A farewell to Lake Mag­giore

Costa Levante News - - FEATURE -

By Jack Troughton LAKE Mag­giore spans the Ital­ian and Swiss bor­der and is sur­rounded by alpine moun­tains; its nat­u­ral pic­ture post­card beauty has his­tor­i­cally at­tracted the great and the good; - once a ‘must’ place to visit on the Vic­to­rian ‘Grand Tour’.

Amer­i­can writer Ernest Hem­ing­way rocked up twice; once to re­cu­per­ate from wounds suf­fered as an of­fi­cer work­ing with the Ital­ian Red Cross be­hind the wheel of an am­bu­lance on the front­line in 1918 where Ital­ian and Aus­trian troops clashed in the Great War – later us­ing some of his ex­pe­ri­ences in his clas­sic A Farewell to Arms – and re­turned in 1948.

He stayed at the Art Deco five- is­to­cratic world went through seis­mic so­cial change, other names in the book in­clude: the King of Italy, the Queen of Ro­ma­nia, the Prince of Prus­sia, the Duchess of Genoa, King Al­fonso XIII of Spain and the Queen of Por­tu­gal.

Famed clas­si­cal mu­si­cians also took a break there; Mus­solini (prior to be­com­ing the boss) stayed; as did John Stein­beck, and Clark Gable.

The mod­ern-day mar­tini at the ho­tel has yet to be sam­pled; ac­tu­ally the ho­tel and its rooms still await a road test. How­ever, the Ho­tel Du Parc over­looks the rooftops of Stresa and from a top floor win­dow guests can look up the length of the lake and see the moun­tain tops of Switzer­land; a re­shaped 20th Cen­tury villa with won­der­ful gar­dens, it also serves a mean cock­tail – the rather scrummy Aperol Spritz, an en­joy­able aper­i­tif topped up with prosecco, ice, a slice of or­ange and a splash of soda - and its com­fort­able rooms echo a gran­deur of the past.

Stresa is a mag­net for vis­i­tors and the man­i­cured prom­e­nade along the shore of the lake is a must, pos­si­bly walk­ing in Hem­ming­way’s foot­steps. The path­way and its colour­ful gar­dens wan­der by the Grand Ho­tel and other es­tab­lish­ments, all slightly past their glo­ri­ous best – a bit like some Bri­tish seaside and spa towns, the prod­ucts of an­other age. There are plenty of res­tau­rants, bars and cafes – the Black Cat Bar prob­a­bly didn’t ex­ist back in the day but Hem­ing­way would cer­tainly have ap­proved.

Cer­tainly the peak of Mount Mot­tarone was cer­tainly vis­ited by the Amer­i­can writer. From the top – al­most 1,500m high, it is pos­si­ble to see seven lakes on a clear day; get to the top by car or cable car – in win­ter there are ski fa­cil­i­ties.

Im­me­di­ately down be­low are the Bor­romean Is­lands – Hem­ming­way ap­par­ently en­joyed the view – and they can be vis­ited by wa­ter taxi or one of the many steam­ers sail­ing be­tween the com­mu­ni­ties of the lake, the best way to get around.

And it is im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed with the 360 de­gree views. Even in sum­mer there is a back­drop of high snow capped moun­tains; the orig­i­nal de­signer of Toblerone choco­late bars may have stood here too and been in­spired; on a clear day all seven ma­jor lakes can be seen.

The moun­tain sep­a­rates Mag­giore – Italy’s sec­ond largest lake - from the much smaller neigh­bour Lake Orta; the town is small, quaint and its nar­row streets just right for a peace­ful me­an­der.

Like most of the towns dot­ted around the Ital­ian lakes, many of the shops are de­signer ‘high end’ af­fairs or have Chi­nese bazaars pos­ing as bou­tiques; how­ever, there are one or two gems to be dis­cov­ered in­clud­ing some fas­ci­nat­ing art gal­leries.

The cen­tral square has a num­ber of cafes and it is an ideal place to watch peo­ple take a boat out to the is­land of San Guillo or en­joy the views across to the western shore of the lake which is much less de­vel­oped. Ryanair flies from Va­len­cia to Mi­lan’s Malpensa In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the clos­est to Lake Mag­giore, it also of­fers a ser­vice to Mi­lan Berg­amo; nearer to Verona and Lake Garda.

Isola Pesca­tori (Fish­er­man’s Is­land), Lake Mag­giore

A room with a view at Stresa

View from Mot­tarone’s peak

Hem­ing­way stayed at the Grand Ho­tel

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