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Saturday, June 20, 2009

If You Have Just One Day To Spend In Stresa

Colleague and I often discuss what makes for the perfect day in Stresa. By this, we mean the perfect day for the tourist who, sadly, has only one full day to spend here, and for whom this is their first visit. We receive a lot of mail about this as well, and therefore, we talk about.

Let's say that you've arrived early this morning, or perhaps the night before. You're here. This is how we think you should spend this day:

Start with cappuccino. Or a caffe latte. Or a caffe macchiato. Whatever your favorite Italian morning coffee is. Have it at the Gigi Bar, Bravi Bar, or Jolly Bar. Those three places have delicious croissants made fresh on the premises all morning. This is how we want you to get yourself into your Italian mood for the day.

After, walk along the lake to the boat station. If it's early in the day, I'm recommending that you walk to the opposite station from where you are. So if you are near the Carciano station walk along the lake to the Stresa imbarcadero, or vice versa. We don't need to rush, we have all day, the walk is beautiful, and I want you to see it.

Buy the island excursion ticket which grants you access to all three Borromean islands. And in the next hours, we think you should try to at least stop on all three. Although close to each other, and close to Stresa, they are so different. It is a case of the whole being far greater than the sum of their parts.

Isola Bella: The main island, and where you may need the most time. Buy the admission ticket to the Palazzo Borromeo and walk through the self-guided tour. The route through the palace winds through a series of public and private spaces, then down a flight of stairs and into the mysterious grotto, and finally, releases you into the famous and magical gardens. When you've had your fill of peacocks, statues, and ten-tiers of plantings exit the garden and get lost a bit in the medieval village alongside of it. Eat when you want, drink when you want, I'll leave that to you and your appetite.

Isola Madre: This is the largest island of the three. It's also famous for its gardens, especially the collections of azalea, rhodedendrens, camelia, and wisteria. The early sixteenth century villa has been open to the public since the 1700s, and like Isola Bella, don't be surprised to meet a few peacocks, pheasants, and parrots roaming free along the way.

Isola dei Pescatori: Tiny Pescatori, not much more than a collection of houses and narrow alleys, but so charming. You won't need a lot of time here to actually see the island, but I'd like you to be sure to leave some time here to relax and enjoy the island.

See them in whatever order you prefer. Stop and eat, drink, and sit when and where you want. And as the afternoon winds down and the sun starts to set over the mountains, make your way back to Stresa. Take in the famous view of Stresa's shore, lined with elegant hotels and villas, and backed with mountains behind.

It's aperitivo time now. And you know our favorite aperitivo place is Buscion. So stop there, and have Massimo suggest something for you. Stroll over to Piazza Cadorna, and cool down with a gelato.

I hope now you'd still have the night to spend here. But even if not, we feel you'll be extremely pleased, maybe a bit tired as well, but very pleased, with what you've seen in your one, first, perfect day in Stresa. And we sincerely hope that it will be the first of many.


But if you are fortunate enough to have more time, take a look at the Top Ten list of things to do in Stresa.


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