Each week I fall a little more in love with the region we’ll live in for the next three years. We’re close to Milan, but as nature lovers we’re most excited about the lakes and mountains. By which I mean some of the world’s most beautiful lakes and the frickin’ ALPS. I grew up amidst cornfields in Indiana. My enthusiasm is legit.
There is usually a point in our day trips when my husband and I look at each other with that dumb expression of disbelief: we LIVE here. Woah.
Earlier this month we drove to the beautiful town of Stresa, on the west side of Lake Maggiore. It’s a charming resort town, with grand shore-drive hotels, well kept homes and lush vegetation. It’s also an excellent point to catch a boat ride to one or all three of the Borromean Islands.
Living a short drive from places like this diffuses the pressure to plan the perfect day. We hopped in the car, set the GPS to “Stresa” and just went. Signs pointed us toward the lake, where helpful parking attendants guided us to the appropriate car park and explained parking rates, boat tickets and which islands we’d most enjoy.
Isola dei Pescatori was our first stop.
It’s a picturesque fishing village, with narrow streets and historic architecture. The island is the only of the three Borromean Islands with permanent residents. There are fifty of them.
We ate an excellent lunch of local cheeses (Italy tip #1: ALWAYS get the local cheeses), grilled lake fish and handmade whole-wheat pasta at Hotel Belvedere. Then we wandered the passageways between the buildings to explore the variety of souvenirs and gifts for sale. The relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere won me over!
Our next stop was Isola Bella. We spent so much time wandering our first island that we didn’t have much time to explore the palace and gardens, which is the whole point of visiting Bella. (You pay up front for the number of hours you want to park. Being on a island, it’s difficult to get back to re-up!) We decided to save our Euros for another day and wander the even narrower passageways around the palace. This island felt more crowded, but I won’t hesitate to return and explore the gardens. They appear to be magnificent.
We skipped Isola Madre but look forward to returning and exploring the botanical gardens and palazzo.
Clearly we just scratched the surface, but I can’t keep this gem to myself. It’s a must see if you’re in the Lombardy region!