First I stayed with a couch surfer named David in a mountain town in Switzerland. (I posted pictures last time.) Wonderful solitude! This picturesque valley, little Swiss houses, big Swiss mountains. He said "Do you like deer? They come out at night and hang out over there." (pointing to some land literally next to his house)
Last night in Breno, Italy, and more so tonight in Modena: wonderful socializing! They both have cobblestone old city centers, and both were full of people. Especially tonight; it felt like a grand festival, but I'm pretty sure it's just another Saturday night. Perfect 70 degree weather, restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. Beautiful people out, y'know, being beautiful.
Italian city centers are what we lost when we moved to car-centric suburbs, and Swiss mountain towns are what we never quite gained.
Here's one bit of life I don't envy: slogging through flat bits of Italy and getting lost a lot. I went 200km in the right direction today; pity that I also went 100km in the wrong direction. Well, I guess not all the roads can be Swiss and amazing. (I think I may be spoiled for the rest of the trip. It's hard to compete with riding through the Alps.)