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Published: September 18th 2013
Sept Peschiera, Lake Garda to Menaggio, Lake Como 108miles
No thunderstorm but it was hazy cloud the next morning and a bit brighter so drove in early to Sirmione which is a peninsula that juts out 4km into Lake Garda. Greeted by an impressive turreted C13th castle and moat, and then walked out to the end of the peninsula, past the hot bubbling sulphur springs in the lake. The peninsula used to be a Roman settlement, set within ancient olive groves and Cyprus trees so it made a very pleasant stroll around!
Massive queue of cars trying to get to the head of the peninsula as we were leaving so I’m glad we went early! By now it had clouded over and rain was threatening so we got onto the A4-E70 motorway until Bergamo and then followed the road towards Lecco. Stopped for lunch at Lago di Garlate that should have been beautiful, but as it was pouring with rain – no views at all!!
Rained all the way out to Bellagio – apparently called the most beautiful town in Italy! It wasn’t exactly beautiful with all the rain, but a pretty enough place, with a lower
arcade of shops and restaurants, and rows of steep cobbled steps leading up to the top road – quite different! But I think you need blue sky and sunshine to fully appreciate the lakes! Found a wifi cafe and confirmed the forecast is rain until Tuesday, so took the ferry across Lake Como to Caddenabba - (20.30 euros) and found a ‘campsite’ at Menaggio! Its an Italian stellplatz which is more like a derelict caravan site, with old caravans and makeshift sheds and extensions (24.50 euros) ! On the plus side we have got free wifi (at the little bar on site) and there is a view of the lake and also a toilet and shower block – yet to be inspected!!
Going for the 10minute walk back into Menaggio to have a little explore and something to eat – just waiting for the rain to stop! Lol! (Europa Campsite)
Sept Menaggio, Lake Como to Baveno, Lake Maggiore 80 miles
Woke up expecting rain and had a pleasant surprise as the sun was shining, albeit through the clouds, but it certainly seemed a lot brighter. Drove onward and upward, crossed the Switzerland /
Italy border, that was surprisingly policed and then alongside the lake to Lugano. Didn’t get many views of the lake as there were so many tunnels! Picked up the Blue 2 road, dropping down at least 1,000 metres into a huge valley and into Locarno, where we stopped for a coffee on the lakeside and watched the grebes. These birds are quite rare in UK but are very common on all the Lakes here.
Onto Cannobio where we stopped for lunch and a good wander round (The Frenchman at the previous campsite had told us it was a nice place!) It was a beautiful old town right on the side of the lake with a wide plaza with cafes, restaurants and shops, and then cobbled streets that led up towards even older town centre and the church! Encountered a huge friendly grey fluffy cat.Very nice place to stop, made even nicer by the bits of sunshine!
However, the sun was not to last and by the time we had reached Verbania, it had started to rain, so instead of driving to Lake Orta, we stopped at a campsite in Baveno (Also recommended by the Frenchman!) Luckily got the
last ACSI space but can camp right on the lakeside for a premium – probably worth it in good weather..
The rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out, so we went to explore Baveno which has a lovely little church / monastery. Also booked a hop on/ hop off full days boat trip tomorrow, organised by a vivacious young woman from the ferry company at half the price of the scheduled trips !!. Just hoping it doesn’t rain! (ACSI Camping Village Parisi)
Sept Lake Maggiore
An absol utely beautiful morning! What a difference a day makes!! Set off and caught our first ferry at 9.50am to the Hermitage Santa Catarina that dates back to the 12thC. Interesting little place sat half way up a rock face with a church that is adorned with fresco-style paintings and a corpse! Legend has it that a boulder fell onto one of the chapels roofs and remained wedged there until 1910 when it crashed to the ground causing no further damage! There is a walk of 250 steps to the top where there is a cafe (closed!) and not much else! Still – it had to be done!!
Back on the ferry and over to Stresa where we just wandered along the front paseo admiring the old Victorian hotels and gardens before heading into the old quarter for a pizza for lunch!
The next ferry took us to Isola Bella which is famous for its palace and gardens. It was built by Count Carlo III Borromeo for his wife Isabella in the 17thC and the rocky island was transformed into a magical baroque oasis! The palace is completely over the top, complete with six different grottos built with rocks and shells – nightmare to keep clean I would think!! Loads of garish gold and paintings and high, decorated ceilings, all leading out into these magnificent gardens! And they are totally amazing! Two sets of steps lead up to a lawn and then there is a four tiered shell grotto, decorated with cherubs and marble statues, fountains, box trees in pots, lemon and orange trees, laurels and Cyprus trees with white peacocks wandering about the lawn! There are lily ponds with all different coloured lilies, an aviary with love birds, stunning views all the way round, box hedge gardens – it was just all so lovely!
Our last stop was Isola de Pescatori – Hemmingways favourite island! (I must read his autobiography sometime as he seems to keep popping up wherever we travel – ie Cuba, Spain....and I’m sure there have been other places too!!) Walked around it in about 20 minutes and then wandered up and down the small alleyways. There seemed to be quite a lot of cats on the island and I made friends with a beautiful white kitten with striking blue eyes!! Had a drink whilst waiting for the ferry to take us back to Baveno (just read that Queen Victoria stayed at the Castello Branca in Baveno in 1879!) where we had a meal and walked back to the campsite.
Chatted to the couple camped next to us who said they had heard that the Simplon Pass was closed because of the snow – guess where we are supposed to be going tomorrow!!!
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