Leaving Venice was sad for several reasons. It was my favorite city for one thing, but we also had to say goodbye to our new friends, John and Beth who were returning to home. I think I remember they were taking a water taxi to the airport, but I could be wrong. If not, how cool is that? We had a great time with them, and really thought we’d stay in touch. Greg and John have e-mailed a few times, but I dropped out of the communication world when I returned home to find Daddy so ill and never reestablished the relationships I meant to keep from the trip. I offer amends to them and to our travel partners for the rest of the trip.
The group dwindled after Venice and there were only three couples left. The other two were traveling together. It was a brother and sister (a little older than us) and their spouses. They’d traveled together a lot and had their routine down, but we jumped in the middle of it, and they were very welcoming.
From Venice we went to Milan then transferred to Stresa near Baveno, small villages in the uppermost tip of Italy on Lake Maggiore. I’d heard of Lake Como, but not Lake Maggiore, but I can’t imagine a more beautiful and relaxing place, and it was just what I needed. It was where I discovered how ill Daddy was and that he was having surgery. We’d planned to return to Milan for our final three days, but Milan is a big city and after relaxing at Lake Maggiore, we decided we didn’t want to return to the hustle bustle of a large city even though we had non refundable tickets to see the Lord’s Supper painting.
Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy. It is in the north west part of the country across the border from Switzerland. The lake was formed by two glaciers and is surrounded by pictorial hills. The pink granite from Baveno has been used in structures from Paris to Bangkok. Around the lake, Mediterranean species such as lemon, olive and bay will survive and the many gardens flourish with flowers like camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and trees like magnolias. The lake holds a number of freshwater fish including perch, pike, freshwater cod,, whitefish, and eels (uck).
Strata was known for tourism in the early 1900’s and built several luxury hotels. It is close enough to ski areas to also be a draw for that sport. After World War II, Stresa hosted the first ever Miss Italia contest in 1946 at the Hotel Regina Palace and hosted the Miss Universe Italian final in 2002. With the addition of three more grand four star hotels, Stresa’s is known as a world class resort town. However, when we were there, it wasn’t crowded. In fact, the hotel where we were booked closed “for the season” so we were moved to another 4-star hotel and to compensate us for our inconvenience, we our rooms were upgraded. We had balconies with magnificent views.
Our hotel was huge, though it didn’t have a big feel because it wasn’t a high-rise–it just sprawled over several acres. We witnessed a wedding. There was both a fabulous indoor pool and outdoor pool (and I mean fabulous) and the spa area was to die for. We got massages while we were there and except for the three mile hike (yes, a slight exaggeration), it was heavenly. The restaurants were small and quaint and this is something I don’t think I’ve mentioned before about Italian restaurants. Unlike American restaurants, they don’t rush you to turn tables. In fact, that wait for you to signal them to ask for a menu, to order, to bring your check — they don’t seem to care if you stay there all night. At first it was a bit frustrating…the waiting. But once we got with the flow and understood that was the culture (and learned to relax into their system, it was pretty nice. So be prepared when you go out to eat. If you want a quick meal, go to McDonald’s. If you go to a real restaurant, it will most likely take a while, but will be worth it.
I think we were in Strata when Greg asked what something on the menu was (after he’d ordered and eaten it). We were in a small local restaurant and waitress didn’t speak English. She pantomimed pouring watering into a large pot, adding the ingredient and constantly stirring. The best we could figure it was the Italian version of grits. We weren’t getting it, so she went to the kitchen and brought out the large box and it was indeed something similar to grits. It was experiences like that which were priceless.
I wish I could explain how beautiful Lake Maggiore and this region is, but words fail me. It is opulent but not ostentatious. You are away from the city so the people are a different breed. The pace was slower and along with Hana (Hawaii) and Banff (Canada) it ranks as one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Maybe some photos can give you an idea of why it was pretty close to Heaven.
View from our room
These pictures are from an opulent summer home off the cost of Stresa. We could see it from our room and take a ferry there.
Out to visit the summer home on an island just off the coast
Summer home – WOW
The gardens were fabulous
Hubby really got into posing like status
One of my favorite photos from entire trip — in Stresa looking over Lake Maggiore. Note tennis shoes!
We found out Daddy’s cancer was back while in this heavenly place a world away from the trauma of what he was facing. As I said earlier, we decided to forgo our trip to Milan and spend the rest of our vacation here where we could relax and meditate and be in a more spiritual place. I was able to Skype with my aunt to keep up with what was going on and even say hello to Daddy, though he was out of it for the most part.
While here we took a day trip with the other two couples and our guide to Switzerland. It was a great diversion, and I had to add it to my most beautiful places I’ve been list. That’s the next post.