Lakes District, Italian Style (part 1)

September 9-13, 2013: Here’s where our little rental Smartie really came in handy. Within a fifteen to sixty minute drive from Sesto Calende, we had all sorts of twisty mountain roads, little towns, fun activities and excellent restaurants to choose from. Here’s a selection of our destinations from our last week, all centred on Lago Maggiore. As you can see from the photos, the weather was incredible. Lucky us!

Laveno Bucket Ride
Located on the eastern short of Lago Maggiore, Laveno-Mombello is home to the bucket ride. Oozing classic Italian style but lacking in speed, this funivia trundled us up the mountain for stunning vistas of the lake and the alps beyond. There’s a hotel and restaurant at the top, but an hour was plenty for us. It’s two people per bucket and it doesn’t slow down at the bottom and top. You simply stand on a marked spot on the floor and hop on when the bucket rumbles by. Once you’re both in, the operators closes the door and off you go. A sign warns you not to lean on the door. Not a ride for the faint of heart. We were pretty convinced this one would have long ago been banned at home in Canada. View 10 out of 10; experience 12 out of 10. More information here.

Back in town, we enjoyed a special dinner at Hostaria del Golfo overlooking the lake. We sat on the second floor balcony, so narrow our server had to keep popping in and out different doors to reach us. Everything was local and we decided to try the sampler menu for a little taste of pretty much everything on the menu, mostly fish, and nicely paired with wine.

Stresa Gondola
We seem to keep coming back to Stresa on the western side of Lago Maggiore over and over again. Twice this week. Once to try and take some better photos of the Borromean Islands and a second time to ride the gondola to Mottarone for more alpine views. After the bucket ride, the gondola seemed a little bland. At least we thought so. But there was one young British girl who found the whole ordeal rather traumatizing. It’s worth the fare for the views back over the Borromean Islands, although we discovered afterwards that you can drive up too. There are actually two gondola rides, so you get off one at mid station and hop on the next. Even this one doesn’t take you all the way to the top. From here there’s a chairlift to the summit for views over Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orti, the alps and the hazy lowlands south towards Milan. Instead of taking the chairlift back down, we opted for a ride on the alpine coaster. View 10 out of 10; experience 5 out of 10.

Red Beef
Sorry no pictures of our chateaubriand dinner at Red Beef in Dormeletto, possibly the best meat I have ever eaten in my life…or, in the last year at least. The restaurant’s name almost put us off and the décor was a little too contemporary for my liking, but the food certainly lived up to the recommendations from the instructors at AgustaWestland.

Next up (and our last post on Italy) is Lago d’Orti.

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