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You would be forgiven to think I was visiting all the lakes in Italy, based on my recent pieces about my Italian trip. But no, I just happen to be based in Como where there’s an abundance of watery places to visit and Lake Maggiore is the next in line.
Unfortunately, as with all these pre-arranged guided tours, time is a constraint, but more so here because we had two islands to visit and the main town of Stresa on the mainland to explore. Plus the fact the water boatman didn’t take plastic and that’s all we had on us with no time to find an ATM. To say the least, it was a bit of a scramble and the tour guide came through for us.
The day started out with thunder and lightning in the early hours and by the time the coach hit the road it was raining hard. But as is the norm in this neck of the Italian woodlands, the weather cleared and it was a glorious day, exactly what you want to explore Maggiore’s watery offerings.
There are three islands on the lake known as the Borromean islands, two of which in our time here we managed to visit, two very contrasting islands, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori.
Isola Bella, ‘Beautiful Island’ is exactly what it says, beautiful. The main feature of this island is the villa and its surrounding gardens. As with many of these blog offerings, there is too much to go into for a blog and the bulk of my trip will be written about in my travelogue published later in the year.
If you like history and especially art, then visit the villa as it’s full of both. What interested me was the gardens and its inhabitants.
The gardens is the home to not one, but three white peacocks, maybe more. You would be forgiven to think these birds were albino, but they’re not. These white peacocks are bred for the colour, or lack of, and even during the daytime their stunning displays and ethereal cries give the place a slightly creepy feel.
The gardens are simply stunning and worth the visit in their own right.
Our time here was severely limited to 90 minutes, most of which was taken up with a tour of the villa, but I wish we had been allowed more time to explore the magnificent gardens. But alas the boatman awaited and so did the next island.
Isola dei Pescatori
And what a contrast this island was. I’ll nickname it knick-knack island, for that’s what it consists of, stalls selling knick-knacks and small but welcoming restaurants. Again, our time was severely limited because we need to find an ATM before the coach departed for our return trip. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores here but suffice to say, neither island had ATMs and so we had to hitch a ride on a boat back to the mainland and the town of Stresa, and a visit with an ATM and a very quick lunch awaited.
The boat rides around here, as with our visit and lunch, are fast and furious and we were back at the dock in a very short while. ATM finally discovered and cash extracted, we could finally settle down to a lunch of pizza and Forst Beer. It was a quick lunch, but the tastiest pizza I have ever had and the local beer was liquid gold. The restaurant was in the main square in Stresa and if you ever visit, take lunch at the Centrale Pizza Restaurant, it’s well worth the time.
And that was our flying visit to Lake Maggiore, short but sweet and full of memories and a promise that next time I visit, I’m spending more time exploring.
Tom Kane © 2018
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