National Geographic : 1968 Jul
close enough that I can understand." The mayor and his friends were dumb founded. The dining room of La Peppa was filled by now with villagers having a glass of wine or an espresso after the day's work, and the mayor shouted for everyone to come and hear an American who spoke the local tongue. Donna had to answer a lot of questions in dialect before we could get back to the matter of the trip to Vegessa. We arranged to rent two jeeps and went to bed. I awakened to an unfamiliar sound. At first I thought it was a peal of bells, each with a different tone, ringing all over town. But the bells didn't stop. Suddenly I real ized that I was in one of the last places in the world where you could be awakened by the sound of hammers on anvils, There were times during that ride up the mountain when I wished Donna hadn't understood the dialect. If she hadn't, our hosts might have decided against taking us. And bouncing around narrow curves on rock-studded roads, I wasn't sure just how grateful I was for the invitation. Jeep No Match for Premana Switchbacks In a number of places the switchbacks were so sharp that the jeep couldn't make the turn (page 76). More sensible men would have sighed and turned back. Not the mountain men of Premana. They sim ply drove the jeep as near the edge of the cliff as it would go-and about two feet farther than I would have tried to make it go-then went into reverse and backed up to the next hairpin curve. Then, just as the back wheels started small rocks tum bling down the mountainside, they went forward to the next elbow and repeated the process. I hope you will understand how we did it. I will never understand why. But perhaps I do. Because Vegessa is such an idyllic mountain Shangri-La that I might even be persuaded to do it again. Might, I said. A stream of crystal-clear water tumbles down a steep mountainside into the valley, Broad apron of fertility separates Lake Mezzola, center, from Lake Como. Once marshland through which the Adda Riv er poured into Como, the Piano di Spagna -Plain of Spain-has been reclaimed for farmland. The name originated during Spanish rule of the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.