It is important to note that Lake Maggiore was more than just a bike crash, as significant as that moment was in our trip and no doubt will remain in Barney’s memory longer than most of our other activities. But we did have a wonderful time on the lake. Only three days in total, but time to get to know our little corner of Lake Maggiore reasonably well.
One day we had a ‘kids day’. It is worth one of these every now and then, even if it means going to a fun park for water slides, rope courses and bouncy castles. The kids LOVE it, and it recharges their batteries for more travelling and a spot of sight seeing.
We had a great trip around Isola Madre and Isola Bella via a hop on/off ferry. The lake is stunning, and the islands have pristine gardens (which we didn’t pay to see!), and a palace (which we didn’t pay to see!)… but were beautiful to visit and walk around the market stalls, mini shops, and have a dip in the lake under the mountains.
The other highlight was the house we stayed in. Airbnb can be a little random at times, but this time we landed on an incredible house, on about 8 acres of land, 20 mins up in the hills from the Lake in the mountains and woods – a very quiet little village called Premeno. Quiet, that is, apart from the church bells outside our window that chimed twice on the hour and once on the half hour… every hour throughout the night! It took quite a few drinks for me to sleep through them!
The gardens were magical. Run down after 70 or so years of neglect, but including a Turkish sauna building hidden in the woods, a French chalet that they were renovating, a stream running from top to bottom… foxes, wild pigs, lots of cats and a dog called Charlie! The kids loved the garden and spent one afternoon turning one of their huge trees (like a super-sized weeping willow) into a fox hunting den!
And the owners, Marina and Karim, and their daughter Anouk, were incredibly welcoming. They became friends really, and whilst we were only meant to be there for bed and breakfast, we cracked several bottles of Prosecco with them every night and ate with them each evening. Their pizza and pasta sure tasted better than any I have ever tasted – home cooked perfection. It was a great way to feel at home somewhere completely foreign and live a little like a local.
So when we left Lake Maggiore, it was quite sad to say goodbye. Not just to the family, and the location, but also as we drove out of Italy at the northern edge of the lake, and into Switzerland. Italy has been absolutely brilliant. Ancient battle grounds, stunning vineyards, original castles, pebbly beaches, pristine and dramatic coastline, rolling mountains, serene lakes, awe inspiring basilicas and laid back people with flair and passion that tie it all together… and… PROSECCO, GELATO, SALAMI, INCREDIBLE TOMATOES, PALMA HAM AND PARMIGIANO…! What a place to bring the fam. We must come back.