Ferry Across the Mersey(Gerry and the Pacemakers) - An Afternoon at Orta San Guilo - 26th May 2016

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May 26th 2016
Published: June 1st 2016
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We had a feeling that the position of the apartment at Lake Maggiore would give us a special sunrise and we were right.

While the sun rising out of the sea, as we have seen at Mt Maunganui back home, is a special occasion, so too was the sun rising over the mountains here at the lake.

First the light in the eastern sky slowly went through various shades of pink and with the help of some cloud it meant that colour spread across most of our view.

Then we caught the first rays appear and very quickly the sun itself. It was surprising just how quick it rose above the horizon and we put that down to the mountains giving an uneven skyline whereas when we have seen the sun rise from the open sea horizon it appears to come up more slowly.

We have decided to carry on our routine we had in Tuscany and have a lazy morning with some administration such as washing to be done and then head out after lunch for some local sightseeing.

Local tour director had found another of those ‘off the main road ‘places to visit through her research of the area and so we headed for Orto San Guilo which is located on the shores of Lake Orto about 18km by road from our apartment.

It was a pleasant drive through small settlements in clearings in the forest that is prevalent in the Italian Lakes area.

Lake Orta is not large in size compared to Maggiore or Como and had a different look about it with steep hills climbing almost directly from the lake edge.

We had thought that it wouldn’t be too busy at the time of the day we arrived, thinking that any tourist buses would have been here earlier in the day if they then had to get their passengers onto their accommodation.

However the first car park we came across was the one for tourist buses and it was pretty well full at 2pm in the afternoon.

The town has very narrow streets and does not have anywhere to park a car and so we used the car park on the hill above the town and walked down to the lake edge.

The main attraction to tourists is the Isola (Island) San Guilo a short distance off the town. It is served by a regular ferry that departed every 15 minutes and also went on further to a town on the other side of the lake. There were also a number of smaller launches that took tour groups on short cruises which included a stop at the island.

We were fortunate to find that a ferry to the island was just about to depart as we arrived at the jetty and we paid our €3.15 each for the return trip and we were off to explore the small island with a handful of other independent tourists.

The island had a chapel built in the 5th century and over the years the church building got bigger and bigger until the 12th century a Romanesque Basilica was built. A monastery followed and it still exists today being one that follows the Benedictine order.

Over the years houses had been built and there was even a restaurant added recently although it wasn’t yet open for the summer season.

We were looking forward to going inside the Basilica but found the experience a disappointment. It was not from the beautiful interior of the building but from the noise of the two large groups of tourists with their tour leaders giving commentary on what the group members were supposed to be looking at.

Outside the entry to the Basilica were several notices in various languages that asked for silence within the building. However, from the hubbub that was going on as we walked up the stairs to the entrance we had a concern that those making all the noise would be quiet once they got inside. And sure enough we were right.

It was impossible to sit and ignore the chatter and contemplate the paintings, frescoes and the layout of the church.

There were two groups, one in the body of the church and the other in the crypt area which was below the front of the altar and the chatter from there was accentuated by the stone walls and floor.

We have been inside numerous churches on the BBA V3 and at times we have noticed a little bit of chatter but this was way over the top.

We moved past one group and Gretchen gave out an audible ‘shoosh’in frustration but it didn’t make any difference.

We made a quick trip down to the crypt when the group that had been down there came up but they were almost immediately replaced by another noisy group of bus tour people.

We decided to give away the idea of staying inside the Basilica and instead started the walk along the narrow lanes and alleyways around the very small island. We thought that we would be on our own and hoped that the tour groups wouldn’t be interested in walking. However we were wrong and a group followed us although now that they were outside the Basilica their chatter sounded more subdue.

When we arrived back at the Basilica we took a look inside in case there were no more tour groups around but they were still there so we retreated to the jetty for the return to the mainland.

At least back in the town, even though there were plenty of people wandering around, the noise was as you would expect in an open piazza.

We took a walk around the town and up to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta from where we climbed further to try and get a better perspective of the surrounding scenery.

With time up on our parking meter we returned to Peggy and drove back to the apartment.

With the sun still making the early evening warm we sat on the balcony with our pre dinner drinks and watched the ferries returning to the town below us from wherever they had been to on the lengthy lake.

Orto San Guilo had been another great find despite the noisy crowds in the Basilica and it had been well worthwhile taking the afternoon drive.

Tomorrow we have a ride up the mountain on a cable car and then a walk via the forest, meadows and a couple of small villages back down to the lakefront and the weather forecast continue to be smiling on us.

PS:enjoy the old standard from Gerry and the Pacemakers on Youtube.OK the title is a bit far off our activity for the afternoon but we did take a ferry even if it wasn't across the Mersey!

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