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- Chiesa di Santi Gervasio e Protasio -- Baveno's Pa...
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- Biking, Hiking, Horses, And More
- News Bites -- Little Bits Of News From Stresa
- Antiques And Collectibles
- Toma Cheese
- If You Had Been Here This Weekend...
- Lago di Mergozzo
- Swimming Pools and Tennis Courts
- FYI -- Top Ten Outdoor Sports And Activities
- Letter From the Editor -- Time For Some Top Ten Li...
- FYI -- Top Ten Things To See In Stresa
- ▼ May (17)
Q: Just came across your site while looking for info about the Stresa-Mottarone cable car. We are taking our first trip to Lake Maggiore in the summer with our 3 children and are looking for good ideas for things to do. Your site is great, really good ideas and very helpful - thanks! Now have a long list of things we want to do!
We are staying just outside Verbania at the Isolino camping village and I was wondering how easy it is to get into Stresa from there? We are arriving by train and have not yet decided whether we need to hire a car to get about.
A: Isolino is well located, but it's not really precisely in any of the towns. It's inbetween several lovely ones, Verbania, Baveno, Mergozzo, and of course, Stresa. Isolino is about 2 km from the train station. The bus stop, Verbania Fondotoce, is closer, but still 1 mile from Isolino. You can use the bus to get to many of the towns in the area, including Stresa, maybe you saw that link... You can also take the ferries between certain towns, and I hope you do that also. There is parking at Isolino. A car would certainly offer you more flexibility, and allow you to do more. Parking in the other towns during summer months may be difficult, but not impossible.
This reader's question gives the opportunity to bring Isolino Camping Village to your attention. Isolino is a large, family-oriented holiday village on its own private stretch of lake beachfront in Verbania. It offers residences of all sizes, from tent sites to caravans to small apartments. There are full amenities including restaurants and shops, and a very full range of activities. For families with children (this reader's are 6, 9, and 11) Isolino could be a truly ideal choice.
A: Regarding staying at Hotel Belvedere on Isola dei Pescatori, I think it is a very personal decision whether to stay on the island or the mainland. But to help you decide I will tell you these things. The island is very very small. There are two hotels and several restaurants. There is not much else to do. Therefore, if you are a traveler who will enjoy this solitude in the evenings this will be very special. But if you don't like to feel so isolated, perhaps this isn't the best choice.
As for the ferries, as Hotel Belvedere cautions on their own site, the ferries do not run in the evenings, past 6:30 actually, and so all comings and goings to the island would have to be arranged with private water taxis. And unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, there is not a three-day ferry pass available. There is a one-day pass available for unlimited travel between the three islands and Stresa, for 12 euro. You can refer to the ferry schedule here.
Albergo Ristorante Belvedere is a very lovely spot on tiny Isola dei Pescatori. The restaurant seats about 200, but the hotel only has a few rooms. Even if you're not staying on the island it could be a wonderful lunch spot, as they specialize in local fish and cuisine.Whether this is the right place for you to stay however, is a personal choice, you can visit Belvedere here to help you decide.
And just who were Gervasio and Protasio anyway? They were brothers, Christian martyrs, who lived and died in Milan in the second century. They are patron saints of Milan, as well as of haymakers. This fourteenth century french manuscript drawing depicts their martyrdom.
Manuscript drawing Wikipedia.
Danish writer Friederike Brun, who visited in 1795, likened Isola Bella to a mushroom emerging from the water, and the garden to an "oversized cake."
William Hazlitt, in 1826, wrote he was "Utterly disappointed in the Borromean Isles. Isola Bella resembles a pyramid of sweetmeats ornamented with green festoons and flowers."
Joseph Woods wrote in 1810, "Isola Bella contains a magnificent villa of the Borromean family, in sublime bad taste both inside and out. "
Jacques Augustin Galiffe, in 1816, "Isola Bella is altogether artificial, and contains a large but ill-looking palace in the worst architectural taste..."
And take a look at this excerpt, written by Richard Bagot, in his 1908 book, The Lakes of Northern Italy:
Wow. But these descriptions, while certainly the opinions of the individual writers, for the most part can be said to be true. From a distance or close up, the palace and the gardens are completely out of scale, they seem to overflow the island on all sides. In between, where the Borromeans never succeeded in purchasing the land, the original medieval village still exists, wrapped over the palace as if it grew there, although in reality it was the palace that grew around the village.
