An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

2019 Girls' Trip to Italy (Trip Recap, Days 6, 7, 8)

This week La Dolce Vita Travels is publishing a series of posts recapping our Girls' Trip to Italy. I do this for several reasons: as a means of transcribing my travel journal, to share our trip with all those who have been asking how it went, and to plant seeds of interest for our next trip (and there will be another one). 

The series will be five parts, corresponding to the five cities in which we stayed--Pistoia (Tuscany), Santa Margherita (the Italian Riviera), Stresa (Italian lakes region), Bolzano, and Venezia. Today, we leave beautiful S. Margherita Ligure and head toward Stresa in the Italian lakes district of northern Italy.

Day 6: S. Margherita Ligure-Milano-Stresa (Sept. 24)

As difficult as it was to leave the Italian Riviera, I knew we were heading to the Italian lakes district and the Dolomites ... and glacial lakes and mountains are my happy place. We left early in the morning for Stresa, stopping first in Milano for a half day tour of the city. Located in northwestern Italy, Milano is the second largest city (after Rome) and is widely regarded as a global capital in industrial design, fashion and architecture. It is also a major national and international center for the performing arts, most notably opera.

We began our tour at the 15th century Sforza Castle, after which we toured the famous La Scala Opera House (founded in 1778 by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria). We then walked to Galleria Vittorio Emanelle II (referred to as La Galleria), Italy's oldest active shopping mall and a major landmark of Milano. The floor is covered in mosaics, and Thalia did the traditional three turns on the dancing bull's eh-hem private parts for good luck.

Walking through the glass-covered Galleria brings you right to the Piazza del Duomo and the beautiful Cathedral of Milano. The cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete and contains 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures. Over the apse, illuminated by a small red light, is a nail from the cross of Christ. Interestingly, the cathedral does not have a bell tower.

Later that afternoon we drove toward the town of Stresa on Lago (lake) Maggiore, a glacial lake that is the 2nd largest in Italy. We checked into our hotel, the Regina Palace, which was replete with old world charm and elegance ... like a scene from Downton Abbey. Dinner that evening was on our own, so we tried some of the local cuisine downtown.

The Cathedral of Milano

Two sisters shopping at La Galleria

Thalia, demonstrating the traditional three turns 
on the dancing bull's eh-hem private parts for good luck.

La Scala Opera House
and Mary Brooke, a classically trained opera singer

Hotel Regina Palace, Stresa, Italy

Dinner on the town (it was Mary Brooke's birthday)

Gayle, Brenda, Maria, Mary, and Thalia heading out to dinner

Jane (tour director) and Rocco (bus driver)

Our delicious meal: seafood roulade, bread basket,
sea bass, and a deconstructed semifreddo

Day 7: Stresa-Lago Maggiore-Stresa (Sept. 25)

Today we took a boat ride to the Borromean islands in the middle of Lago Maggiore: Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori. On Isola Bella we toured the 17th century palazzo owned by the Borromeo family (who are still prominent today) and then enjoyed the palazzo's lovely terraced gardens. From Isola Bella, we took the boat to Isola dei Pescatori (Fisherman's Island) where we had lunch at Ristorante La Pescheria and then had free time to explore the island.

Upon our return to Stresa, we had the rest of the day to explore, shop, rest, and dine.

Isola Bella

Touring the palazzo owned by the Borromeo family

group photo in the terraced gardens

gardens of Isola Bella

Stunning views

fishing nets on Isola dei Pescatori

Lunch and free time on Isola dei Pescatori

Day 8: Stresa-Lake Orta-Stresa (Sept. 26)

This morning we went off the beaten path to Lake Orta, often referred to as La Cenerentola (Cinderella) because it is the lesser known of the Italian Lakes. We arrived to the town, Orta San Giulio, and immediately took a boat for the island,  Isola San Giulio. The island is dominated by the Basilica of San Giulio and a Benedictine Monastery. The footpath encircling the island enables you to walk the Way of Silence or, if you turn and go in the opposite direction, the Way of Meditation. The island, in the middle of a lake surrounded by mountains, was so quiet and peaceful.

The island is also associated with a legend: During the latter half of the 4th century, San Giulio (Julius of Novara) had an inspiration to build a church on the island, but he was discouraged by the locals who claimed the island was inhabited by a fearsome dragon. Since no boatman would accompany him to the island, San Giulio prayed to God and floated to the island on his cloak. There, he defeated the dragon and the villagers converted to Christianity and helped him build the church. San Giulio was buried on the island, and his remains are still there on display. 

We returned to the town, Orta San Giulio, where we explored, shopped, and had lunch.

On the way back to Stresa, Rocco dropped off a group who wanted to ride the Funivia Stresa (a series of two cable cars and one chair lift) to reach the top of the mountain, Mottarone.

That night, we ate at Ristorante Mamma Mia to commemorate our last night in Stresa.

Getting ready to board our boat for Isola San Giulio.
I'm very proud of this photo ... I captured a bird in flight!

Isola San Giulio

On the shores of Isola San Giulio

Loving the peace, quiet, and spirituality of Isola San Giulio

2 cable cars + one chair lift =
on top of the world on Monte Mottarone

Farewell Dinner at Ristorante Mamma Mia, 
Stresa, Italy

The mountains are calling and I must go ...

Tomorrow: We leave Stresa and head for Bolzano, a little bit of Bavaria in Italy.

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