On the piscina trail from Lake Como to the Dolomites

Soon after our plane touched down in Milan in early May I felt like a swim.
The weather was warm and I needed to stretch out after the long flight but when I stepped inside the closest piscina (the Italian word for pool) to our friends’ place in Milan I realised I didn’t need a swim that much. The four lane, 25-metre pool was stuffy and every millimetre of the water was filled with bodies doing aqua aerobics and squad. I decided to wait till Lake Como, our next destination on our five week trip in northern Italy.
At the spectacularly beautiful Lago di Como I got an even stronger urge for a dip even though my Milano-based friend Jenny said the Italians think it’s unhealthy to swim in the lakes. She said they have a fear of being caught in seaweed and drowning like a group of children did in the 1960s, and so they leave lake-swimming to the tourists.
On our ferry trips around the lake the water looked pristine to me. So I wasn’t put off but when the locals said it was far too cold to be wading in, I decided to check out the lido.
But the one in Menaggio was closed and was not due to open for another couple of weeks. Oh well, I thought, maybe I’ll swim in the sea at our next destination on the Ligurian coast.
But when we walked down to the harbour at Manarola, our base for a week in Le Cinque Terre, I couldn’t find a spot where I could safely get in.
I postponed my dip till later in the week when we visited Monterosso where there’s a proper beach.
But after exploring the town, the water didn’t look very inviting and when Bruce said if we hurry we can make the next train to Manarola, ‘out the window’ went the idea of a swim.
When we headed north to Belluno to watch a stage of the Giro D’Italia bike race, I was not hopeful of finding a suitable place to swim.
But on our first day in the Dolomites’ town, I spotted a small brochure with Belluno Di Piscina on the front. The next afternoon I left Bruce watching the Giro on TV and headed to the pool.
In the change rooms I met Fabbiana, whose husband was also at home watching the cycling race. She helped me attach my locker key to my cossie, showed me where to leave my shoes and where to shower, a compulsory activity before diving in.
Finally I was having a swim and from the moment I was in the 6 lane x 25 metre pool I was impressed. It was very clean, the water was a perfect temperature and loads of light poured in through the glass panels. When I turned on my back I could see the sky and clouds and as I swam along I felt my body relax.
“Belissima piscina,” I said to Franco, one of the friendly life guards when I’d finished my swim. He said they worked hard to keep it clean, pointing to a machine at the other end, and that caps and showers before swimming helped.
Then I joined the kids and adults bouncing off the springboard in the diving pool and watched more daring souls somersault off the tower.
When I walked out of the Belluno Di Piscina I was transformed and ready to get into the Giro excitement in the town.
I returned to the pool two more times that week when the Giro turned Belluno pink.
On the train back to Milano I thought I’d had the last of my Italian swims until ….
Stay tuned for the next episode!


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