The plans for the island began simply enough:
It was when Vitaliano the Sixth took over though, that the current vision began to take shape. And here's the thing, the thing that redeems the island, that takes it from garish ostentation to whimsy and, if not quite beauty, then at least fascination. The creation was always intended to entertain. Okay, certainly also to demonstrate the money and power of the Borromeo family, but its primary purpose, as thought out by Vitaliano, was to be a playground for the many noble guests who would visit it. It was meant to be a vision, an idea, over the top. It was he, working with noted architects of the day, who thought up the shell grotto, the ten-tiered garden, and the addition of the many symbolic and fanciful statues. In fact, it was decided that certain statues should be larger than originally intended, so that guests would have a more impressive approach to the island and recognize the statues sooner. Then, a further thought, it wasn't acceptable that guests would see only the backs of statues depending upon where they approached from, and at this point it was decided to increase the number of obelisks and spires, symmetrical from all sides.
This is the view that one is greeted with after emerging into the gardens from the grotto passage.
In my mind, perhaps it was Charles Dickens, after visiting in 1844, who summed it up best:
"For however fanciful and fantastic the Isola Bella may be, and is, it still is beautiful."
official tourism site for the island. On the site, you'll find information on tours, hours, and other facts about this very unique place. The Palazzo Borromeo is open to visitors from late March until the end of October. And it is a must see.
The Grottoes of the Palazzo Borromeo
The Borromeo Tapestries
Wunder Kammer on Isola Bella
All photographs property of Dana Kaplan or the Borromeo Turismo Web site.
1690 view is a black and white photo of an oil painting by Gaspar Van Wittel, View of Isola Bella from Stresa, West Side, 1690. Painting and photo property of Gallery Carlo Orsi, Milano.
Bicico is probably best known for their mountain biking equipment and excursions. They are located at the base of the cablecar at the Carciano imbarcadero. Mountain bikers, you rent your equipment, including your safety gear, ride the cableway to the summit of Mt. Mottarone, gear up, and then ride down the mountain to Stresa again. There are paths and groups for all levels, including some pretty extreme ones, not for the timid.
Hiking excursions also meet on Mt. Mottarone, with it's stunning views. But there are others, in the Parco Nazionale della Val Grande, the Natural Park of Veglia-Devero, and from Ossola to Val Vigezzo, lesser known but beautiful valleys.
Rock climbing novices can practice in groups with expert instructors at Parco Sasso, where the practice boulders are pink and grey limestone.
The wetsuit we brought with us today was for canyoning, which is a lot like white water rafting, except without the raft.
The gentler trails of Mottarone and the valleys are perfect for horseback riding. Again, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned rider, there's group for you, or lessons can be arranged.
Not exhausted? Want to try another sport? Return to the Top Ten Sports and Outdoor Activities List here.
The Regina Palace Hotel has announced a summer schedule of free concerts, several times each week, in the Nuova Sala Tiffany. Check the events schedule on the right column of this blog for the exact dates and times.
The Thursday farmers market is open again in Verbania, after having been closed for the winter. Slightly different from the other weekly town markets, this market offers local produce to consumers, grown at nearby farms and sold fresh only in its season. This also eliminates the middle man, thus providing shoppers with freshness, low prices, and the satisfaction of helping local producers. Open every Thursday from 8.00 to 13.30, in the parking lot of Via Motta Fiume.
Stresa will again participate in the national competition called "Comune Fioriti," in which homeowners, shopkeepers, and the city itself register their properties and pledge to decorate with flowers their balconies, terraces, gardens, businesses, even just flowerpots in doorways, all with the motive of offering to all a more beautiful city.
A wonderful article about Stresa's own Marco Aghemio, in Yacht Digest magazine. The magazine featured Marco and the work he does in the cantiere he founded seven years ago. Marco specializes in the restoration and maintenance of wooden motor boats, most specially the Riva Ariston line. Think 1950s, think George Clooney, think polished wood and turquoise seats, and you've got the idea. If this is your kind of boat you can contact Marco at: Cantiere Aghemio Marco, via per Binda 6, 28838 Stresa (VB), tel. 347 9202648, fax+39/02-7004411077 Internet:www.cantiereaghemio.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the hopes of encouraging you to do the same, here are a few of the shops selling antiques and collectible items in centro Stresa.
Cartolibreria de Mauri, in Piazza Cadorna, specializes in handcrafted writing goods and collectibles from the middle of the twentieth century. The back wall of his window is covered in samples of his papers. Outside the shop, in the piazza, he has racks set up of prints both old and new, of the lake. Stationery from here would make a great gift for someone, wouldn't it? Or how about a metal tin to keep your restaurant cards, receipts, and brochures in?
