Thursday, March 8, 2018

Italy in November: Lake Maggiore


Pomegranates, near Lake Maggiore

Now I'm waiting on line for the Malpensa Milan flight.  It was only 9 hours from LAX to Heathrow due to tail winds.  Off season, empty plane, had 3 seats to myself!  Onward! Love, Denny

To Heathrow

To Milan

November 28, 2017  Yes I’m here, all tucked up in cozy bed which is good since everything is spinning after my long tiring travel day. Yes, smooth flights, comfy seats etc., but a trip like this is grueling, no way around it.  I’m beat. And British Air grabbed my second bag saying there wasn’t room on the plane and it had to be checked. Fine. But when I got to Milan, the bag didn’t. I was bewildered a minute but called Keith who was waiting in the concourse and he said to give them his address. First I had to find the Lost and Found and they told me the bag just hadn’t made it on the plane and would be flown on tomorrow's plane!  It was the bag with all my pretty clothes! However, I’ve really got all I need, all my meds and cosmetics are sensibly in my carry-on, and boots and jacket are with me too. 

First cappuccino in Italy!  Not the last.

Cozy room at Keith and Anne's


Breakfast - ham and cheese and fresh bread from the little market!


Morning view

Just woke up after 5 solid hours sleep, it’s 5 AM and I’ll sleep some more.  It’s been dark the whole time since I left Heathrow so I don’t know what it’s like here yet (the motor ways just look like an empty New Jersey or Toronto) but it’s pleasantly cool. Lots of British and Italian businessmen on small plane going to Milan, I was certainly the only American, no tourists. Everybody stared at my black Russian fur collared coat, not sure it’s the thing to wear. People mostly wearing just black puffy jackets and jeans. Businessmen all talking about America: “What do they think of Trump in California?” “He’s quite a character.” “Everybody wants to go to the U.S., nobody thinks of Italy,” etc.  They seem to commute all over the world and they sound very pragmatic and bored.

First views of the lake...


Keith and Anne

Glimpses of the Borromeo islands






Grand old Edwardian hotels around the lake...mostly empty now



It was so wonderful to be greeted at the airport by Keith and Anne, dear old friends I haven't seen in several years. We used to visit them when they lived in Kent, and they passed through L.A. fairly regularly when they lived in Mulege, Mexico, but they've now been at Lake Maggiore for ten whole  years - and I've always longed to visit them there, but somehow it was never the moment! Well, now it is.

Their house is so comfortable, in a quiet little village not far from the lake, and it seems such a pleasant life. Possibly I am influenced by the dinner that greeted me - the best Italian cold sliced roast pork with delicious salads. Then to bed to sleep off jet lag. It's absolutely silent here at night, a real Italian church bell just rang the half hour...

November 30

Woke about 9, beautiful sunny day but cold. Walked half a block to the little market with Keith to get the fresh bread rolls, cheese, and divine Italian ham. Every single piece of everything was better than you could get anywhere in Los Angeles. Then we drove, up into the Alps to a village called Macugnaga, in the valle Anzasca. A Swiss looking ski village, mostly deserted this time of year. The lift was closed so we drove to the next valle, the Antigorio, to the Cascade del Toce. This river comes down from the Alps to fill Lake Maggiore. We drove through a corkscrew tunnel, past war memorials, a Nazi fountain, and many of the old Walser huts, to snow country where the mountains all around were in Switzerland, though we were in Italy.

Keith going to market


Driving into the mountains

Mountain village





Back in Keith and Anne’s village, Castle Corte Cerro, we dined at the Cooperative restaurant. A large family runs it, putting out a wonderful set meal every night. (Circolo restaurants do something similar.) The food was homely but superb, minestrone soup followed by cannelloni, kind of sausage wrapped in delicate pasta, then pounded chicken lightly cheesy, and roast pork, plus beautiful vegetables: butternut squash and the most gorgeous cabbage and onions. Then panettone. Oh my God. A unique experience. Tired now, going to bed!

Driving towards Switzerland

Looking at Switzerland!









Remains of a Nazi fountain sign...eeek

But the fountain water is very pure..






December 1

Today we drove all along one side of the lake, up into Locarno in Switzerland, then down the other side to the ferry and had a gorgeous ferry ride to Intra, where Keith and Anne lived before their present house. Lively, charming town. Ate dinner at the most fabulous cheese shop, La ca sera, with a stunning antipasti platter of cheeses (the best and gooiest and most character full was Robiola rustica), selection of meats, marinated tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions, fennel, fresh breads and an apricot marmalade much like our pear jam. Too tired to write much, but am having oh, such a happy time! Keith and Anne have picked the loveliest place to live...though if we lived here I know we would become circus pigs! (They haven't, though!)








One kind of odd occurrence, as we were heading out today the machine at a gas station took Keith’s 20 euros but wouldn’t give gas. Several other customers were standing around steamed, having lost even more. The attendant was gone. Keith says this happens a lot, it’s a way for them to make money. On the way back from our drive in the evening, we went back and the attendant was there, apologized and gave back the money. But of course he kept the money of everyone who didn’t come back, like people on the road for Switzerland!  Mafia machines? Somehow it wouldn't happen in America (though of course many worse things do).  On the other hand driving is very good here, empty roads. (Naturally, it's dead off season, which I like.) The villages in the Piedmont are the real thing, not touristy at all, just Italian people with their churches and cozy looking men’s gaming and other social clubs. Everybody is very polite, with "Buon giorno" and "Buena sera" every time you step out of the door in the village. 

After ten years Keith and Anne know all the best places to eat and have made friends with the owners! So we are eating "real" Italian food, and it is an eye opener. Wish you could have seen all the gorgeous thin fashionable young Italians in black at a secret exclusive pizza restaurant they took me to - it was like a private club, and I couldn't take pictures - or the lovely family food at the Cooperative. It is a bit bleak and empty at the end of November, but very atmospheric, and of course all summer long Keith and Anne sail their boat on the lake, which is so beautiful and blue then, and entertain visiting grandchildren.  In winter we can't do things like sail to the beautiful Borromeo Islands, but I hope to come again!  At present it's a little like living at Lake Tahoe out of season with nobody speaking English, but there's the unbelievable food, and the warm company of my friends. So I'm very, very happy.

Crossing Lake Maggiore on the ferry






Village of Intra

Cappuccino stop








Dec. 2.

Bid farewell sadly to Keith and Anne, as they put me on the bullet train in Verbania, bound for Venice. Spirits can't help dancing though, as the very concept of speeding across Italy to Venice, which I have not seen in 12 years, thrills me to the marrow. Comfortable but not particularly spectacular train ride, 3 hours, funny to see the great names of Padua and Verona, and then - suddenly the towns and fields vanished, and we were running alongside the LAGOON! I just gasped and stared out the window with all my might. And there we were and I stepped out onto the platform station and was at the head of the Grand Canal - oh! Venice is everything I remembered and better than anywhere. Felt quite emotional and overcome to see it again!

At the Verbania station

Bullet train!

Past mountains...

Lo!  The Lagoon!

And oh! I really do have the happiness of being in Venezia again!