We had wanted to go to the lakes since we knew they existed, but playing there for a long weekend isn’t exactly in a backpackers’ budget. Due to the convenient timing of my 27th birthday, we decided to go ahead and turn a Monday birthday into a 3-day weekend celebration. Duh.
Friday May 17th 2013
We ran around Centro in the morning making 40 something beds, quickly ate lunch and then James fled to go pickup a rental car. He returned within a half an hour with a sweet little Fiat we’d rally through Northern Italy for our holiday. We left home around 5 p.m. and were driving alongside Lake Maggiore within 30 minutes.
Lake Maggiore is the longest of the lakes (65km long), although still smaller than Lake Garda, its pretty impressive. The northern end trespasses into Switzerland, and the Borromean Islands sit between Verbania and Stresa. The lake is surrounded by national parks and huge gardens. We pulled into Verbania, a cute town with incredible views.
We checked into Ostello Verbania and then headed out to the waterfront to get a drink. We found Jambalaya Cafe and quickly settled into celebration mode. We then jumped into the Fiat and cruised alongside the Gulf of Borromeo over to Stresa.
Stresa was lit up and filled with expensive-looking people. We walked along the boardwalk, received some interesting stares and we passed slow-moving traffic, and then found a lively restaurant to get some food.
We laughed over red wine, pizzas and lasagna (James couldn’t decide so had to get both). Driving home we saw the most ridiculously expensive hotels (we actually got out to take pictures too).
We enjoyed ourselves and realized again how grateful we are to be doing these things in this lifetime.
Saturday, May 18th 2013
We were up early on Saturday morning and went to cash in on the free breakfast right before checkout. Thinking it would be a croissant and weak coffee, we weren’t expecting much. We walked into a huge breakfast buffet and found a spot by the window to enjoy the hour as it passed. Back in the Fiat, we headed to Giardini Botanici Villa Taranto. We strolled through the gardens and enjoyed the peaceful place.
We then drove south to return to Stresa in the daylight. It was still as impressive as it was the night before. The car-free winding streets continually led to lively cafes and restaurants. We ended up finding a grocery store to get birthday essentials before heading further south to Arona. Stocked up with wine, pistachio chocolate and peanuts, we took a few more laps in Stresa and then carried on.
Arona is adorable. (It must be getting old hearing that every place we visit is such a fairytale and I love it. Sicily being a huge exception. But so far every place in northern Italy is truly a gem.)
Unfortunately it started to rain so we found a sweet bar and had a drink before continuing to drive towards Lake Como.
Within two hours we arrived at Lake Como and jumped out of the car to greet the serene lake.
We returned to our hotel and had the most luxurious night yet. Sparkling white wine (delivered by the little Italian man per James’ itinerary), bubble bath, dinner reservations in the restaurant downstairs with a view, and an over-the-top ‘real’ dinner (appetizers, wine, steak, and dessert were all involved).
Heck yeah we should get older more often. Celebrating with my favorite person and in (newly) one of my favorite places, very quickly this was truly one of the most memorable and enjoyable nights ever.
Sunday May 19th, 2013
We woke up early. Well I woke up early, and tried to watch Italian cartoons while James extended his snooze. We had a fancy schmancy breakfast downstairs in the restaurant while waiting for the rain to burn off.
After four or five trips back to the buffet table, we finally surrendered and decided to drive into Tremezzo, walk around and find a fun cafe to enjoy despite the weather.
The sun decided to make an appearance so we quickly headed towards the ferry which would take us to the ‘real’ Bellagio!
We enjoyed Bellagio for a few hours, checked out the views, shopped and visited cafes all afternoon before starting the scenic drive back home.
What a magical place. I can only hope the year ahead is a fraction as sweet as this weekend. Thank you James for seeing to it that I had the best start possible to age 27!