September 15th-17th, 2003
Stresa is about half way up the western side of Lake Maggiore. The lake (like the lochs in Scotland) is formed between the mountain ranges, so it's long and skinny. Stretching up to Switzerland, the lake is about 65km long and maximum of 4.5 km wide. It is the second largest Italian lake with a surface area of 212 km.
It only takes an hour to reach Stresa by train from Milan, so we arrived just in time for lunch. The town was obviously a big tourist spot in the summer, but somewhat sleepy during the fall. The majority of people wandering around seemed to be retired Americans and Germans. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we found a cafe with outside seats facing the water and ordered some pasta. There was no rush since the tourist office closed for lunch and didn't open again till three.
As soon as the tourist office opened up, we picked a bed and breakfast and dropped off our bags. Ironically, I had picked out a couple of things to do, but all were closing by 5:00pm. Since it was so late we opted for a walk along the waterfront.
After the waterfront walk, we zigzagged along through the town streets. Looking at the restaurants and shops, I earmarked a couple of choices for dinner. One of the places we wanted to eat was quite full, with many "reserved" signs on the tables. We decided that the following evening we would either make reservations or get there early. The place we ended up eating at was good, but nothing spectacular.
Tuesday morning we ate breakfast relatively early and headed off
to the boat dock. We decided to take the ferry to one of the
Borreomeo Islands, Isola Bella. The island is not very big at all.
It's basically a floating palace!
Construction on the Baroque palace began in 1670 by Count Vitaliano Borromeo. The inside of the palace was very elegant and beautiful. I really enjoyed the lower floors which were wall to wall (and ceiling) pebbles. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, so please feel free to visit the website for the islands at www.borromeoturismo.it
The gardens of the palace were even more beautiful. There is a wide
variety of plants and a wonderful water feature. It is said that the
plants are designed in such a way to create a constant blooming from
March to October.
And just to prove that we were really there!!!
After Dave dragged me out of the beautiful garden, we stopped for lunch.
I was still taking pictures from the lunch table of the island! If you look
in the background you can see one of the other Borromeo Islands.
For the second half of the day we decided to ride the Funivia (cable
car) to the top at Mottarone (altitude 1491 meters above sea level).
From the cable car, we hiked a short distance up a hill to this
This was the view as we descended on the Funivia!
Upon returning down the mountain, we changed clothes and headed off for dinner. We decided to eat at the restaurant which was full the previous night. This time we made sure to get there early. It was a good thing we did, because by the time we left there was quite the gathering of people outside the place waiting for a table. I loved the food! I had venison stew on top of polenta and Dave had wild boar with wine sauce on top of pasta. Both were absolutely delicious!
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and caught the 9 am train back to Milan.
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