Mrs. Fleming would have approved of the civilized and elegant accommodations, and the daily ritual of meeting at 7pm for drinks before the convivial group dinner. The comfort was also a welcome reward for the daily exertions on the trails.
The Engadine, Switzerland’s easternmost valley, boasts some of the country’s most interesting and beautiful provincial architecture, cozy villages and a treeline so low that hikers are afforded panoramas of immense proportion. Our hiking hubs were Pontresina and Maloja; from each we made 3 loops and one walking day connected the two.
Village chalets intrigued us with their stories in sgrafitto (etched stucco walls), trompe d’oeil paintings on their brightly colored façades and brilliant window box flowers. Occasionally these painted houses were set apart from the towns, seemingly floating on vibrant green meadows; the contrasts were breathtaking. As was the azure sky, backdrop to the bright white of the glaciers clinging to magnificent peaks. And the weather! Oh, it was glorious! The only sprinkle we endured was during our sleep, at night, in the comfort of the castle-like Hotel Walther in Pontresina. We were lucky.
Our graciously guided private visits to museums were fascinating. The Engadine Museum in St. Moritz featured the valley’s typical furniture and interior adornments, mostly in wood paneling. At the Ciäsa Granda Museum in the Val Bregaglia’s wee village of Stampa, the kind, informative and passionate Marco Giacometti guided us through the collection of Alberto Giacometti’s renowned paintings, drawings and sculptures.
After eight days above 1,800 meters / 6,000 ft, we negotiated the rapidly descending switchbacks of the Maloja Pass and headed for Lago di Como, which we crossed on a lake steamer on the most beautiful mid-summer day imaginable. It left us virtually at the front door of the Grand Hotel Menaggio where we enjoyed our only overnight in Italia. Then it was a short ride in a not-so-blue (and not-so-VW) TASIS mini-bus to Gandria on Lake Lugano. Here a private yacht (okay, boat) took us down the lake for a leisurely lunch in Morcote before depositing us at Carabietta for the final hike up and over the Collina d’Oro, via downtown Montagnola and past Angelo’s old sandwich shop in Certenago to the very backdoor (or was it the laundry entrance?) to Villa de Nobili and TASIS itself.
After the eye-opening tour of the school’s recent, brand new, nearly completed and planned building additions, which kept our jaws near our knees and welled the pride in our chests, we finally were able to enjoy a perfect summer evening al fresco on the terrace of Ristorante Grotto Flora in Agra, joined by Lynn and Michael Aeschliman and their huge and gentle German shepherd. Flora’s famed risotto is terrific!
- Peter Boynton ‘69
Other hikers: Ellen Doscher Terpstra ’69, Lisa Runnells Markham PG ’72, Jonathan Reeser ’78 and son Michael, Amy Hall Ruggeri ’79 and son Michael