Weeks of wet weather in Milan have hinted that winter is on its way. But although the heating in our building came on last month, and Stefano is talking about wearing a beanie on his morning walk to work, and I've made my first minestrone soup for the year, it just doesn't seem very cold. Not really winterish at all.
But this morning when we we stepped off the train at Lecco, on Lake Como, we finally felt a wintery, alpine chill in the air. Above Lecco is the closest ski field to Milan, Piani d'Erna, only half an hour by train, and then a short bus trip to a cable car up the mountain. Hoping to discover a weekend ski spot, we took a day trip to reconnoitre before the heavy snowfalls arrive.
At Piani d'Erna we discovered a few mountain lodges and a couple of bars and restaurants, almost all of which are closed until late December. It is a very small downhill ski field, with only a couple of lifts to service what seems to be a beginners' ski area.
While it probably isn't quite what we're looking for as a weekend ski area, it was exciting to see evidence of winter's imminent arrival.
On our way back down in the cable car, some of our fellow passengers were so excited about the first snow of the season they'd taken a sample to keep in the freezer at home.
And we were pretty excited too.
We will definitely return in summer to explore more of the mountain walks and rifugi, but we will keep looking for a ski field close to Milan.
L'inverno e' sulla buona strada.
Trains to Lecco from Milan leave once an hour - 9.40 Euros for a single return ticket.
From Lecco catch the Number 5 bus to the Funivia Piani d'Erna cable car station. The bus stop is located diagonally opposite the front door of Lecco train station. Buy bus tickets from the news-stand at the front of the exit tunnel. Bus tickets are 2.60 Euros for a single return ticket. Buses were only running once an hour, but are more frequent during the week.
The cable car tickets are 10 Euros for a single return. In the winter the cable car runs every half hour but is closed for a lunch hour from 12.30-1.30pm.
Bar Funivia at the base of the cable car serve good panini, German style beer and great coffee. Lunch was 16 Euros for two.