full of fresh water fish like the perch my brother catches back home in our own Canadian lakes. It goes without saying that I really liked this place. Over the next few days I will post photos and write about what we did in the region of Stresa and beyond, but first I must tell you about our most memorable event.

Adventures on the Mottarone Cable Car:

Mottarone Cable Car

On July 18th, my luck was as clear as the blue sky and as dark as a rain cloud hovering over one particular cable car. We started our journey early in the morning, our destination was Mottarone, a mountain 1.491 meters above sea level with a spectacular panoramic view of 7 lakes and the Alps.

You can drive, hike or take a cable car up and also choose to hike or cycle down but after we saw photos of the trail I voted to hike. (Note: even the serious cyclists took the main roads back down and not the designated trail). There are 2 stops: first is Alpino which is about the half way point; the second stop is Mottarone and then you continue further up in a ski chair lift to its peak.

Me at the top of Mottarone

The view is amazing and we were lucky to have a clear day to see all the lakes. It’s a 3 hour hike back down so we decided to take the cable car back to Alpino and hike from there. We had tickets for the Giardino Botanico Alpino so we decided this was the best spot to kick-off our hike. (For the record, the Gardens were disappointing compared to Isola Bella)

We boarded our cable car and luckily it was not jam-packed with people like the one on the way up. We were moving quite slowly and with the swaying of the car I was starting to get a bit nauseous when suddenly, with only a short distance more to arrive we stopped. The cable car guy picked up the phone and exchanged a few words then pulled out some bungee ropes and roped us into the sides of the car. What’s going on? He said nothing to us and just went to task with opening and closing hatches above and below and began to rig up some kind of device with a crank and spool of cable.

Operation LORD help me!

I’m sure by now my husband, who is more experienced with this sort of thing, had caught on to the gravity of the situation and he asked the guy what the problem was. The guy just said there was a technical problem with the car. I love my husband but sometimes asking him to translate can be frustrating. I understood what the guy said but wouldn’t it be more useful to ask the guy what the solution was instead of the problem?

Only when the car operator pulled out an orange and yellow sling, clipped it to the cable and asked a woman to get in did it suddenly occur to all of us that we had no other way out!  At this point I started laughing and said is this a joke? He then opened the bottom hatch and told her she must be lowered out of the car to safety. HOLY CRAP! This guy is not kidding…this car is broken and we’re stuck up here. As you will see in this video below, most of the passengers were English speaking and this woman was also slightly handicapped.

Out the hatch!

I’ll admit, although I’m not afraid of heights, I do get a bit anxious when I’m trapped somewhere and I experience a bit of claustrophobia. After watching the cable slip and one person was dropped a few feet I had a minor panic attack and that’s when my husband and my new Dutch neighbors insisted I go next. After 1.5 hours I was on ‘firma terra’. I’m not sure if I was more afraid of the journey down or of being stuck in that cable car for eternity.

They said it had been 8 years since the last time it broke down. Anyways, the cable car guy is my hero and he managed to get everyone out safely. We never did catch his name but there is cold beer waiting for him in Genova should he ever come our way. Grazie Mille to all the crew at Mottarone Funivia!

My Hero!


About lmarmstrong66

I'm a blogger, painter, writer, singer. For the love of all things in nature and creativity.
This entry was posted in Italian Culture, Nature, Tourists, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to The Good, the bad, and the absurd

  1. epublius2010 says:

    Oh my, what an experience! Like you, my first thought would be “is this a joke?!” Despite the hiccup, sounds like a marvelous time. Thanks for sharing your experience, it was both refreshing and humorous!

  2. Great post! I’m not so sure I would have handled it quite as well as you! Great shots! It’s a beautiful place! Thanks for posting.

  3. SallyK says:

    Wow, kudos to those guys! Obviously they were trained for just this situation and they carried thru. You just never know what the day may bring… North Coast Muse @

  4. Noor says:

    This is quite an experience you had. Glad to know that everyone was safe, and the cable car guy was indeed a hero.

  5. Nicole Froio says:

    That’s amazing! Those guys are awesome.

  6. That is crazy. I’m super scared of heights, so I might have sh*t myself on the way down. Lookout below!

  7. Oh my goodness! Well, nothing like an emergency evacuation to make your adventure even more memorable. Thanks for the video – that really brought it to life: reassuring words of passengers, the creaking and squeaking gear, the supporting cable the size of large dental floss. I was starting to get nervous just watching. Great story and thanks for sharing with us! ~Crystal

  8. cheneetot08 says:

    Now that’s something highly unusual. Great job on those skilled men, who pulled through and made it in their crowning moment. I’m sure they can say to their selves i’m glad I took the training seriously.

    • Yes, I’m glad they took the training seriously too, haha.
      After I met my husband working on cruise ships (he was a Safety Officer at the time) I gained a new appreciation for my own role on board as a crew member. We all do mandatory safety training but most of us “entertainers” moaned and groaned about it and didn’t take it too seriously.

  9. buytupperwarebangalore says:

    Gosh…a truly scary experience.

  10. Tami says:

    WOW! I think the sound of the crank lowering you out of the car would scared me to bits! Everyone seems so calm in the video – a day no one will ever forget!

  11. Hey Zues! I would have passed out. I knew there was a reason I never get on those things. Thank goodness that guy was there. I would have kissed the ground first and him second! 😉

  12. Señora López says:

    Okay, my husband is from El Salvador, (and I’m from the U.S.) – They have these cable cars in ES and my husband has said before that he wants to take me, but you just showed that my greatest fear is a possible reality!

