This is a story of how I acquired my first ever fracture (woo hoo!) on a mountain in Italy.
We'll start from the beginning.
6:52am, the alarm goes off. On a Saturday morning.
'You have got to be kidding me.' I murmur into my pillow, fumbling for the shrill device which I still don't know how to operate.
I manage to silence it and snuggle back into sleep.
8 minutes later and it's singing again. Magro jumps out of bed and into the shower whilst I search for reason with my bleary eyes. I've been dreaming about people from my past who aren't alive anymore so I'm not really read to join the world quite yet.
Rummaging through my wardrobe, I realise that my hiking clothes still haven't been washed from last weekend. Now I'm awake. Our train is in one hour and I have nothing to wear. Quite literally.
A bit of improvisation and a pair of Magro's shorts later and I'm ready to go, albeit dressed as my 13 year old self from the Avril Lavigne era. I used to pride myself on my long straight hair and thick eyeliner. I was such a rock chick just like her!
Shame I didn't know how to skate or play a guitar.
At 7:30am, we're stumbling out of the door, earlier than I would leave on a week day. There's a rip in the knee of these shorts and they feel like they're going to fall down but it's too late for that, we're on our way.
We catch the train from Cadorna FN at 8:08am and make our way to Canzo-Asso near Lake Como.
We're part of a group of 7 with Magro's friend, his colleague and her two friends and one of their colleagues. People shake hands and begin chatting easily in Italian whilst I try and understand what they're saying.
When we arrive, we have a coffee at the station bar and ask for directions to the start of the hike. I separate from the group and go for a last-minute toilet break so that I don't have to squat on a hillside like I did last weekend.
Turns out you can never get out of squatting in these parts:
And yes, I did just Instagram a toilet.
Trousers are swapped for shorts in the morning sunlight and bandanas are put in place ready to keep hair and sweat out of eyes. A map is consulted and at 9:45am, we begin to walk. We're off on our adventure!
We start the walk going from Canzo to Asso.
I recognise the towns from when we drove through last weekend on the way to another hike. This time I get a better look at the picturesque river which runs all the way down to near where I work, 50km away.
We cross the bridge and begin walking up through Asso.
We spot a couple of buildings with dubious signs: Lube, Lucy Style (actually two different signs but put together they're a little questionable) and Asso Slot (which makes me laugh but nobody else...) before we finally pass this bakery with old fascist slogans still painted high on the walls (I have no idea what this says except it talks about a sword and defending).
Before long, we're well and truly in the countryside.
The weather isn't too warm up by the lakes and mountains and there's a cool breeze keeping us refreshed.
After a steep ascent which quickly separates the group out by fitness level, we come across something that I really didn't need to know existed:
Apparently it flies too. I removed myself from the situation before seeing the demonstration.
Things are looking pretty picturesque as we trample through a meadow.
I'm on the lookout for creatures that can be saved from the path like big shiny beetles and giant coffee-coloured snails.
Magro points out the trail we hiked last week and soon enough we've joined it.
This is terrifying. I know what kind of ascent lies ahead.
We stop for a water break and to let the group join back up.
One of the guys has never walked in the mountains before and the climb is taking its toll on his legs.
Even I'm struggling and though I work out whenever I can, I'm finding it difficult to keep up with the front runners who are power walking up this as if the incline doesn't exist.
Around noon, we hit "15 minuti d'inferno" (15 minutes of hell).
This is basically the steepest slope I've ever climbed without needing to be strapped to the surface.
Unfortunately the gradient doesn't quite translate in pictures...
Every now and then, it's worth it to stop and take a look at our surroundings even though I just want this to be over with as soon as possible.
There's a beautiful mist seeping into the mountains, reminding me of evocative images I've seen of foreign places before. They could be the wild mountains of the Orient but no, they're the valleys of Monza and Brianza with towns scattered in between.
Here you can see the kind of slope we were dealing with in our 15 minutes...
We weave backwards and forwards to try and make the ascent more manageable.
Here, pockets of air gush warmth over us as we break through them and strange flies with long, pincer-like forelegs fill the space around us.
Finally, we've made it.
I timed it. 15 minutes for Federica, the freakishly fast girl who leads the party, 17 minutes for me stumbling up a little later and 20 minutes for Magro who has stopped to enjoy the view on the way up.
The last guy arrives after 25 minutes.
I am exhausted.
But my foot is still in one piece!
Up at the top, it's freezing so I quickly layer up. My body feels drained of energy. I've spent the past week without sugar and have upped my exercise so whilst my muscles have coped relatively well, my body feels absolutely empty and I'm ready for some food.
How's that for a scenic sandwich?
Sword fish never tasted so good.
We sit together, passing almonds and cheese and salami between us with someone else offering chocolate around.
I take a square because it would be silly not to. Even Magro has brought chocolate with hazelnuts for us. We seriously need our energy after that. We're 2 and a half hours in and not even halfway.
The view from the top though, is spectacular.
I used the Faded app for this picture to play with the colours a little.
As we begin traipsing back down the other side, an apparition appears.
A little lion is trotting up the hill towards us.
It's a cocker spaniel with an abundance of golden fur, bounding ahead of its owners. I take a few snaps to send home to where my own cocker spends her elderly days lazing about and basking in patches of sunshine on the carpet, hardly able to walk to the park and back let alone conquer mountains.
