Passport Stamp: Northern Italy!

Eryn Iman traveled to northern Italy and enjoyed 7 days of serenity and sustainability. She enjoyed learning more about the modern-era relationships between humans and the environment while enjoying delicious pizza, pasta and wine. 

Ever since I saw a photo of the azure blue waters of Verona and the delectable looking pasta and pizza, I knew I wanted to visit Northern Italy. The areas I visited (Ponte Arche and Torbole) were small and intimate but filled with TONS of information, fun and historical relevance!

My experience in Northern Italy was nothing short of perfect. I know this sounds very generic, but it was truly a life-changing experience. I’m blessed that I was able to learn more about myself and my passions, while also eating yummy foods and exploring sustainable practices. I hope you enjoy this guide I created to 7 days of serenity and sustainably in northern Italy!

Day 1: Ponte Arche

Check-in at the Hotel Posta

The reason I want to start by mentioning my stay at the Hotel Posta is because the owner, Tanja, was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. One afternoon, she had a talk with our group and a lot of what she said to us stuck with me. The purpose of her talk was to tell us why she is passionate about the career she’s in. Tanja started by reminding us that:

“… everyone has a gift and it’s important for us to selflessly help others with our gift. If you give, you receive.”

At the time of this trip, I was entering the last year of my undergraduate studies and excited but nervous about my next chapter. Seeing her genuine passion and having her remind us that we all have a path meant for us was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. This nugget is an important reminder at any stage in life though. At one point her life Tanja worked very hard to migrate to the USA and work there with her son. In the midst of telling us the story of her journey, she reminded us that:

“If you have a goal, you do everything! There is nothing that stops you.”

When I was younger, my Father would always tell me that there is no need to stress about anything, God will work it all out and stress adds nothing but negativity to your life. Tanja pretty much told us the same thing. She said that in her opinion:

“It’s bad to keep everything inside, it creates stress! – Keep yourself and your body free of bad feelings! Your subconscious is real and stress builds in your body and will show in your skin or cause other health issues.”

I’ll never forget meeting Tanja or these nuggets she left us with and if you want to stay at a warm and friendly hotel, I definitely recommend the Hotel Posta.

Day 2: Ponte Arche:

Introduction to the Area

The beautiful greenery and mountains surrounding Ponte Arche were so refreshing and a nice change of pace from busy and congested Los Angeles (where I was living at the time). Honestly, all of the greenery in Ponte Arche made me feel homesick. Initially, all that I could think about was Mt. Rainer and my home city, Seattle! Seattleite’s, when you visit, I want to know if anyone else draws any parallels between Italy and Washington State.

A primary aspect of the region of Northern Italy I really appreciated was the educational components. On our first day in Ponte Arche, we received an introduction to the area. One introductory presentation that stood out to me was one on Trentino’s environmental policies by Elena Guella. Elena is a consultant for the Sustainable Development and Nature Reserves Office of the local government (Provincia Autonoma di Trento). I thought that when Elena Guella said:

“where people put money is where people care.”

It was, sadly a great way to summarize politics everywhere. Another standout quote from Guella’s presentation was:

“men are not only destructive; they can also be creative!”

A lot of times in conversations about modern-day sustainability, people speak negatively about the relationship humans have with the environment. It was refreshing to hear someone speak positively about the power we have to implement change and development in the world.

Day 3: Ponte Arche: Fiavé

Hike to Fiavé (2 miles, 400 ft elevation gain).

We started this day with a LONG hike. Not only was I reminded of the beauty of nature, I was also reminded that I need to work out more… BOTH reminders were very humbling! Anyway, the destination of our first long trek was the Castel Campo Sustainable Farm.

Guided visit at Campo Castle (historic residence and organic farm)

Mariana, the woman who owns the Castle property was SO inspiring. The way she cultivates the fields is highly sustainable. She started off her explanation of their practices by saying:

“We should try to go along with nature’s rule. Life was created by nature, not us. I try to observe, then apply!”

