Lake Maggiore & the Borromean Islands

The dinner at Locanda di Orta was just as good as we predicted…which is not always the case.  Our family includes some real “foodies” and chefs, so it’s not always easy to please them, but this did.  We asked the waitress to bring out the chef and he had just left 5 minutes before…a likely story.

Well, back now to the day on the Lake with Terry, our guide from Stresa, the town where we met the boat at the dock to do the Maggiore tour.  It is a giant lake compared with Orta, where we are staying and then Lake Como is even bigger.  The two lakes are so big that the top of them both is in Switzerland.  But we just concentrated on the two islands which belong to the Borromeo family since the Middle Ages…I told you about them a bit last post.

So, when you were rich and related to Popes, you had lots of money in those days.  (I’m not sure that Pope Francis is going to let that be the case, since he seems to understand the the Church is for the people; not for the Roman curia.  But, that’s just an editorial, not the opinion of this station necessarily).  And, anyway, who wants to tour a run down castle.  This place on Isola Bella – the first island – is magnificent.  It is huge and full of many beautiful treasures.  No photos of the inside, so here is a shot of the island from the water and some shots of the gardens, which climb up 10 stories.

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The little lady, Terry, a 73 year old dynamite guide from Stresa, knows her stuff and speaks very excellent English.  Here she is, explaining the gardens to the birthday lady…don’t they look like hair twins?Image

The gardens had statuary and even white Peacocks.

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So, who knows whether it’s a lady or a man peacock?

The tour ends at Isola Pesce, which is the place where the families still fish for a living…yet many of the families now earn their livings in the tourist trade – restauranteurs, shopkeepers, guides and such.  More money; less stress.  We ate at a place where Terry knew the family and they still go out in the early morning to bring in the catch to serve at the restaurants on the island.  A thriving place now that the season has begun…we had another picture-perfect day of no rain and low humidity and low-70’s temperatures.

Coming back on the small boat, which she had arranged for us, we noted the marble and granite quarries along the shore below the town of Stresa.  They have been working these for 500 years and still pay taxes/fees to the Borromeo family.  Terry’s badges for guiding licenses are from the regional government and one from the family…amazing.

Here’s the boat and the quarries, looking back at the town.  The shore for a mile is lined with large and expensive hotel properties, but it’s very quiet here in the winter, off-season.  No hard frosts or fogs here, but snow sometimes and you can see snow on distant mountaintops from both here at Lake Maggiore and at our Lake Orta.

the boatman and Terry were at our service for the touring.
the boatman and Terry were at our service for the touring.
Pink marble is mined on the left; granite on the right.  A mile south of Stresa docks.
Pink marble is mined on the left; granite on the right. A mile south of Stresa docks.
One of the fancy hotels along the Stresa boat basin.
One of the fancy hotels along the Stresa boat basin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We came back to Orta and couldn’t help by make a gelato run to town. Lo and behold, we ran into this Sunday street fair.

Look at the world record-breaking (Tim says it was a Guiness event) for Risotto making.

They had many chefs stirring this skillet.  Did they break the record?
They had many chefs stirring this skillet. Did they break the record?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Butch, Joe, Dave, Ron, Stew and a couple of others who would remember this, my Mom’s 1947 Chevy that I used to drive to crew practice in high school showed up on Lake Orta in this vintage car event. Here it is. (Well, it’s a ’48 model and not 4 doors, like mine, but it really brought back some memories).

Peggy Roach's car, borrowed by her son in 1958, on the occasion of my 16th birthday.
Peggy Roach’s car, borrowed by her son in 1958, on the occasion of my 16th birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last event of the day was a Nancy & Chip walk up to the Sacre Monte on a hill high above Orta San Giulio.
There is a great statue of St. Francis and a wonderful church at the mid-point of the hill with a classic sculpture affixed to the arch above the main entry. Every person and statue up here delights in the view of the lake.

St. Francis frees some birds above the lake.
St. Francis frees some birds above the lake.
The Church at Orta looks down at the Lake with the statue framed by the clouds today.
The Church at Orta looks down at the Lake with the statue framed by the clouds today.

chiproach

Lifelong Philadelphia area Realtor. Now a 10-year citizen of Sanibel, Florida. Married to Nancy for 53 years. Three children (2 in Devon; 1 in Steamboat Springs, CO) and 5 grandkids. Helping with charities involving poverty, kids and education.

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