Published: May 2nd 2010February 6th 2010
Sergio planned a day in the northern Italian lake towns and at a chocolate factory in Switzerland with me, Kuba, and (another) Anna visiting from Poland. I was a bit concerned about the weather as we left - it was dark and foggy and it felt like it was going to rain all day - but as soon as we got outside of Milan, skies were blue and beautiful!
First stop, Porto Ceresio to walk around by the lake and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views! I can already see why Milanese leave the city each weekend - the clean air put me in a great mood right away.
We continued on to nearby Lugano, finding that some roads were closed along the way. A tip to be able to drive straight on through the border crossing - the driver should communicate with eyes. Immediately it was notable that the Swiss side was cleaner than anything I'd ever seen in Italy. Even in this very Italian influenced corner of Switzerland does the Swiss precision win out! We went to the chocolate factory, not in operation today but still open to the public to see. After tasting chocolate in
a fountain, there was a funny little "museum" of chocolate history and production, and an entrance to a closed walkway through the factory for tourists like us. Never in my life have I smelled chocolate so strongly! Switzerland is famous for the special techniques that were developed to make smooth and sweet milk chocolate, and that is what they still do best. Walking through the huge automated chocolate machinery I could easily envision something like the famous 'I Love Lucy' scene eating chocolate off the belt line. On our way out each of us snacked on chocolate samples and bought some to take home.
Next on to another lake in the Alps to the town of Luino, for a lake-shore walk and a wander through the town. Luino was beautiful - picturesque everywhere you look! We enjoyed walking around snapping photos. We were not alone - there were a lot of other weekend tourists around.
On our way to see if we could catch the antiques fair in the town of Castiglione Olona, we saw a sign for an old monastery, Eremo di S. Caterina, and decided to take a look. The monastery is built into the cliff
over the lake, and quite a beautiful sight! With history dating back to the 1100's and a reliquary in the ancient portion of the building I found it to be both a serene place, and a magical and intriguing one, inspiring ideas of fairytale and myth. It was late in the day and they were closing, so there wasn't much time to linger, but I would be happy to come back, and definitely recommend a stop to any trip through the area.
In case you want to see some more beautiful photos, or figure out how to get there:
We finally made it to Castiglione Olona at dusk - the last vendors of the antique market were packing up, and the huge church on the hill was closed for the night. We walked through the town over the cobblestones and stairs and saw the little stone bridge over the river before we, very cold (there is still snow on the ground), decided to call it a day. Kuba and Anna fell asleep in the car on our way back to Milan.
There are more photos below