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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who Loves Stresa?

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Well, I do! And if you're here maybe you do too, and it seems, as we know now from a recently published book, that throughout history many have found this region to be worthy of special praise. "Dove comincia la bella Italia"; that is the name of the 247-page book recently published by the Lions Club of Verbano Borromeo. Here within are gathered together the words and stories of painters, writers, artists, politicians, and other well-known personalities who visited, and left their words, paintings, and statues about the area. It focuses on Lago Maggiore, Lago Orta, and the Valle Ossolane, and more precisely, the area which includes Stresa and the Borromean islands. For example, Gustave Flaubert called Isola Madre "an earthly Paradise... It is the most luscious place that I have ever seen". Agreeing with him on this were the composers Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt. Maybe that is one reason that today the Stresa Festivale Musicale each year inspires musicians and music lovers alike...

Writers from around the world and throughout history have found the islands to be truly exceptional places. From Denmark's Hans Christian Andersen to England's Charles Dickens, to Germany's Wilhelm Richard Wagner, and France's Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers. Then there were the Russian author Nikolai Gogol and Frankenstein authoress Mary Shelley, and don't forget Ernest Hemingway, of whom we have already spoken.

Among the first painters who painted the islands was the Flemish painter Bruegel, who visited in the 16th century, then Corot, who painted several views, and one of my favorite stories, the Dutch master Muller, who was sentenced to die for having murdered his wife, but was saved from this fate by the Borromees, who hid him on Isola Bella. In exchange, he painted 70 paintings for them. Certainly he loved Stresa...

Who else? There were Napolean and Josephone, also guests at the palace, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who came often. Dumas loved Mottarone. And Nietzsche and his love Lou Salome' shared their first kiss in front of Lago Orta.

Aren't we in good company with our affections for this beautiful lake and her islands?

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