From now on, the road is flatter - or so they say. In any case we're only going to be going down, no more climbing!
But going down can be quite the problem too.
I manage to slide over a couple of times, landing on my bum and exclaiming in English "Yeah, I'm just taking a break!"
My joke sails over the head of the guy nearby who has no idea what I've said. I get up sheepishly and carry on.
We take another little break on a small plain. By now I've finished all of the two litres of water I've been carrying this morning and I am so so thirsty still.
Magro has only drunk a half litre and he refuses to drink the other in his bag because we need to save it for emergencies.
We're all getting a little desperate for water.
We hit another crossroads and can't make up our minds where to go.
The two roads lead in the same direction, we discover, but one involves more steep climbs whereas the other is flat all the way.
The guy who has never hiked before wants to take the latter path but everyone else wants to go exert themselves some more. Magro and I accompany him, a little disappointed that we're not climbing to the top again but now just looking forward to hitting the next refuge for a drink.
Our disappointment soon subsides as we find ourselves in an absolutely beautiful forest.
The path is flat and easy but cuts across the most incredible slopes where the trees stretch upwards, seemingly forever.
The light cuts through, illuminating the scene and showing everything to be incredibly beautiful. But we can't stop, we're on a mission for water.
Soon the trees begin to subside and the lake comes into view.
We pass a few other walkers and they tell us that the refuge is only a half hour ahead.
So far, so good and Lucy still has her foot.
We meet up with the others at another cross roads and race to the refuge.
Just as we come into the courtyard, Magro's emergency water bottle opens inside his rucksack and water begins cascading down his back.
He pulls it out, drinks the rest then we go in and buy about 8 litres of water and drink them all within 10 minutes.
Tommaso buys a slice of Sacher cake to keep us going for the rest of the descent. It's delicious with the dark chocolate cutting through the sweet apricot jam but I only have a few mouthfuls, mindful of not re-establishing my sugar dependence.
Safe to say though, I am bloody exhausted.
We sit around and chat for a while longer.
A pair of French bulldogs sniff around the tables and fuss about with their owners.
It doesn't feel like we've been sitting for long enough when the group decides it's time to keep moving.
On the way down, the path varies between rocks, gravel and cobbles.
I don't know what's happened to me but suddenly one of my ankles gives out.
It twists in a sharp sprint of pain but I manage to right myself before I go down. I limp on for a bit, slowly testing it, then put all of my weight back on it when I realise it's ok.
Then the other ankle gives out.
I manage to catch myself again but I know something's not right so I slow down.
"You're too tired." Magro says.
It's 4pm and we've been walking for over 6 hours. Too right I'm overtired. My muscles feel strange as we keep going and even if I try, I can't keep up with the group anymore.
Suddenly, my foot catches, I pitch forward and I'm moving a lot quicker than I was a second ago. I've managed to kick a rock really, really, really hard and the rock has won. It seems I wasn't picking my feet up as high as I thought I was and now I'm on my scraped knees, one hand missing a patch of skin, trying really really hard not to cry as an ache spreads through my foot.
The guys just ahead of me run back to help me. I try and pretend I'm only concerned about my sunglasses which have slipped back and are hanging off my backpack out of my reach. But my foot really hurts and I kind of just want to sit down and sort it out.
But we have to keep going.
I start moving and realise I can't walk. The others have gone ahead, not knowing anything is wrong. Whenever my big toe touches the end of my trainers, it's hell. So I begin an odd limp where I have to walk down this incredibly steep path using only one foot. It isn't fun.
We hit the town where a spooky old abandoned hotel looks out over the hillside to the lake.
I try and take my shoe off to lessen the pain but the others insist I put it back on again, tightening it up. I'm trying very very hard not to cry again.
Luckily we're nearly there.
It's 5pm and we're on the Funicolare, down to the shore.
From there it's a 10 minute walk to the station but our train is in 6 minutes and some people don't have a ticket. I somehow manage a half jog but am still lagging behind.
We catch the train and I collapse in a seat and daydream about passing out for a while, watching the countryside slip away to be replaced by the city.
At home, I ease my trainer off and am confronted by a sausage toe. I try limping about but it isn't actually lifting up with the rest of my toes so I stub it again. Which is hilarious.
Magro convinces me I need to go to A&E which causes more panic and trying not to cry because I hate hospitals but in the end I decide it's better to go now than try and sleep on it. He won't let me not go so I decide to get it over and done with.
In the end, I wait 2 hours (on my own because you're not allowed people to go with you in the waiting area even though when I find my way in the unfriendly maze, I'm the only person on my own) for a doctor on his iPhone to squeeze my toe ("Questo fa male?" "Si si si SI!!!" / "Does this hurt?" "Yes yes yes YES!!!") and send me for an x-ray.
An hour after that and I'm hobbling out with my toes strapped together and a report describing my fracture.
I am ravenous. I haven't eaten since that sandwich on the hilltop and I have begun to tremble and feel a little delirious.
We grab a slice of pizza and jump in the car to Magro's friends surprise birthday party. He's already arrived by the time we get there and the food is mainly gone but there are lots of waffles with cream, strawberries and Nutella (which I begin to eat by the spoonful) and a fantastic pumpkin pie made by the girlfriend who organised it all.
It's a wonderful evening full of laughter and wine and stories and then the revelation that the couple that got married last year are going to have a baby!
A wonderful end to a mostly wonderful day.