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Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Golden Day In Stresa: Definitely One Of The 100 Places You Should Go In Italy!

It's been a good week! It was very exciting to have been asked by Susan Van Allen, the author of the great travel book 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, to write a guest post for her blog. This book is a must-read and a must-gift! While it is aimed mainly at women there is much wisdom inside for all travelers. And the fascinating stories and information, which do focus primarily on interesting women in Italy both past and present, make a visit to the locations Susan writes about more intimate and real. But there are also the more comfort-based reasons that women like this book... the list of spas, special shopping and yoga and cooking classes for example. Then, for each area, Susan describes a 'Golden Day,' a how-to guide for a perfect little day in each of these places.

And that brings me back to her blog, because it is called Golden Days in Italy. Here, Susan visits interesting locales all over Italy, and describes in detail what to do if you have but one day to spend in them. It's all spelled out... what you should see, the best routes to take and what to look for, and restaurant suggestions. Susan contacted me a little time ago and asked me to provide a Golden Day in Stresa. And so, we are very proud to be "Golden Day number 54: Dreaming of Stresa on Lago Maggiore."


Writing about a Golden Day in Stresa is easy, of course... I have had many, many such days here. But I had to think, what if I only had one? Or, better, if I were showing a friend around here in only one day, where would I take them? Here's what I decided I would do, where I would take you, in your one day in Stresa:

Golden Day Fifty Four: Dreaming of Stresa on Lago Maggiore

Let’s start with the lake. We’ll walk along the Lungolago, the pink paved path that runs along Stresa’s lakefront. On the other side of the path are Stresa’s famous old hotels, like the Hotel des Iles Borromees and the Regina Palace. Let’s stop for a cappuccino and a brioche at Gigi Bar (Corso Italia 30), across from the ferry. The Liberty-style bar has been here serving cappuccinos since the 1800s, and they still bake their own brioche on the premises.

Then we’ll take a quick 10-minute ride on one of the Navigazione Laghi ferries to Isola Bella, one of the three Borromean Islands here in the Golfo Borromeo. (Click here for schedules). The island is only 400 meters off the shore from Stresa, and home to the Palazzo Borromeo. The whole island was reshaped in the 1600s by the Borromeo family to resemble a large ship, with the imposing palace being at the front of the bow.

Inside, one of the highlights is the Shell Grotto, which is a passageway leading from the palace to the gardens. Its cavernous spaces are covered in shells and small stones. Outside, we’ll discover a monumental wall of sculptures. The top is crowned with a large stone unicorn, the Borromeo family emblem, who watches over the gardens while his rider, Love, holds on to his back. White peacocks roam everywhere in the garden, free and tame. The garden has ten tiers, each set back from each other, adorned with statues that wave at you from the terraces.


Now let’s wander a bit through the alleys of the medieval village that hugs the sides of the palace. Centuries ago, these stone buildings were inhabited by palace workers and craftsmen; today we find shops and restaurants. A good place to stop for lunch is Isola Pescatore. Take another ferry or a water taxi the few minute ride to this next Borromean island. There are many restaurants to choose from, from elegant Ristorante Belvedere and Ristorante Verbano, to pizza and sandwich places.

Back to the ferry, but we’ll take it to the other Stresa imbarcadero this time, the one called CarcianoFirst stop when we disembark is an after-lunch espresso. I recommend L’Idrovolante (Piazzale Lido 6, 0323 31384), the bar and restaurant that overhangs the lake. From either place, look up at the cables running up the mountain over our heads. After our espresso we’ll take a gondola up this cableway, rising almost 5,000 feet in 18 minutes, to the top of Mt. Mottarone. (Click here for schedule). Now we have 360° views of seven lakes and even the golden statue atop the Duomo in Milan. Up here it can be much chillier than down below at the lake. So let’s take refuge in rustic Casa della Neve (0323 923516), one of the mountain restaurants. The traditional drink is the fil da fer, which is served hot. It’s a tummy-warming mixture of whiskey rye, milk, sugar, egg yolks, marsala, and a hint of vanilla.

We’ll go back down the cableway to Stresa for dinner in Piazza Cadorna, the heart of town. The tables are filling up. Waiters scurry back and forth carrying plates under the wide umbrellas. As the sun sets the small lights on the umbrellas blink on. I recommend CafĂ© Torino (Piazza Cadorna 23, 0323 30652). They make good simple fare such as Vitello Tonno, the Milanese specialty of thin slices of veal covered with a chilled tuna and caper sauce. Other favorites are their Insalata di Polpo con Patate and the Ravioli con Brie e Speck. And after, we need to walk only a few more feet to Fior di Gelato. Let’s take our gelato, sit on a bench, and listen to the jazz band that’s playing on the other side of the piazza.

Lake, mountain, gelato and jazz. It’s been a good day in Stresa.

So, here are your assignments:


Read, use, and give as gifts 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Visit often and read Susan's Golden Days blog for more great travel ideas

If you like, then click that like button in the right-hand column to receive new Stresa Sights posts on Facebook. This way you'll be reminded to come back to the blog to use its resources to plan your trip, or maybe to remember a great time you spent here and inspire you to start planning another.

Those are your assignments... For me, I am just very grateful to Susan, for asking me to write the guest post, and for giving me the opportunity to spread the word about Stresa a little more. 


Have you had a perfect day in Stresa? What did your's include?



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