mental health and travel
Holiday in Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italy. It was not stressful.
Lunch on a boat trip north across the border into Locarno, Switzerland. A mountain view train ride through The Alps south again. As part of a holiday travelling around Italy with 11 other family members we were in Stresa, a town on the western coast of Lake Maggiore for two days. We also spent two weeks based at the most beautiful villa I’ve ever seen on the top of a hill right next to San Gimignano, Tuscany, in the middle of Chianti country. I think someone got in some wine a couple of times each day.
We took three day trips into Florence (Firenze), 30 miles north, where I saw Michelangelo’s David, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), Florence Cathedral, about 100 leather goods stalls at Florence Market, lots of Gelatos and much more.
We also saw Milan, Parma, Pisa, Siena, Poggibonsi, several towns while slightly lost on car/minivan journeys and several towns on Lake Como.
The first day in Stresa www.visitstresa.com after booking into the Hotel Italie Et Suisse we walked up and down the coastline and spent three hours just sat in the sun by the bright blue lakefront watching things. The Italian lakes really are as blue as they look in pictures and on TV.
The towns on Lake Como were quite compact and densely populated at the water’s edge where we were, but Stresa was not so busy, and there was more space as the steep hills were not so close to the water. The hotel was small with fancy lake views but most of them are big luxury things with opulent gardens and designs that often host famous guests and have done for many years. Behind the hotel was a town square filled with restaurants and a social hub. The first full day we had in Stresa was lounging in the town square eating seafood pizza and drinking peach juice and popping into small tourist shops.
On the second day we walked about 100 feet from the hotel to the medium sized boat waiting for us and joined about 100 other people, tourists – for a three hour trip to Switzerland. Unfortunately it was cloudy that day but it was still fantastic. There were notes from the captain every 10 minutes or so about landmarks. In his slick voice he’d say -
“Ladies and Gentorrios on our left is George Clooney’s house. On our right is an old castle once owned by Mister Flamenco, and used by King Antonio, known to his friends as “Tony” whenever he fancied some good fishing.”
We had some pretty decent food on board – Risotto, Pasta, local Lake Maggiore Trout, Carrots, water and wine. Italian restaurants serve water in individual bottles and give a choice of still or sparkling. If you want more you get a fresh bottle which clogs up the table a bit after 30 minutes, but the waitresses were pretty good with a positive mental attitude. The young Italian women were always nice looking, but they seemed to have all these fashion victim boyfriends with deluded attitudes who thought they were cool because they knew how to copy Giorgio Armani. You don’t really see that in England because us young men know not to try too hard, but I’m getting off point.
We got off the boat in Locarno, Switzerland and had two hours to kill before boarding a mountain train that took us through The Alps back to Stresa. Switzerland was nice, beautiful. I'd like to go back and do more socialising there. McDonald's charge 10 Euro for a Big Mac, but the chocolate shops were well priced and presented nicely.
The train was awesome. I don’t like heights, but it was kinda fun going over the high bridges. We stopped in picturesque mountain towns and villages at cute little stations where my Uncle claims to have seen Julie Andrews feeding some cows. The sun came out again and created some rather pretty mists over some rather pretty valleys. The loo in the train was interesting, a small hole in the floor like most Italian trains. The state of regular, i.e. non-mountain Italian trains make ours look good, let’s just say they needed a good scrub. But you don’t go to Italy for the trains, you go for the art, the scenery, the culture, the wine, the food, the lakes and it was fantastic. It might just be my new favourite place – being at the villa with nothing to do except enjoy the beauty.
That was pretty much it, the next day we flew home. If you are going to book an Italian villa, check out villas in or near San Gimignano and be prepared to enjoy yourself. Our villa was Podere la Tesa www.poderelatesa.com/ We loved it, space - lots of space, including a swimming pool.