Such a simple statement, yet, so powerful. If more people truly lived by it, the world would be a different place. I don’t think that prior to this trip, I’d ever vsisited a field where the natural process of nature was the sole entity sustaining the crops. Marina reminded me that:

You don’t have to empty a field to grow your own.

With the way she grows their crops, they don’t use pesticides, waste fuel OR give the crops any water, they just allow for nature to flow naturally. How awesome is that? Marina ended our tour of the field with a quote that’ll stick with me for a while. She said:

“We are part of something, we are not the owners, we are not masters of the world. If we keep thinking that we are the owners, we are not going to survive!”

In addition to gaining a lot of knowledge while at the castle, I also gained a FRIEND! I know that this was not the point of the trip BUT my favorite part of visiting the castle was getting to snuggle with Baby Leah (Marina’s granddaughter)! Marina’s whole family was genuine, welcoming and intelligent.

Day 4: Ponte Arche: Fiavé

Vist at the Fiavé Pile Dwellings Museum and Archaeological Park

Fun Fact: Deer Antlers were used as combs! Cool? I thought so.

Our visit to the Fiavé Pile Dwellings Museum, followed by the archeological park was a full circle learning experience. At the museum, we learned about pile dwellings. This term refers to the piles supporting the wooden decks on which dwellings were erected. They weren’t built over the water but rather the banks of the lake, this made the conservation of them easier due to the fact they weren’t fully submerged.

While in the museum, my group was tasked with learning about the cultural and environmental factors that shaped the everyday life of the pile-dwelling inhabitants. Something that I found particularly interesting was that the traces left by cutting tools on animal bones make it possible to identify the way in which the animals were butchered, and the meat consumed along with the use of bone, teeth, and leather.

As we were walking back from visiting the pile-dwelling site, I looked up and saw rays of sun shining through the clouds onto the mountains and fields. I think this was one of the most authentic and humbling sites ever. I could just feel the warmth of God radiating and felt so blessed to be on this trip, learning about the importance of the environment and sustainability. This quiet minute of reflection gave me time to make a promise to myself that I am going to make sure I live a life where I am always practicing things that help sustain the environment, not hurt it.

Day 5: Ponte Arche – Trento

Visit to MuSe in Trento

Our visit to the MUSE museum ignited my inner curiosity, fueled my passion for discovery, experimentation, and critical thinking! The MuSe embodies a modern, innovative and sustainable institution. The museum is built like a mountain and as you climb up the stairs, each floor hosts different exhibits with each topic building on the previous one.Unlike most museums, there isn’t a lot of writing in the exhibits but rather there are different experts standing near each exhibit, eager to answer questions. The engineers of the museum purposely did this because they want to encourage human interaction and promote the reciprocity of learning. In addition, also with the intention of creating a different and more interactive experience for museum visitors, unless they were super rare, most exhibits were not in a case!!

The Tropical Butterfly House really brought science to life for me (it also reminded me of the butterfly exhibit in the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington). Our tour guide, geologist, Marco informed us that the butterflies typically arrive as pupae and some of these butterflies will start emerging the day they arrive or the next day. Other species may take a full week before they reach adulthood. After emerging, they may live for a week or maximum, a few months. Interesting, right? Hopefully academics and engineers follow the unique model of the MuSe museum and structure more museums like this because humans everywhere can benefit from this type of teaching! Maybe, just maybe, some of us can take our inspiration, energy & creativity and build a museum like this in LA or King County?

Day 6: Ponte Arche – Storo and Brenta Dolomites

Visit to Armanini Fish Farm

Visiting the Fish Hatchery was such an unique experience. Fish can live in different types of water. They have 4 farms with different types of water for the fish. At the facility we were at, the river water that they used varied in temperature depending on the season. They put different types of fish in different containers based on the water and where they can survive. Exportation wise, in this area they had a lot of problem with connection because of the road. They used to mostly sell to restaurants nearby. Many logistical issues exist at this fish farm and the mountains being remote and isolated are a significant reason why many people don’t live there. It’s admirable that they’re able to keep their business running! Now, they only sell to big distributers because it’s easier for them. Prior to this visit, I hadn’t really thought about where my fish was coming from. Now, I am going to try to be more cognizant of where my food is coming from, especially when eating fish!

