A day off? What a good opportunity to get the rest of the week off! We’re taking the car with friends towards the North of Italy: Lombardy.
The schedule is punctuated by the visit of lakes: one day, one lake.
DAY 1 : Orta Lake
After half a day of driving, we arrive to the Sacro Monte di Orta, up the Orta San Giulo village, classified at the UNESCO heritage.
We advise you to park the car at the top and not at the bottom like we did; your legs will thank you!
We’re eating our picnic at one of the numerous tables there and enjoy the end of April sunshine.
Once our bellies full, we can start exploring! The particularity of this palace is that there are 20 spread little chapels, all decorated with murals and statues, retracing the life of Saint François. Erm… The front and the inside of the chapels are quite bad because of their state; some are actually in renovation.
However, at the end of the Sacro Monte, you will find a terrace offering an amazing view on the Orta lake and the San Giulio island. It’s worth it to stop here!
Let’s now go to the big car park next to the “In La Rosa” restaurant… You have to know that in Italy, it’s hard to do anything without paying for it: car park, water, bread and restaurant service, access to a point of view, entrance to monuments… For us, lovers of economical traveling, we have to make an effort!
Anyway, after a few minutes of walking, we’re in the beautiful little streets in the heart of Orta San Giulio, decorated with wisteria; no doubt, we are in Italy! Don’t hesitate to make a stop by the garden of the city hall.
Eventually, we arrive at the Piazza Motta, heart of the village with a bunch of restaurants, bars, ice-cream shops but also the jetty to go to the small island of San Giulio.
For 4,50€/person, we hop on a little boat to go to the island in less than 10 minutes.
Right, so we’re done visiting in very little time because first, the island is really small and there’s therefore not much to do and second, there are lots of tourists.
We soon go back and get delicious ice-cream at Pura Vino; the hazelnut flavour is just to die for!
We then continue to wander around, sit at the edge of the lake… We’re enjoying the Dolce Vita!
We leave our suitcases at Omegna for the night, pretty village at the end of the Orta lake where it’s nice to spend the evening.
DAY 2 : Majeur Lake
To start the day, we decide to go up by driving to the Mottarone mount (it’s also possible to go with chairlifts for 19€/person). Once up there, we really want to try the competition alpine slide. For 5€, it was a blast of sensations!
We then decide to look around and enjoy a 360° view on the Orta lake and on the Majeur lake at the same time; needless to say it’s really beautiful! We recommend to go in the morning because clouds might be going up the rest of the day.
Going back down by car, we had the bad surprise of having to pay a “toll” of 10€/car… I never had to pay to access a mountain before!
Now heading towards Stresa, a city bordering the Lake Maggiore, is very famous because it’s the main jetty to go to the famous Borromean islands.
We find a parking space on the way to Stresa, and thank god, because you have to pay for everything down there, and it’s pretty full.
Little time after getting on the harbour, one of the many boat companies linking the different islands comes to us. We’re getting tickets for 12€/person to visit Isola Superiore and Isola Bella (according to the guide, Isola Madre has nothing particular at the moment…)
As it’s lunch time, we decide to go to Isola Superiore first because according to the guides, there are only restaurants on this one (NOT TRUE!)
We can see it getting closer and closer from the boat, and it is indeed very pretty.
Our first mission was to find a not too expensive place to eat and… What a mission! The island is busy and prices are high… After an hour wait, we end up having a table at the “Ristorente Italia”, its terrace offering a view over the lake.
While we waited, we went around the island which is nice with its little streets, but unfortunately there is just too many people there.
We’re back on the boat now heading towards Isola Bella to visit the Boromée Palace and its garden. Once again, money is required: 17€/person! But after the visit, it’s all forgotten about. Indeed, although according to me there are way too many rooms dedicated to painting in the palace, others had me astonished.
The visit ends with the gardens and it’s certainly the most beautiful I’ve seen so far, the pics are quite self-explanatory!
J3 : Lac Lugano
New day means new lake!
Lugano Lake is mainly situated in Switzerland. To appreciate it, we simply go to Lugano! We walk around in the pretty flowery “Parco Ciani” park and take nice pictures. It’s Easter Monday and therefore lots of Italian people come here to walk with their children.
Thrilled with yesterday’s experience, we decide to go higher to appreciate the beauty of today’s lake. To do so, we drive up until Bre, a village settled in a mountain, where it’s possible to meet Mount Bre from after a 20 minutes ascending walk.
Once again, the panorama at the top is wonderful.
We go back down the mountain to join one of the rare trails boarding the lake; yes, to protect the environment, they are not numerous. So here we are at the conquest of the Sentier des Oliviers (“Olive trees trail”) going from Castagnola to Gandria in only 3.5kms. We park below the main road not far from Gandria, you can’t miss it.
This path is nice, there are no difficulties, we go from wild corners to dream villas and hotels; there’s few people: perfect to end the day!
We spend the night in San Fedele Intelvi, a village where we haven’t seen a single tourist, useless to say we were spotted! There, we ate our best Italian pizza at Iris’ restaurant. If you want to eat for cheap and up to your hunger, you’re going to have to eat only pizzas because a plate of pasta is often much more expensive for not a lot of food!
J4 : Lac Come
As we wake up, we see that the weather is not too good so we decide to modify our schedule for today to find a way to enjoy the Come Lake under the rain.
For starters, we go to Come, boarding the lake of the same name. We try to walk around the streets and on the docks but we have to admit that the rain is getting heavier and heavier which keeps us from enjoying it as we should in normal conditions.
We find shelter is the car but we don’t give up: we’re going to Bellagio, a “jet-set” city stuck in between the two branches of the Y formed by the lake. Hallelujah, the rain calms down and allow us to enjoy the pretty streets. We even try to go to Punta Spartivento, giving a new perspective of the lake.
Time is going by quickly and we still have to drive to join our last Airbnb in Bergame. This city is famous of its upper part which is the medieval part. We have a preview from the car because our accommodation is right in the heart of it. We’re astonished: it’s stunning! We hurry to leave our bags and walk there at dusk, which adds even more charm to the place. It’s like we’re in King’s Landing in Game of Thrones!
During our stay in Italia, we let ourselves guide from one lake to another, and it’s been a real pleasure for the eyes!
And now, let’s head towards Milan.
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