    Glad you all made it out safely. I hope the cable car guy finds you and gets that beer he deserves!

  13. Wow! Wonderful (that you all got out) and that you had that kind of experience (and lived to tell the tale). I think it’s great when sometimes our limits can be pushed (even just a little) as it helps us to see the person we really are or the person we really can be. You did wonderful!

    Side note: I have a friend who’s last name is “Paradiso,” and my partner and I would very much like to visit Italy in the near future. We intend on doing a kind of ‘roots’ trip where we go to Ireland to see her roots and Italy to see my roots. 🙂

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  14. Nora Weston says:

    Whoa! That was quite an adventure. Happy to hear it all worked out. 🙂 I’ve never been on a cable car. It does sound exciting!

  15. jknitt says:

    The real question is, will you ever go in a cable car again?

  16. gmomj says:


    Oh Yeah send the old lady first till you get the kinks worked out of the pulley system!

    Yikes, I would have have slept happily in the cable car!

  17. lalomino says:

    oh my, how scary!! That poor old lady must have had a real adrenalin boost!!!

  18. historyP.I. says:

    Wow this must have been quite a nailbiting expireience for you. You handled it quite well though. Thanks for sharing. Wonderful post.

  19. Great pictures! I love the way you casually tell the story. It’s kind of scary that they were so well prepared for a failure. But that’s better than the alternative I guess.

  20. I will never again get in a cable car without thinking of you and your story. Oy. Glad everyone was safe and good natured, and yay for calm, knowledgeable heroes!!!

  21. Brooke says:

    I’d shit my pants. I’d probably shit my husband’s pants while I was at it.

  22. Uh oh, I’m getting a panic attack just thinking about it. My blog today was about my fear of heights and falling.

  23. Linda says:

    I am pretty sure that as the guy started pulling bungie cords and what not out that would have been the end of me. Actually I would have had to have been passed out cold to be in that cable car in the first place. I have the biggest fear of heights ever.

  24. lightenup says:

    What an entertaining story. Thanks.

    I’m with the fainters. As soon as the creaking started, so would my freaking!

  25. Robert Bain says:

    A wonderful post but the video put me right htere as a participant. Thanks

  26. Evie Garone says:

    I can’t even imagine. I think that’s straight out of one of my nightmares. I’m glad you are ok!!! and then a 5k walk, Oh, no!! God please help me! Wake me up now!

  27. bearyweather says:

    Congratulations, you lived through what most people fear about riding in a cable car (how to get out if something happens) … heights scare me.

    It makes for a great story and an unforgettable trip, though.
    Thanks for sharing.

  28. Tanya says:

    haha! Adventure always finds its way to surprise you!

  29. lilabyrd says:

    Wow that sounds like my kind of luck! All I would have been able to say is “No. no, no,no,no…..oh hell NO!” All the way down…lol….but your photos lead me to think it would have been well worth it all! Thank you for letting us live through you and your photos….I well never be able to see this any other way so thank you again!

  30. annket says:

    This is quite an experience you had.

  31. oasis says:

    It’s very exciting.

  32. nunin says:

    Cable cars are terrible.

  33. Terrifying! I cannot believe how slow the bloody winch went and the crackling it does on the way down.

  34. Sun says:

    i felt nervous watching the video… i cant imagine myself there…

    Did you say it took 1.5hrs to reach the bottom?!…


    • The sound of the creaking also freaked me out and when you are going down it is very eerie because you can hear the cable clicking and I kept looking at the mountain clip thinking it was going to unscrew and release me at any moment. You are also going in circles! Anyways, it was only 5 minutes going down, but it felt like an hour! It took almost 2 hours to lower everyone out so I was in that car at least 1.5 hours. I’m a bit claustrophobic so being in the car that long took more of a toll on me than getting out of it!

  35. Nicely written, entertaining, although I’m sure at the time that was the last thing on your mind!

  36. Delorfinde says:

    Well, that’s one holiday you won’t forget, right? Means you’ve got something to say when the relatives are over and you can’t think of anything to say…

  37. sayitinasong says:

    Well, dont blame you for having a panick attack. I would’ve been exactly the same! I have dreamed of living in Italy myself- I am so glad I found your blog- I find it so interesting and now I can live vicariously through you! :o)

  38. Mike says:

    So glad you are ok! Yikees!

    • Hi Mike! Would love to know how you guys would have been on that cable car together…I am sure that your dynamic duo would have had some funny couple stuff and fights to write about, haha. I have to admit, when my husband was not very forthcoming with asking the guy more questions in Italian I was getting a bit ansy myself and had to hold my tongue : )

  39. Glad it ended well – no wonder you were anxious – bit it looks like you were in capable hands.

    Found your blog through ‘Freshly Pressed’ – really glad I did. I really enjoyed reading your posts – very well written – lots there of interest. Well done.

  40. Shelley says:

    OMG!!!!! Wouldn’t that have been a Happy Birthday to Me!!!! You would have needed drugs to get me outta that thing, lots of them!!!!!

  41. Italy is well known for its fabulous Cars; Ferarris, Lamborginis etc… But ask them to build and operate something as mundane as a cable car – Forget it!

  42. eloradaphne says:

    Oh man Leah, just got around to reading all your adventures. You are one of the most unlucky people I know! if it can go wrong, you have to be there! But kudos on taking it so well! And all in all I’m glad you liked Lago Maggiore 🙂

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