Day hike to learn about pastoralism in the Dolomites (life in malga and cheesemaking)

The Dolomites were BREATHTAKING! There were a few times when we were hiking up that I lost my footing and thought that my life might end BUT I’m here! Lake Molveno was BEAUTIFUL! It was formed about 5,000 years ago by a landslide and is the deepest lake in Trentino. It’s about 4,000ft deep and is one of the largest alpine rivers! It was one of the most remarkable sites I have seen. I am not really able to put into words how beautiful the sites were or how surreal the views were. In addition, visiting the cheese making laboratory that we stopped at midway through our hike and discussing “food mileage” was very thought-provoking.

Dr. Fissore said something that really stuck with me and I need to put into practice.

“It is better if we are cognizant of the food we are eating, season by season, like clothing.”

I have a “want it now at any costs” mentality and I need to get rid of that. I need to eat fewer foods that aren’t locally grown and cultivated and more foods that are natural, locally grown and in-season.

Day 7: Torbole – Riva del Garda

Tour of the Riva del Garda Hydropower Plant

This visit built on our previous visit to another hydroelectric power plant run by the same company. As an aside, I think it’s great that our daily activities, concept wise, built on each other.

Anyway, this plant was unique because history and sustainability were directly intertwined. This plant has been in operation since 1929 and is still in service, using the water from the waters of Lake Ledro, a natural lake formed in the ice age. The force of the falling water is transferred into electricity that powers the region. The multi-stage pump was very interesting to see! The process of releasing the water back into the environment was super cool. It fascinates me that they can take the water from Lake Ledro, run it through their process, and return it to lake Garda without any contamination. This is hopefully an example the USA can better adopt and a step for us to move towards more green energy practices.

History and Geology of the area

Today was pretty special because we got to experience something that the public and many Americans don’t normally get to, but should! We had the opportunity to visit a few historic sites related to World War II and the arrival of the US Army in the Garda region.

Our first stop, which was the one closed off to the public, was the Air Raid Center. This was where people went to hide from bombings! It was initially a German bunker, but when the Germans started to retreat, it started to be utilized by the town as a hiding place/shelter from bombs. Going inside really humbled me because in the 10 minutes we were in there, I was FREEZING! I couldn’t imagine having to live in there for 4-5 day incriminates.

The guides were telling us that when they initially were looking through the bunker, they didn’t find much, but they did find a rosary! They said this showed them that this was a physical shelter for people but also a space where people grew stronger spiritually. After this tour, we went on a guided hike of Mount Brione. The tour guide was SO passionate about teaching us about the history and climate of the mountain and surrounding area I asked her “what inspired her to do such extensive research on the area” and her response was so heartwarming. She responded:

“I am passionate because roots for me are important. To see where I come from and the place I am living is important. – this has always been a place of traveling and migration. – I see lots of potential! I don’t want people to be scared of the land, I want them to be proud. My Grandpa was a farmer, I’m not a farmer but this is my connection to the land.”

I pray that in the future, if a student asks me why I decided to go into the career field I do, I inspire them and am as genuine as she was.

To close, I’d like to give credit where it is due.

A love lock or love padlock is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, monument, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. 

Dr. Cinzia Fissore, Juri, and Manola, thank you for putting so much time into creating this seamless schedule for us while making sure we always felt comfortable in a place so unfamiliar to us. We weren’t the easiest group, but they took care of us like we were their children and they didn’t have to. I’m forever grateful for this experience.

Northern Italy embodies sereneness and sustainability. Hopefully at least one of these little nuggets that I received inspired you also and provided you with enough information to self-plan a trip to Northern Italy! Please feel free to email me or send me a direct message me on Instagram.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

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