After 40 years in Italy, a country rich in natural beauty, incredible monuments and historic cities, comparisons with Canada were inevitable. On our first evening, the road where our hotel was in Montreal reminded me of Leeds. Two days later, while staying in an old colonial-style hotel on Lake Beauport, north of Québec, a very suggestive lake surrounded by fir trees, the scenario was very similar to Northern Italy. We were taken to see lumberjacks at work sawing logs for the tourists in a forest no different from those back home in Trentino or Abruzzo. Thus we set off on the next leg of the tour feeling rather disappointed: we had as yet seen nothing to compare with the natural beauties of Italy.
It was only when we started covering 400 kilometres or more per day, by coach, that I began to experience the true impact of Canada. The extension, the dimension, the immensity of thousands of kilometres of uncontaminated forests stretching endlessly, in a province seven times the size of Italy, was truly gripping.
The St. Laurence River was mind-blowing. Incredibly, at Montreal it was two kilometres wide, but that was nothing compared to what we saw further north at Tadoussac, where we embarked on a whale-watching cruise. The river must have been at least fifty kilometres wide at that point, for the opposite bank was invisible and there was no horizon; the river and the sky just merged into one immense, infinite sea of blue, made all the more memorable by the spontaneous, natural performance of the whales.
The whole holiday was a crescendo of emotions culminating in the overwhelming experience of a boat trip right into heart of the Niagara Falls, surrounded by the thundering, overpowering natural energy of millions of litres of cascading water.
The cities, too, were fascinating: Québec and Ottawa, two beautiful cities of European appeal, both old and new, and Toronto, much more American with its skyscrapers dominated by the CN Tower, its chaos and melting pot of cultures.
I came back to Italy with a different outlook. As Seneca said, “It’s important not to see different things with the same eyes, but to see the same things with different eyes.” Canada helped me do just that.