Tuesday, August 28, 2007

July 2007 - Stresa, Italy - Lago Maggiore

We travelled to Italy's lake district North of Milan at the base of the Alps on the border with Switzerland. We began our tour at the Northernmost lake, Lake Maggiore, which extends into Switzerland. While most of the lakes are in the Lombardia region of Italy, Lake Maggiore is in Piemonte like Turin. The landscape of cold, blue lakes surrounded by steep sharp mountains is breathtaking.
Here is a view of Stresa, which sits on the Southwest end of the Lake, from the Alpine botanical gardens located mid way up to Mount Mottarone. Mount Mottarone is a tall hill overlooking both Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta as well as various lakeside towns. We arrived at the botanical Alpine garden and then at the top of Mount Mottarone via cable car which runs roundtrip between Stresa on the lake shore and the top of Mount Mottarone all day long.
From the hills that make up Mount Mottarone we saw wonderful views of Lake Maggiore with the town of Verbania behind us. Behind both of these pictures we can see the finger of the lake the stretches northward to Locarno in Switzerland.Looking in the opposite direction we can see the Alps in Switzerland, including . . .

the Matterhorn which we saw up close from Zermatt in February.
As we moved down to the Alpine gardens we caught views of Lake Maggiore and Isola Bella. We also saw the rooftops of Stresa.
The gardens were amazingly colorful but it was hard to stop and smell the flowers when all we wanted to do was stare out at the bright blue lake dotted with small, orange-roofed towns,

tiny little islands supporting enormous villas and colorful little fishing boats.
Here is a close up of Isola Pescatore as seen from the Alpine gardens.
Here is a close-up of Isola Bella from the cable car as we descended back to Stresa.
Here is a shot of the Lido of Stresa and the west end of the lake with Alps rising behind it.

After our descent we took a walk around Stresa, stopping at the lakeside public gardens used for strolling and resting.
This park provides a great view of Isola Bella . . .
with its enormous villa and botanical gardens behind us. We took so many spectacular pictures of these grounds and of the islands off the coast of Stresa that they will be the subject of our next blog entry.The public park also contains this interesting memorial to the victims of September 11. It was nice to see this symbol of Pro-American sentiment.
We also enjoyed Stresa's quaint cobblestone streets and this wine bar, which had a great selection of white wine from Piemonte.
Stresa is an upscale tourist city with tons of shops and restaurants specializing in local cuisine which involves a rich, egg-based pasta and piles of white truffles.

In catering to wealthy tourists, Stresa has beautiful Baroque hotels that were once villas for Italy's rich and famous. The view from our hotel terrace was a lovely blend of colorful baroque buildings and the peaks of the Alps in the distance.
The Grand Hotel Borromeo is one of the most special lakeside properties with an amazing baroque facade and elegant gardens. We couldn't afford to stay here but it didn't stop us from hanging out on this lavish property.

A post-dinner stroll on the Lake's bank is about as relaxing as it gets. Here you can see the lights of Verbania across the Lake.

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