Riva del Garda that fall was glistening just enough.
But like all the lake towns I have been in, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Because little of my life has been spent on lakes, I tend to judge their towns unfairly, and dismiss them as dull substitutes for ocean towns.
Kafka came here. So did Nietzsche, when Riva del Garda belonged to the Austro Hungarian Empire. It has been Italian, or rather, a part of Italy, for almost a century now.
It is hard for an outsider to measure the fading gloss of more glamorous years. There is nothing diffident about the place. Just a moody elegance.
Times come when, fairly or unfairly, towns turn. This can happen instantly, as with the end of a season when summer people pack up their belongings, shutter their cottages and drive their cars with sandy floor mats home to the suburbs.
Or the turn can bend through any one of a number of slow fades, brought on by boredom or fleeting fashion or even political fear. The patina a tourist town holds is never a sure thing and, as people in Niagra Falls would remind us, can oscillate violently.
Whatever oscillations Riva del Garda has been through, whether mild or harsh, seem to have left the town in fine shape. A speckled veneer, chipped and flecked with more than a century of the comings and goings of fashionable and not so fashionable visitors, can be as charming as the town itself.
It was good that fall afternoon in Riva del Garda where the indigo sky let you know that whatever winter was like here, it was not far off.