Annecy at its surface is a wonderful resort town nestled in the French Alps, fun in the summer, fun in the winter. Filled with cafes, ice cream stands, old shop-lined streets, and picturesque little restaurants, the town is snuggled next to Lake Annecy and surrounded by the towering mountains of the Alps. When we try to describe the town in one word, “pleasant” easily comes to mind. The weather is perfect, the sun is out, life seems slow but stimulating, and all seem to be smiling.
With all of this, it is easy to forget or not even acknowledge its profound history at almost any point starting all the way back with the Romans. This little town sat at the crossroads of three Roman routes, and therefore a very strategic position both before and after the Romans ruled. Then in the Middle Ages, it was part of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire. In the 16th Century, it played a big role in the Protestant Reformation, when the historic diocese of Geneva moved to Annecy. The area didn’t escape the French Revolution either – the ideas were well known among the bourgeois of Annecy and in 1972, French troops invaded. During WWII, the area was invaded by the Germans and Italians, which eventually led to the Germans taking control over the whole area. And today, it is one of France’s most visited cities, which we can attest to by the number of French tourists in the narrow streets.
While here, we definitely have a bunch planned, but we are also hoping to slow down a step. Spend a little longer at breakfast and lunch. Meander through a couple more streets than we may normally do. Sit on a stoop or next to the lake and just absorb our surroundings. We love staying busy, but a couple deep breaths seem to be encouraged by this town, and we’re excited to do exactly that.
Kind of like Disneyland, this day featured Matterhorn as our backdrop. We start the day early from Torino as we drive our rented Fiat 500 towards Cervinia and the mountains. As we drive, night turns to dawn, and the mountains along with Roman ruins in their foothills come into view.
We aren’t entirely sure what we are getting ourselves into. The mountains are relatively naked of snow, the weather warm, we haven’t really packed a lot of ski stuff (as we both only brought carry-ons), and we’re hoping it’s going to be easy to figure out lift tickets, rentals, and the rest. We are also hoping that I’m going to be able to manage the narrow, mountains roads in our manual car.
After a couple false starts like the most convenient rental spot being out of skis, we hit the slopes just as the sun is hitting the entirety of the mountain. And although they are having to make some of their own snow, our first several chair lift rides to get up the mountain are as spectacular as we imagined they would be.
Usually while skiing (for the once-every-other-year ski trip I typically take), I enjoy chili in a bread bowl with some grated cheese on top for lunch. It turns out Cervinia doesn’t have this on the menu. We grab our trays and enter the line not really knowing what’s going to end up on them by the end. We immediately grab a pair of rolls (which turned out to be free… we should’ve gotten more) and some nice cheeses. We continue down the line, skip the prosciutto, reluctantly skip the buffalo mozzarella, and then order some pasta. The lunch is a delicious reminder that we’re definitely still in Italy. We eat sitting outside overlooking the Alps.
Before the day wraps, we make it to the top of the mountain. The winds are heavier, the temperatures are a little colder, but all is worth it because the views are even more spectacular. Surrounded by mountains on every side, I feel at the same time so small and so big. And as we ski down the last run of the day, the sun slowly slips behind one of these peaks leaving only the tops of other mountains still in light. Exhausted, we find a local coffee shop on the road back to Torino for a cafe dopio and a chance to flip through the many pictures so we can immediately relive what we just did. Looking at these pictures kind of feels like looking at the picture of yourself with your hands raised in the white and red carriage of Disneyland’s Matterhorn already feeling nostalgic for the amazing day that isn’t quite yet over.