Well today has been one of the best days of my life, feeling very blissful right now!
We got up early so we could catch the 8am train to Lake Maggiore. It was only a half hour train journey so we made it onto the lake nice and early too, giving us 13 hours to enjoy ourselves!
As soon as we pulled up at the station I was awestruck by the scenery. Lake Maggiore sits on the Swiss/ Italian border and is a beautiful mixture of both. With the vast lake in front of us, the mountains all around us and the cutest chalets everywhere it was love at first sight for me.
We took a 5 minute stroll from the station to the lake front and stood for half an hour taking pictures and just gasping. Not only was the lake astounding but the hotels also looked so grand yet traditional.
There are several islands in Lake Maggiore and they are reachable by a hop on/ hop off ferry service. It was easy enough to find the ferry ticket office and get the 'rover' ticket that we needed. We had enough time before the ferry for Adam to do some car spotting. He's been particularly excited since arriving in Italy at the amount of ferraris, Porsches and other cars such as old mustangs and original fiats.
Our first island was Isola Bella. It was a wonderful little island, it was built on a hill so all over the island were steps, everything on different levels. It was really fun exploring the small island and I even picked up birthday presents for mum and nan. Plus of course taking more pictures of the lake. One on hand you start to think 'there's only so many pictures I can take of a body of water ' but on the other hand it's so overwhelmingly beautiful you can't help but want to capture it over and over again.
We decided to stop for lunch, now about midday. We went to an adorable little place, sitting lakeside. Adam had a pizza whilst I had a lasagne followed by breaded veal. I ordered a Campari orange as I've seen them being drunk everywhere and they looked nice...sickest thing I've ever drunk!! It was absolutely disgusting and after Adam tried a few sips it was left to the side. Aside from the drink lunch was wonderful, watching the boats drift past and the finches play in the plants.
We then caught a ferry over to Isola Madre. We bought tickets to enter the palace and gardens of the Borromeo family, an aristocratic family who owned all the Islands in the 1400s. The gardens were wonderful, we saw white peacocks and lots of lizards plus so many beautiful flowers. The palace itself was ok, it was well preserved but I think people of that time were too into dark wood and it's always a bit dreary.
We then took the ferry to Laveno. A short walk took us to the bucket lifts. This is a chair lift that ascends 3500ft up a mountain except there are no chairs, you're stood in a bucket. An open bucket. Certainly not for anyone scared of heights!! This was when we were certainly most exposed to the weather, it was 33 degrees today and whilst most of the day we were afforded shade there is no hiding from the sun in a bucket! It became quite a sweaty bucket!
The views were like no other though. The mountains and the lake and the sky all merged into one and took on something rather ethereal. It was just one of the most breathtaking sights ever. Lake Maggiore is just so much better than Como or Garda, I can't believe it gets overlooked compared to them.
Once at the top of the mountain we had a quick 20 minutes to grab an ice cream, a red bull and go to the toilet before making another sweaty descent.
When we got to the bottom we made our way back to the ferry to return to our original destination of Stresa. The ferry took 40 minutes and it was lovely sitting there admiring the view.
Once in Stresa we took a little walk around the town. We found an amazing shop that sold all kinds of multicoloured pasta and about a million bottles of wine. We got talking to the lady who owned it (for 54 years) and we told her how much we loved the lake. She gave us her email address and said we must return and get in touch and she'll help us sort out where to stay and what to do. We told her we'd already decided we wanted to do Switzerland and the lake on a return visit possibly in a half term.
We then made our way to the skybar of a hotel that sat lakeside. It had the most amazing views and the perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down which is what we did whilst sipping cocktails. I had a banana colada whilst Adam had a strawberry daiquiri. To accompany the cocktails we were given complimentary snacks which includes mini margarita pizzas, ham bruschettas and some feta cheese.
We then made our way back to the station but we had chance to stop on the way at a restaurant and share a ham pizza, as we were still a bit hungry after the snacks.
From start to finish the day has been utterly perfect and we've loved every minute! We got the train back at 10pm so it was a long day but it didn't feel like it, every moment just sped past because it was all so fantastic! As I said we are already planning our return!