Terra e Fuoco means Earth and Fire, which are the necessary elements to create what they specialize in, pottery and ceramics from many different regions in Italy. The selection always changes, based upon what they find, and you can buy just one piece, or an entire set. Terra e Fuoco is on Via P. Tomaso, 4, very close to the lake.
This is one of the windows at Antiques and More, on Via P. Tomaso. In addition to a constantly changing offering of estate and antique jewelry they also sell paintings, bronzes, and furniture.
All of these shops are located right in centro Stresa. And they represent only a few on the fun and fine vendors selling all sorts of things that aren't snow globes. A couple of other places we've already visited on the blog are Wunder Kammer on Isola Bella, and the Alessi Outlet in Omegna. Check out all the shopping posts here.
Toma Alpe Veglia (left) and Toma alle Vinacce di Barolo (right).
Toma is a cow’s milk cheese is made throughout the Italian Alps. In the past, it often substituted for meat in those isolated regions. And also due to that isolation, many towns developed their own version of Toma; today there are 20 that have been awarded the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) mark, with the best considered to be those that come from mountain villages around Novara, Vercelli, Biella, Torino, and Cuneo.
To truly be called a Toma, this cheese should be produced in the classic manner. The milk comes from Alpine cows, often the Bruna cow, which grazes at high altitudes in the mountain meadows. The farmer who tends his cows on these fields carefully oversees their grazing, he milks the cows, and he produces his own Toma in that same location. The cheese is then seasoned for at least three months and formed into wheels of 15 to 25 centimeters in diameter and a depth of 5 to 10 centimeters. The different varieties of Toma depend upon the length of time that they are left to mature, and the types of seasoning they receive. Young Tomas are sweet and milky, they become more tangy with age.
La Casera carries many varieties of Toma. I counted more than one dozen, and the varieties they sell will change with availability during the seasons. I see a Toma Alpe Veglia, made only in the mountains, only in the summer. Toma del Piode, taking its name from the village in Val Sesia where it is made, and where it is still traditionally served with Polenta Taragna. And Toma alle Vinacce di Barolo, which rests for a month in Barolo grape marcs, picking up its flavor and aroma.
Toma is readily available in the Stresa Friday markets, I've bought delicious chunks of it there. So when here, if you like cheese, like I do, buy a piece of Toma, some bread, some fruit, a bottle of wine, and find a bench on the lungolago for a little Piemontese picnic. And when in Verbania, stop by La Casera to see, learn, and taste more.
I appreciate learning about one thing at a time. Toma per esempio, for example. Then I'll be, not an expert, but knowledgeable at least, about this one thing. I'd like nothing more than to go to La Casera and try and compare several versions of these Toma. Here's the Web site: www.formaggidieros.it They have a wonderful selection and great English descriptions of cheeses.
A. In the past couple of weeks Stresa has had warm weather, but about half of the days have had some rain. The rain hasn't lasted all day... On the clear days it is beautiful. Lovely weather to eat lunch outside, and a little chillier in the evenings. The end of May should continue much the same. You may experience everything from very warm to chilly to rainy. I hope more of the first...
Q. Thanks so much for your informative blog... We arrive June 13th. We have a very modest list of things to do (thankfully, no 'must see it all' travelers among us) but wonder about whether it's necessary to book some outings in advance, like boat trips to the islands (love the idea of lingering on Isola Pescatori!) or the cablecar to Mt. Mottarone. Since we are only in town for the one week we don't want to, uh... miss the boat!
A. Ferry trips to the islands, or the cablecar, cannot be booked in advance. You can buy a ticket earlier in the day for a certain time, if you are worried about it being busy when you want to go, but of course that will mean an extra trip for someone to the station to purchase those tickets. I would however, suggest that you arrive a little earlier for the cablecar in the summer, as it can be crowded... Another thought, with ten of you it may be less expensive to take your own water taxi to the islands.
