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Published: July 19th 2016
We have an old Alessi kettle with a train whistle which was one of the first house things we bought together about 25 years ago. The handle has been replaced once (I melted it), the whistles twice (once in New York and once at home) and I have managed to boil it dry on the stove several times, without ill effect. (You would think it would be impossible to boil it dry, because it sounds like a train is about to come down the hall when it boils!). Anyway, the town at the end of the lake, Omegna, is the home of Alessi. It's a largely industrial town, but there's a very pretty area close to where the ferry comes in. We had planned to catch the ferry, but as there is only one boat per day from Orta we ended up on the train. After fluffing around for a while, we found a taxi to drive us to a little restaurant I'd read about on Trip Advisor. There's no menu, no-one speaks English and it's full of workers at lunch time. I thought it sounded good, but was a little disconcerted when the taxi pulled up at the other train
station in Omegna, outside a tiny, tiled building. Think the Flinders St Station shops - the non-trendy ones on the seedy side! I needn't have worried though, all the reports were true. It was full of office workers and labourers alike, and the young staff were friendly and welcoming. We sat outside and ordered the all inclusive 'menu of the day'. I managed to grasp that there was a choice of pastas, so we ordered one of each and they split them between our plates. Perfetto. We should have stopped at that, but when the meat course came, cooked a perfect shade of medium-rare and served with crispy little squares of potato, we couldn't resist. Add a small carafe of white wine, a small carafe of red wine, coffee, and a total bill for two of 21 euros,and we were happy campers. Conveniently, the Alessi factory was just a short walk up the hill, so we kidded ourselves that we were walking off lunch and headed straight there. I had thought there was an Alessi museum/gallery there, and there was, but unfortunately it's not open to the public. A wander around the factory shop was in order, and we bought
a few little gifts that we thought we might be able to squeeze into our bulging suitcases, which are smaller than usual because of the hike requirements, and full of bulky hiking boots and walking poles (amongst other unattractive clothing and equipment!). Some seconds are available (You look for the green sticker) but obviously as we were buying gifts we weren't really interested - despite the fact that the boxes might look
slightly squashed like seconds after we try to fit them into the suitcases! We had an extra bag to carry after that, but decided to walk the 3km or so back to the centre of Omegna as it was a lovely day and we now knew the way. The blister on my foot is a nuisance and needed to be tested in runners and socks before I put it into hiking boots. Not good - will have to try to find some Compeed patches soon! There was a bit of a wait before our train, so we popped into the little cafe just off the platform for a cool drink. There was a lovely little old couple sitting at a table drinking big balloon glasses of something that
looked refreshing, so I asked the woman in charge for the same thing. Turns out it was a cocktail with Aperol, pineapple juice, mineral water and mint. Delicious! We sat and relaxed and before we knew it, the train had arrived and we were scramblng for backpacks and throwing money on the counter. I could get used to waiting for a train that way. We walked home from the station via Villa Crespi at the top of the hill behind Orta. It is an ornate palazzo converted to a hotel which also houses a famous Michelin restaurant. We were not, however in the market for a Michelin starred restaurant tonight! I love the colours of the palazzo, and the tower which almost looks middle eastern. It was beautiful walking along the path at the quiet end of the lake, past children fishing and canoes silently gliding past us. By the time we got to Hotel San Rocco we were more than ready for an aperitif and sat in deck chairs on the pontoon, which swayed madly every time a motorboat went past. They brought a big platter of antipasti with the drinks, and it was lovely gazing out over the
The restaurant, Hotel San Rocco
Lovely, but by the time they had fed us all the antipasto with our drinks, we had no room for dinner!
pool to the lake one way, and back to the Isola the other. We had planned to eat at the restaurant, but found that after a couple of drinks and the frittata, cheese, bread and olives on the antipasti plate, we weren't very hungry any more. It wasn't a hard decision to forget dinner and walk to the beautiful gelateria we'd tried a couple of times for dessert - Gelateria Arte del Gelato. Frank, who doesn't like coffee (!) was a big fan of the tiramisu flavour, which I agree was stunning - big pieces of coffee and alcohol-soaked sponge through wonderful mascarpone flavoured ice-cream. My flavour in Italy though, is pistachio. The shop assistants always query me when I place my order "Solo pistachio?" they say. They obviously don't know that there IS no other flavour for me. Since we were last in Italy my friend Astrid has introduced me to Messina, in Chapel Street, which has the only good pistachio I've tasted since 2011, but sadly (or maybe luckily) it doesn't cost 2 euros like it does here on Orta! Frank and I may just use gelato as a meal replacement again, I'm thinking. My legs were tired
when we finally climbed the stairs to our room at Al Dom. It was lovely just lying on the bed, looking out at the twinkling lights on the lake for the last time. Tomorrow we are having an early breakfast before Massimo drives us up to catch the train to meet Cate and Greg in the cultural capital of Italy - Torino!
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