Just past the top of the Toce Falls in a flat green meadow is the tiny town of Frua, essentially nothing more than a collection of ancient wood and stone houses.
We walked among them, admiring the stonework even though much of it was in disrepair.
One ancient stone home, with three levels of green-shuttered windows, had an modern-day TV satellite attached to the old wall, looking very out of place.
A young fellow was there working on his recently purchased house. Feeling like we were very far away and high into the Alps, somehow it seemed incongruous to find he spoke perfect English. School abroad, he explained.
We paused at a water spout pouring into a large rectangle stone fountain, drinking in the pure cold water with our hands. Pointy mountain pinnacles painted a backdrop to the blue sky behind us.
This was the end of the Val di Formazza; the road petered out a couple of miles further up, at the town of Riale. Nestled at the foot of another rise of mountains, it looked very much like a village of Swiss chalets — not surprising, since not far off was the pass that connects Italy to Switzerland.
We noted the stone-slabbed roofs, which were prevalent throughout this entire area. A small church, la chiesetta, sat on a little hill overlooking the hamlet.
The end of the road and the end of the day — Gianni pointed the car back in the direction we had come and we wound our way back down the mountains, through the valleys, and past the alpine lakes. All this sight-seeing was thrilling, but it was time for a break.