Tuesday 4th June
We had booked to stay at a B&B just up the hill from Stresa, one of the main towns around Lago Maggiore – well located for its proximity to the beautiful Borromean Islands, Lake Orta, and also easy for us to get to and from on our journey! Of course, “up the hill” generally involves very steep and narrow roads in Italy, so late afternoon on Monday we found ourselves blocking a tiny road in a village, precariously parked at a 10% gradient, as we struggled to unload our car.
We absolutely loved how we had planned our honeymoon road trip, but packing and unpacking the car on a regular basis was probably our least favourite activity of all. Especially as we had different bags for different activities (hiking equipment, climbing equipment, going out clothes and general clothes etc) and inevitably always needed items out of at least 2 bags. This also became more complicated as our trip progressed and the car filled with progressively more wine….
But I digress! We made it to the B&B and our hosts were simply delightful and super friendly! This was my first language test of the honeymoon and my Italian was feeling pretty rusty. I’d clearly made a fatal error in communicating via whatsapp in Italian, making my hosts presume I was fluent, and an immediate onslaught of 100mph Italian q&a was thrown at me on arrival!
I somehow managed to understand the bulk of it, and answer without speaking in French (it often happens if I go from days of speaking one language to trying to speak another), and soon we found ourselves in a delightful room, with a view to the lake, a mini bottle of bubbly in our fridge, and our hosts prepping their outdoor jacuzzi hot tub for us to enjoy. Suggestions were given for dinner, and magically my stomach wasn’t playing up.
We enjoyed the hot tub and an aperitif in the garden (I actually managed, and enjoyed, the bubbly), and decided we’d head to the pizzeria our hosts had suggested in Stresa. Amazingly we found free parking in the square where we wanted to eat, and were given one of the only remaining outdoor tables at the restaurant. Things were definitely looking up.
Dinner was pleasant and I actually felt better after eating a pizza than I’d felt in days. We went for a passegiata after dinner, Dec obviously had to have some gelato, and then we wound our way to the lake front, which wasn’t at all busy, but absolutely stunning. We spent some time admiring the views of the mountains that looked like they slid into the lake, before heading back into the heart of the town. We stumbled across a street band playing outside a bar, and Dec thought it would be great to sit down and have a drink and listen.
But no sooner did we get served, the band left! To top it off, Dec thought he’d try a local wine called Gattinara. It literally tasted of vinegar! When
he complained I complained on his behalf, the bar manager told us that Gattinara just tastes like that, and you either like it or you don’t. We didn’t buy this explanation, but had no proof otherwise, so just ended up leaving the glass and vowing not to buy Gattinara. But we weren’t disheartened, we’d had a lovely and relaxing first evening in Italy.