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A bridge of two halves

la dolce vita

in Travel , Thursday, May 29, 2014

About 3km from where I live in Switzerland is the town of Ponte Tresa, named after the bridge over the river Tresa, which drains Lake Lugano into Lake Maggiore, and marks the border with Italy. Ponte Tresa is actually two separate towns sharing the same name, with a Swiss side and an Italian side.

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The bridge over the Tresa. Italy starts at the signpost.  Note the contrast between the spotless, perfectly maintained railing on the Swiss part and the rather more, er “relaxed” look on the Italian side…

Both sides, it is not unfair to say, are rather run-down. Old photographs show a much more prosperous past. Lifting of most border controls, and the shifting patterns of commerce have drastically lessened their status as frontier towns, with just a few fly-blown import agencies as reminders of past glories. But even so, the two sides are remarkably different. The Swiss town keeps up appearances, but seems lifeless. Even the banks are closing. But of course it is clinically clean, quiet and tidy, and the surrounding holiday homes and lavish apartments on the hillsides above and by the lake lend a solid air of Swiss prosperity. The Italian town, on the other hand, is scruffy, chaotic, noisy and vibrant. Even the dingiest bar serves great coffee at crazy low prices, the shops are open in the evening (gasp) and even on Sundays (even bigger gasp) - although the smaller ones take a healthy afternoon siesta. On Saturdays it’s great to just wander over the bridge for a jolt of culture shock and soak up the atmosphere. At weekends in the warmer months there are floods of German, Dutch and Swiss-German tourists, all eager to go bargaining in the wonderfully, ahem, authentic Italian market, where they’re sure to be fleeced by traders from authentic Italian locations such as Pristina, Poznan or Bucharest… or maybe on the odd occasion Palermo. But it’s all good fun.

Ponte Tresa feels like monochrome photography. So here are a few scenes from around town.  These are all taken with the Sigma 60mm DN lens, and converted in Nik SilverEFX.

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Of course I don’t want to knock my adopted country, and there are some quite obvious economic reasons why commerce is dead on one side of the border and thriving on the other (and then again, why there are beggars on the street on one side and not on the other) - but even so, the difference in atmosphere is quite remarkable, given that both sides, in theory at least, share a common Lombardy culture and the same language.

Posted in category "Travel" on Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 10:28 AM

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