Q. Is the Oriental Express restaurant [at the Stresa Train Station] a Chinese restaurant?
A: No, The Orient Express serves fare quite traditional for the area -- pizzas and pastas. Its name is a reference to the famous train that ran from Paris to Istanbul. But if you were hoping that it were an Oriental restaurant, don't despair. The Stresa area has several ethnic restaurants of its own; so you can satisfy that craving for sushi or fajitas, even when you're in Italy. Here are three local favorites:
Izumi Japanese Restaurant
C.so Mameli, 191
28921 Verbania (VB)
Mikonos Greek Restaurant
Via Tonazzi Camillo, 5
28921 Verbania (VB)
OltreConfine Mexican Restaurant
4, Piazza S. Carlo
28832 Belgirate (VB)
Q. As we will be in Stresa for only two days, is it worth going to Locarno??
Or...You could have watched the spectacle in Piazza Marconi on Saturday morning, when, for the first time, the Festa della Polizia di Stato, the Police of the VCO Territory, gave both residents and tourists a chance to see their uniforms, their vehicles, and their machinery up close, and the opportunity to thank them for their constant vigilance and protection.
Not forgetting the other Festa this weekend, la Festa della Mamma, Mother's Day, you could have found Mom a gift at the arts part of the Arti e Sapori tra Monti e Lago fair, where artists and craftspeople from the region sold handmade jewelry, dolls, ceramics, paintings, and all manner of artworks.
In fact, there was a time, long ago for us, but not so long ago geologically speaking, when Mergozzo and Maggiore were connected. Mergozzo was the farthest point of the northern arm of Lago Maggiore. Over the ages, repeated flooding of the Toce River deposited sediment which eventually formed a narrow strip of land that cut Mergozzo off from the rest of the lake. Soon Mergozzo was cut off from the Toce as well. This strip of land, geologically an alluvial plain, is where the village of Fondotoce is located today, in between the two lakes, at the southern end of the oval. On the other side of the oval is the town of Mergozzo.
This lake is so small that you can see all of it at once, without even turning your head. Its shape always reminds me of a cameo, and the little town of Mergozzo is a lovely little clasp at its top. Mergozzo has only about 2500 residents, and doesn't grow too much bigger during the summer.
What I like best about Mergozzo is the silence and the stillness. Motorboats are banned from the lake; in fact, I've never seen a boat on it at all, although there are some small rowboats, barca a remi, along the dock. Sometimes I think they're just for show. And the water, it's as smooth as glass. There's a mountain, Monte Orfano, who protects Mergozzo from the strong winds on Lago Maggiore. So while Maggiore has that background sound of waves and wind, of water crashing against the piers and walls, Mergozzo has a calmness that makes one want to whisper.
Via Pallanza is the name of the street that forms the promenade along the lake. There are a nice selection of restaurants, bars, and a few small hotels. At the far end of the curve is a birreria that I like. With its dozens of different beers from around the world, the birreria is a little unusual in wine-loving Italy. But the beer selections are chosen with as much care as the wines, and it's terrace is casual and comfortable. And si, they do have wine as well.
From Stresa you can also reach Mergozzo by train, the train for Domodossola stops in Mergozzo, and by bus, by switching buses in Verbania. The map and schedule are here.
Events are provided by STRESA 2.0
- Where can I buy foreign newspapers in Stresa?
- Where can I eat breakfast in Stresa?
- Where are the public restrooms in Stresa?
- Is there a laundromat in Stresa?
- Can I rent a wheelchair in Stresa?
- Should I buy train tickets in advance?
- Are there any day tours to Switzerland from Stresa?
- How can I arrange a civil wedding in Stresa?
- How bad are the summer bugs in Stresa?
- Do I Need A Car In Stresa?
- Is there an Internet cafe in Stresa?
- Is there a supermarket in Stresa?
- Is it too isolated staying at an Isola dei Pescatori hotel?
- Will we need a car if we are staying at Isolino Camping Village?
- Are there any ethnic restaurants in Stresa?
- Can I buy tickets in advance for ferry or the cablecar?
- I was wondering if you might know or recall the name of this restaurant in Baveno?
IMPORTANT POSTS AND LINKS
- If You Have Only One Day in Stresa
- Top Ten Things to See in Stresa
- Alibus Shuttle From Malpensa to Stresa
- Driving Directions From Malpensa - With Photos
- Train Service from Malpensa to Stresa and Milano
- Linate Airport to Stresa Directions
- Milan Tram System Map and Transport
- Bus Schedule
- Stresa Boat Imbarcadero
- Stresa to Mottarone Cableway
- Bus, Train, and Taxi From Malpensa Airport
- Boat Schedule - English
- PosteItaliane - Postal service
- Trenitalia Site and Schedule -- English
- Weather Forecast
- Winter Trip to Stresa? Start Planning Here
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