Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Stresa, on Lago Maggiore

Lago Maggiore 
Spending six days in Stresa, on the western coast of Lago Maggiore, was a real delight. I landed there on the 14th of August, the eve of Ferragosto, the biggest Italian holiday of the summer, if not the year. On Ferragosto, everything in Italy grinds to a halt, and Italians go on vacation,  which often lasts the entire week.

A view from the balcony of my hotel room in Stresa
I had never been around for Ferragosto before, but I'd been warned: Stresa would be crowded with Italians that Thursday, and most of the following weekend. Fortunately, the worst crowds only lasted a day, and I did my best to avoid them. But the accompanying musical entertainment in nearby Piazza Cadorna was fun.

A tourist couple doing the tango in Piazza Cadorna.
The next day, I headed over to the Lido, where a funivia takes you up Monte Motterone, where there is a 360° panoramic view of the lakes.

View from Monte Motterone
 There are three stages to the ride: two separate sections on the funivia (a hanging cable car), then a ride on a seggiovia (chair lift). It was a fun ride, both up and down the 1500 meter mountain.

Coming down on the funivia.
Riding the seggiovia.
The main attraction in Stresa was visiting the Borromeo Islands,  which I'll cover in a separate post. However, there was more to do in Stresa.  Several resort hotels boast large, beautiful gardens, and the long stretch of lungolago (walking path by the lake) is a lovely way to spend an hour.

Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees: made famous by Hemingway. The hotel was used as a hospital for recovering war veterans like Hemingway, following WWII. He returned later to visit the hotel,
and the room can still be reserved, for a hefty price.
 Another fun adventure from Stresa is the Lago Maggiore Express, which includes a three-hour relaxing boat ride on the lake to Locarno, Switzerland. Lago Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy, and the largest in southern Switzerland, so the lake and its shoreline are divided between Italy and Switzerland. After an hour stay in Locarno, there's a panoramic train ride through mountain passes to Domodossola, Italy, then a regional train back to Stresa.  It was a lovely way to spend the day, with wonderful views of the lake and nearby mountains.

On the Lago Maggiore Express
Of course, the Borromeo Islands are the main attraction in Stresa, and they'll be featured in the next post.

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