Monday, July 18, 2011

Lago Maggiore

          Over the weekend I went to the most amazing place.  Italy is blessed with a series of lakes, some of which share a border with Switzerland.  With my program, we all traveled to lake Maggiore.  It is right next to lake Como, where George Clooney famously owns a house.  Lake Maggiore is just like lake Como except filled with less American tourists.  The lake sits in a valley so that everywhere surrounding the water is mountainous and beautiful.  Our field trip was to Stresa which is one of the towns along the lake.  From Stresa, we took a ferry for a few minutes across the lake to get to one of the most amazingly beautiful places I have ever seen.  Amidst the lake is aptly named Isola Bella, or “beautiful island.”  ‘Beautiful’ isn’t even a strong enough word to describe this site.

This is the view pulling up to the island
            Upon pulling up by boat, you are greeted by a small island emanating greenery.  On the island is a palace with a garden.  From the boat you receive a view of the garden, and it looks otherworldly.  Ivy covers tall structures and statues are carefully placed at all heights of the almost three-story high garden.  It looks like Atlantis, or something out of a dream.  At a closer look you can see a huge array of colorful flowers.  From the time the ferry pulled up, until after the ferry left the island, my jaw was on the ground.  There are few times I have ever been in awe, but this was definitely one of them.

Here I am with the three friends on the ferry!
            Our group of fifty took a tour of the palace on the island.  The interior was classically baroque, and was filled with pastel colors and ornate décor.  It was amazing and so inspiring.  After seeing room after room of pastel blues, and pinks, each adorned with morano glass chandeliers, we came to a long hallway with a series of seven extremely ornate tapestries.  Woven into these tapestries were silk and gold threads.  Each tapestry took around ten years to make.  After the hallway was a large gate with an entrance to the garden. 
            The garden was just as unbelievable as I expected it to be from the exterior view.  There were stairs laden with ivy and plants that lead up to lush open space lined with purple, blue and pink flowers.  Then up a few more stairs was another layer of the garden; this one had a huge sculpture with different statues that reminded me of a sand castle.  There were also white peacocks in the garden that just walked around and would let you get really close to them.  The whole tour, my jaw was open because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

This is inside the palace.  The room was so tall I couldn't fit it all in the picture!

Here are some of the sculptures that you can climb stairs up to and walk around

This is a view of the lake from the garden 

This is just some of the beautiful garden

White peacock!

            After the garden our group got back on the ferry to Stresa where the rest of the group came back to Torino, but three friends and I decided we wanted to spend the weekend on the lake.  We stayed in a hotel in the town next to Stresa called Verbania.  Verbania was absolutely beautiful!  We were right on the lake and the town was even less touristy than Stresa.  On Saturday we took the most amazing bike ride and stumbled upon an open market.  The views, like the one below were nothing short of incredible.

Mi manca a tutti!  [I miss you all!]


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