The thing about au­ronzo di cadore

Pho­tog­ra­pher natalie mc­co­mas re­calls her time in the ital­ian hol­i­day town.

Frankie - - LEARN SOMETHING NEW -

The thing I first no­ticed: Af­ter a wind­ing, hec­tic drive up from Venice through fairly rugged ter­rain, we came round a blind moun­tain cor­ner to see a neon aqua lake beam­ing right up from the cen­tre of the Au­ronzo val­ley. For the next two weeks, I looked out our apart­ment win­dow mul­ti­ple times a day, just to catch glit­ter­ing glimpses of that aqua.

The thing about the lo­cals: There was a laid­back feel about the peo­ple of Au­ronzo. Most would nod and greet you as you passed by, and it seemed like they were mak­ing the best of be­ing out­doors in the warm sum­mer weather, sun­bathing in beach chairs or hik­ing in the moun­tains. One day there was a lively group play­ing cards next to the lake, and they made grand ges­tures for me to come join in their fun. I loved lis­ten­ing to the rhythm of the Ital­ian ac­cent while they were deep in con­ver­sa­tion with each other.

The thing about the colours: Ev­ery hour of the day, the moun­tain colours changed around us. Sil­ver-blue in the early morn­ing, then grey and dusty to­wards noon. Just as the sun went to bed, they’d turn into flu­oro, peachy peaks. There were brightly painted, larger-than-life gelato cone stat­ues on the side­walks, and pro­fusely bloom­ing pink and red flower boxes hang­ing from nearly ev­ery win­dowsill and ter­race.

The thing about the land­scapes: Mount Tu­daio watches over the vil­lage from the east. Early in the morn­ing, Lake Au­ronzo was per­fectly still, mir­ror­ing rows and rows of old pine trees and the tow­er­ing moun­tain range that rose steeply be­hind the vil­lage. Au­ronzo is a short drive to the Dolomites, a UN­ESCO World Her­itage site of lime­stone alps. We hiked into some breath­tak­ing scenery there. The thing about the food: Nat­u­ral yo­ghurt-flavoured gelato was a favourite in­dul­gence for me, as was nib­bling on for­est berries while hik­ing in the woods. There was plenty of fresh, lo­cal pro­duce avail­able, and most nights, din­ner was sev­eral rounds of hearty food cooked by Aunty Maria. I par­tic­u­larly en­joyed her rab­bit stew, lasagne and roast capsicums.

The thing that sur­prised me: There were mul­ti­ple wa­ter foun­tains with large, stone basins placed throughout the vil­lage, con­tin­u­ously run­ning with chilly, fresh wa­ter straight from nearby moun­tain springs. I spot­ted neigh­bours wash­ing their fresh veg­gies and fruit; we’d fill up our drink bot­tles for the day. It felt so bizarre to walk away from a run­ning tap you could never turn off. I couldn’t be­lieve how plen­ti­ful their wa­ter sup­ply must be!

The thing about the ar­chi­tec­ture: Au­ronzo is in the north­ern­most re­gion of Italy, only a short dis­tance from Aus­tria, Ger­many and Switzer­land, so there’s a mixed in­flu­ence on the ar­chi­tec­ture. Dur­ing win­ter, the vil­lage is cov­ered in snow, so the build­ings are mostly steep-roofed chalets with slen­der ter­races, small win­dows and brightly painted tim­ber shut­ters. The older style res­i­dences are charm­ing log cab­ins with carved de­tails on their tim­ber bal­conies and little brick chim­neys. I would have given any­thing to peep inside!

The thing I fell in love with: A baby goat in some­one’s front yard that I passed most days on my walks into the for­est. He had a little bell around his neck and a tiny black kit­ten in his pen, too. They were best mates, and I had a smile on my face the whole time I watched them frol­ick­ing to­gether.

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