20 April 2011

lago maggiore & stresa

Villa Pallavicino
Parco della Villa Pallavicino
There are times that we venture out to explore all that new places offer and times we travel to revisit beloved haunts. At times we go to visit friends in their homes in other cities or countries, and then there are other times when we rendezvous at familiar locations or exotic destinations with those we hold dear. Each summer we embark on our great journey across the ocean, which has morphed into a mix of each of those types of travel for us. It's taken me nearly ten years, but I think I have a recipe for a successful summer Stateside visit.

isola pescatore
Isola Pescatore
And then there are times that we just need to be away, together, but away. We need to remove ourselves from the routine of everyday, from the monotony and the drama, from the ordinary and the stressful, to recharge, in a way, to reconnect, in another. These times come upon us quickly, and I’m learning to identify them in the dynamics of our little party of three.

hoping on the boat
Embarking for the Borromean Islands
Sensing a need for us to go away to be together (Oh, the irony! We are always together), I opened the map and looked west. Three hours, that’s my usual limit for a weekend road trip. I thought: What new interesting place can we get to in three hours or less? If you take a look at that map, the lake region is an obvious choice, and so we spent the weekend at Lago Maggiore.

isola bella garden
Garden at Isola Bella
wow isola bella
Beautiful Creature at the Gardens on Isola Bella
I picked the city of Stresa as our base on the lake only because of this blog detailing things to do (or not to do) in the area. Easy, peasy. No additional research required. Stress-free planning. Dana, the blog's author, also includes activities for kids as well as accurate, up-to-date, well-organized information about the area -- a perfect guide for a spur-of-the-moment weekend road trip. The woman has a section of FAQ's. How could we not go there? Thank you, Dana. Does the city compensate you? It should.

Parco della Villa Pallavicino
Parco della Pallovicino
And although Stresa turned out to be a bit lot fancy and a bit lot touristy, we managed to combine a bit of exploration and entertainment for a good time. The place is undeniably beautiful and there is a great combination of things to please both adults and kids alike in the area: boating adventures to islands, a mountain-top toboggan run, a playground on the lake, a garden and zoo combination, perfect spots for picnics, and, finally, lots and lots of gelato.

mottarone view
Chair Lift to Mottarone & Alpyland

Visit Dana at Stresa Sights for detailed information on all of it.

We liked ...
1. The awesome public playground in Stresa directly on the lake front in a prime location of the city.
2. The Parco della Villa Palavicino -- A mix of a diverse botanical garden and zoological garden, the park has something for everyone, including a playground equipped with a forest mushroom playhouse. The goats there really took to Richard.
3. The cable car and ski lift up to Mottarone to the Alpyland toboggan experience.
4. Being on the water and exploring the Borromean islands; we saw exotic white birds (peacocks?) and a bed where Napoleon once slept all within an hour of each other. Visiting the interior of a baroque palace can indeed be fun with a child willing to weave stories.
5. Lots of places for picnics.
6. Trattoria Due Piccioni. Great food, friendly people. Loved the pate. Loved the pasta. Make a reservation -- it was packed and people were turned away.
7. Stresa Sights

belgirate pic nic
Picnic & Regatta on the Lake in Belgirate
The town of Arona sits further south on the lake, with a lovely lungolago and view of a Borromean castle.

We spent three nights there and it was just enough to explore Stresa and a couple of neighboring towns. Spring is a perfect time to visit, though I bet the place is hoping in the summer.

We are officially recharged and reconnected and ready for the last nine weeks of the year. Bring it on!


  1. This place really looks like heaven on earth!

  2. All of the photos look incredible, but that peacock-- WOW!

    Good luck getting everything together for the big trip!

  3. looks like it's only about three hours from morges too. had to look, because it seems very similar in some ways. sigh! :) well, glad you all were able to get away for a bit! that's always nice. can't believe summer is so close!!!

  4. No doubt, Emily.

    Thanks, Natalie. There were five or six of the white peacocks in the garden. Beautiful .... but with strange calls!

  5. The picture of the peacock and the picture above that are just breathtaking!

    I hope you know that once we move from here, that I'll be living vicariously through your trips. :)