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:
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.
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.
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.
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!