Pandemic Travels From My Sofa: Walking in the Mountains of Italy, Switzerland and Austria,

Walking is the thing that’s helped keep me sane – so far – throughout the pandemic. That and blogging with its virtual community, still there when I can’t see my other friends. I’ve resisted The Dolomites - near selva using the term ‘lockdown’ because, for me, that would have meant the end of the permitted daily exercise outside the house and I’m not sure how I’d have coped with that. Mountain walking wasn’t something I did until my late twenties, although I did start in a big way when H and I spent a few months travelling which included trekking in Nepal. There are three countries much closer to home of which I have fond hiking memories to revisit. If you fancy a bit of virtual exercise with the odd city break plus links to a few reviews thrown in, you’re welcome to join me. We’re off to Italy first.

It was on our way to the Dolomites that the idea of railway holidays took root having flown to Munich where we spent a very pleasant evening before catching the train into Italy. The destinations listed on the Munich station departure board held out the tantalising prospect of a bit of real travel. We’d booked two hotels for this trip, the first of which was in the tiny village of Badia and very smart in a laid-back kind of way it was too. The Via Garibaldi (Genoa) second was in Selva, still a village but it felt almost like a city after a week in Badia. The walking was all we’d hoped for although there were a few too many cyclists intent on keeping their stats up rather than avoiding us on the paths around Badia. The wildflowers were gorgeous as was the pudding buffet on offer in our second hotel, recced every night by a few anxious diners even before they tucked into their starters.

Our most recent visit to Italy had nothing to do with walking but I loved the city of Genoa with its splendid mansions and mosaic lined colonnades so much I can’t not give it a mention. Not nearly so crowded as the likes of Florence, where I spent a wet Cover image November week years ago, or Venice, which I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice, and it offered a glimpse of real Italian life.

Italian travels from my sofa: The Eight Mountains, Ties, Three Light-Years, My Mother is a River

We could go either way over the border to Switzerland or Austria but let’s take the Swiss route as H and I did a couple of years back, revisiting the sweet little town of Adelboden. Many of the walks were familiar from a previous holiday but just as gorgeous with spring rather than summer wildflowers to enjoy plus a bit of marmot-spotting. This time we managed to fit in a visit to the immaculately kept church opposite the delicatessen whose sculpted cow View from Adelboden (Switzerland) moos now and again advertising the cheese counter inside. With its richly coloured stained-glass windows and stars painted on its wooden beamed ceiling the church is a little gem. Its central window was designed by Augusto Giacometti, a relative of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti. This was the church where we’d seen a freshly married couple picked up and seated on top of some hay bales before being carried off on a very small tractor last time we were there.

Swiss travels from my sofa: Housefrau, Sweet Days of Discipline, Year of the Drought

Cover image for A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler Off to Austria for two more weeks high in the mountains above Zell am See where more marmots were spotted. We’d been hoping for another Adelboden but Zell has suffered from a little too much tourism losing some of its charm on the way. Oddly, it’s become a destination for young Saudis, some in traditional dress looking a little out of place against an alpine backdrop. The walking was so enjoyable we never got around to exploring nearby Salzburg. Apart from a brief stop in Innsbruck while hitching around Europe, back in the day, when we turned up to find everything closed on a Saturday afternoon, my other two visits to Austria have both  been to Vienna, once on a winter break when I was struck by how conservative the city felt and the second in the summer at the end of our first Central European railway jaunt when it seemed entirely different. What a difference a season makes.

Austrian travels from my sofa: The Tobacconist, A Whole Life, The Empress and the Cake, Me and Kaminski

I hope that’s stretched your virtual legs a bit. Any vicarious travels you’d like to share?

25 thoughts on “Pandemic Travels From My Sofa: Walking in the Mountains of Italy, Switzerland and Austria,”

    1. Pleased to hear you enjoyed your virtual trip! I’m so fortunate to live in a beautiful city but I can’t help missing that exciting feeling of exploring somewhere new.

  1. Three of my favourite places to hike… add the French Alps and the Romanian Carpathians and you’ve coverered all the basis. How I miss my beloved mountains!

  2. How marvellous that you got to go trekking in Nepal! (I stumbled virtually across this random book today, if by chance it appeals: We loved our time in the Swiss and Austrian Alps in the summer of 2016,and also enjoyed spotting marmots and chamois. It was quite the whirlwind adventure. I read A Whole Life and Me and Kaminski on that very trip! I’ve read a couple of your other picks, too.

    1. So long ago! And we did it totally independently. Thanks for the link. I’ll check that out. Reading A Whole Life in the Alps must have been wonderful. Seethaler captures the social change brought by tourism so well.

  3. What a lovely way to revisit your old travel articles and book reviews. Living in Budapest and normally a frequent user of short- and long-distance trains myself, I see what you mean about the Munich station departure board.

    1. Thank you! Actually, Budapest was one of the destinations that got me so excited on that board. I’ve since visited your beautiful city, although sadly not by train. A plan for more ‘normal’ times.

  4. buriedinprint

    We had to suspend our daily walks for nearly three weeks because seasonal allergies were making us sniffly and sneezy and we didn’t want to make other people nearby, also walking, nervous–and, aiyiyi, did we miss them! (Resumed this week, fortunately.) So, yes, you’re quite right, in thinking that that ritual is twinned with sanity-saving! Mind you, staying in did make it a much easier to manage allergy season, far fewer bad headaches and sleep-fraught nights, so that was a good lesson to learn, I suppose. I’d always wondered how much difference it would make to simply remain indoors. I’ve not read a single one of the books you’ve mentioned, but I enjoyed reading through your “travels” nonetheless!

    1. Much sympathy with those allergies. My father was beset by hay fever but fortunately neither my brother nor I inherited it but I know how miserable it is.

      Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour!

  5. My sofa legs are well and truly stretched, thank you! I loved both Seethaler’s books – I hope more get translated.

    1. You’re welcome! A Whole Life was my introduction to Seethaler’s writing (and Charlotte Collins’ excellent translation skills). I read it after our Austrian walking holiday and it summoned up what Zell must have been like before the advent of tourism so well. Such elegant, pared back writing.

      1. You are so right to highlight Collins’ input – I forgot most of the time that it was a translation which I always think is a sign of high quality work!

  6. I have always walked daily, but have never appreciated it quite as much as I have the last few months. When it’s the only thing you can do, it feels like such a luxury!

    I have actually been reading some books about walking! Post to come eventually. 🙂

    1. It’s a wonderful way to keep fit, much more enjoyable than going to the gym although I live in a town built on hills so that helps get my heart rate up. I’ll look forward to your walking post, Naomi.

  7. Ah, thank you, I enjoyed this virtual vacation! One of the few bright sides is that our world is getting a little breathing space to recover from what we put it through. Hopefully we can gain a fresh appreciation and respect for it when we’re free again.

  8. Lovely post. I’ve spent time during ‘lockdown’ walking (a lot!) and organising the photos I took when we travelled to Germany, Italy and Greece in 2018/19. It feels like a distant memory now but the highlight of the whole trip was our walk on Path of the Gods on the Almalfi Coast in Italy.

    1. Thanks, Kate. Path of the Gods sounds wonderful. I might go back and take another dekko at your post for that trip. I’m thinking of travelling on my sofa to Germany sometime this month.

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