Be Charmed: Lago Maggiore

What a glorious day!! The beautiful blue sky and balmy October weather couldn’t have been better for the day trip to Lago Maggiore and two of its beautiful little islands, Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori.


Upon arrival in Stresa, a private boat was engaged for the day, beginning with the 5-10 minute ride to Isola Bella (aptly named: “beautiful island”), home of the magnificent Palazzo Borromeo.


The tour through the palace was very interesting…


…and afforded stunning views of Lago Maggiore and/or the park and gardens around the palazzo.


The lower level of the palazzo (the grotto) was fascinating and beautiful. Cobblestone and shells made for a cool place for the family to retreat to in hot weather.


The grounds on the east side of the palazzo were very…  interesting. Quite decorative. Edith Wharton devoted an entire chapter in her 1904 book on Italian villas to the palace and its unique gardens.


From there the group walked back to the waiting boat for the five-minute ride to little Isola Pescatori (fisherman’s island).


A lovely lunch was enjoyed on the terrace of the Ristorante Unione Superiore.


From there the boatman made a circle the long way around Isola Bella for a good look at the island and the Palazzo, then it was back to Stresa, where the coach was waiting for the drive back to the villa.


The group arrived home in time to enjoy some lovely late afternoon sun before another wonderful dinner at the villa.

 

 

 

Be Charmed: Mantero, Como, Brunate

Our delightful driver arrived after breakfast to take the group on yet another wonderful adventure.


First stop was Mantero, a silk outlet outside of Como. On first glance the shop looked small but the longer the group was there, the more they realized there was to choose from. In addition to the wide variety of scarves, there were some lovely ties. The ladies made many circles, picking things up and trying them on and eventually settling on a few things. On the way out the group noticed there were workers inside touching up some of the beautiful fabrics by hand.


From there it was a short drive to the restaurant for a nice lunch. After lunch the driver delivered the group to a spot where they could walk through a beautiful old square and along the lake to the funicular. The ride up the side of the mountain provides a beautiful view over Como and the Lake and ends at Brunate, a surprisingly pretty little village above Lake Como.


Brunate turned out to be a lovely little village and on a nice day or with a bit more time it would be worth spending more time exploring the area. It appears there are a number of excellent hikes from there (with stunning views, no doubt). After walking around a bit and visiting the lovely little church, the group decided to stop for a cup of hot cocoa or tea and was happy to find an outdoor cafe with blankets for the customers.


After a funicular ride back down (before which a certain 82-year-old female was observed jumping back over the turnstyle when she realized she’d gone through too early, and which happened so fast and so unexpectedly it was not be captured on camera), the group walked back along the lake and reconnected with the bus. A quick decision was made to visit Villa Olmo for a few minutes since it was so close. Despite the cloudy day it was beautiful.


Luigi, whose family has owned the Poggio Verde villa for several generations, had arrived from Milan and he graciously fielded many questions over cocktails and then a lovely dinner of typical Northern Italian specialties.

 

Be Charmed: Bergamo and Franciacorta

After breakfast, the group boarded the bus for the hour or so drive to Bergamo, one of the lovely hilltop towns in Lombardy. The group met up with the wonderful tour guide, Elena, and the tour began in the main piazza.

 

The beautiful Bergamo Cathedral was next.


After the cathedral visit it was time for lunch. On the way, the group passed some witches filming a vacuum commercial and a couple of interesting shop windows.


Lunch included such taste treats as polenta with rabbit, ravioli stuffed with bacon and ricotta, pasta with mushrooms, risotto and finished with an introduction to the excellent “affogato” or ice cream with espresso coffee poured over the top.


The group passed a particularly nice-looking pasticceria (bakery) and one of the ladies purchased some lovely meringues to take home for dessert later that evening.

The ladies left Bergamo and were driven the 40 minutes or so to Franciacorta, with the beautiful view of the foothills of the Alps in the distance. There had been rain in Bergamo but it cleared up as Castelveder Winery came within sight. The adorable Camilla (who runs the winery with her brother and her grandmother) provided an excellent tour of the winery and the classical methods used there to produce a particularly high quality sparkling wine. The grandmother came by to say hello, which was a lovely treat for the group. The favorite of the day was the Satin, and several bottles were procured to enjoy at the villa the rest of the week.


After the tour and tasting, there was time to walk in the stunning vineyards and see the pinot nero and chardonnay grapes that are grown there. There’s a cycling path in Franciacorta and perhaps someday it would lovely to try that… 


Dinner that night at the villa was preceded by a sip of the Casteveder rose and included veal meatballs and artichokes and a salad, and, of course, the meringues.

Lunch at Dac a Trá, Afternoon Enjoying Poggio Verde

There were visitors to pick up at Malpensa so guests enjoyed coffee on the terrace until it was time to go.


As soon as the new guests got settled, the group departed for lunch at Dac a Trá, a starred Michelin restaurant that seemed worth a try, considering it was about a 10-minute drive from the villa. It was wonderful! The food was fresh and nicely prepared, the service was excellent and the price for lunch was a remarkable 25 euros, including a glass of wine. Highly recommended.


Since lunch was on the later side, the group ambled on the grounds of Poggio Verde and read, caught up on e-mail, etc., and eventually pulled out the badminton and bocce before dinner.


The badminton and bocce were located and put to good use before another excellent dinner enjoyed on the Portico Coperto.