The Little Things Can Change a Lifetime

Author: Nathan Card

Tags: Europe, Italy, Semi Finalist, Vacations

Winding cobblestone roads, with walls seemingly growing ever closer, until even the smallest Fiat can barely squeeze through. Frigid stream water, rushing down from the heights of the Alps. Old buildings, adorned with open shutters and the occasional lizard, worn down by the tides of time, lining the piazza. Such is the landscape in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region, situated between Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. Outside Trieste and Udine, the region’s two largest cities, life is simple and the land is beautiful. The commotion of Rome and Tuscany is absent in Italy’s northeast corner.

Laghi di Fusine are two lakes in Friuli Venezia Giulia, just over the mountains from Slovenia. The water is nearly crystal clear; a blue-green tint only adds to the beauty. The serene lakes are juxtaposed with towering stone peaks. Pine trees and rock formations line the shores, and animals thrive in their natural paradise. The entire setting is pristine. When I visited amidst the record-breaking heat of the summer of 2011, I was in awe. Never had I seen a more perfect place in nature, seemingly untouched by the chaos and destruction that humans often bring. Hollow logs were filled with natural spring water (the best water I’ve ever tasted). A gentle breeze created tiny ripples in the otherwise still water. The birds chirped, the frogs croaked, the insects buzzed, and everything went on just as nature intended.

Before visiting Laghi di Fusine, I had very little appreciation for nature. I had always enjoyed the outdoors, but going outside was just another thing to do. I simply didn’t care for seeing new things. My dad, with his meticulous planning and his itinerary as his Bible, was determined to see Laghi di Fusine and enjoy it as best he could with two loud, frustrating, and impatient pre-teens.

Determined to see things for myself, I told my dad I wouldn’t go far, and I marched off. There were rocks to climb and lizards to chase, although I could never catch one. I found and scaled a large stone pillar that towered over the surrounding landscape, a natural throne rising above the brush and smaller boulders. In reality, the rock was maybe six or seven feet tall, but everything is relative (and, in the story-telling fashion of the typical eleven year old, exaggerated). For some time, I sat still, perched atop my magnificent pillar, taking in the sounds of nature and the incredible scenery. I truly began to appreciate nature in earnest from atop that pillar. I wanted to see more, I wanted to explore, I wanted to learn what else my surroundings had to offer. The world (or at least a square kilometer or two of northeastern Italy) was my kingdom, and I was at peace. I had a difficult time finding peace at that age, so the feeling of belonging in nature stuck with me, and is one that I have not forgotten. 

Two years ago, while playing Geoguessr, a game which randomly generates images for the player to identify, a familiar picture of a shimmering lake against a mountain face appeared. Déjà vu. I found the pine trees, I found the rocks on the shore, I found the hollow logs filled with spring water. Once again, I had found Laghi di Fusine. I’ll go back to those two lakes someday, I’m certain of that. When I return is only a matter of time.