Firstly, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who helped me when I was planning my trip, which is now in progress.
I arrived to Lake Maggiore yesterday evening after a very LONG day of travel from the West Coast. My original flight connecting in Miami was cancelled, two days prior to departure, but fortunately my airline was able to find a flight connecting in Heathrow Airport. Connecting in Heathrow was quite an experience. The process of following the signs & taking the airport bus between the terminals was uneventful. However, I was randomly chosen at the start of the security line when a yellow tag was attached to my backpack.
Not only did I have to go through the metal detector, plus the x-ray machine, but I was also patted down. Then the contents of my luggage were completely examined.
My small backpack was emptied into a large plastic bin, my 3-1-1 liquids were transferred to one provided by security because they had to examine my liquid medications (eye & ear drops) together with all my other toiletry liquids. The whole process took about 40 minutes; it's a good thing I had almost two hours to spare! I understand that airport security is essential, but it's no fun when you're chosen and your luggage contents are emptied, then once they've completed their search, you're left with a big mess that needs to be repacked!
Anyway, my flight from Heathrow to Milan arrived a bit early, so I was able to catch the Alibus earlier and thus arrived to my hotel 2 hours earlier than expected. Yay!
My hotel is located in Baveno and my room is small but comfortable. The shower situation is as expected... I will never understand the reason why they have such tiny shower basins, with curtains which are useless, because the whole floor becomes flooded after one showers!
Anyway enough about my woes!
Today I had a wonderful day. After eating a delicious breakfast provided by the staff of the hotel, I set out to visit the
the small church located behind the hotel. It's a nice Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes within.
After visiting the TI, I took the local bus to Stresa, then the ferry to two of the Borromean Islands; Isola dei Pescatori & Isola Bella. I was underwhelmed by Isola dei Pescatori. Although it makes for a good photo opp, when approaching it from the ferry, I found the tiny island to be packed with
souvenir shops and touristy restaurants.
Isola Bella, as the name implies, was beautiful. I enjoyed the beautifully manicured gardens more than the decadent villa. The white peacocks were too busy eating in the bushes, so there was no display of their beautiful feathers.
After visiting Isola Bella, I visited Santa Caterina del Sasso, a tiny church built on the cliffs of the mountain across the lake.
While waiting for the ferry to return, I witnessed a newlywed couple being photographed (on a boat) with the church as a backdrop! Wow!
When I returned to Stresa, I found a Vodafone shop & spent about an hour getting an Italian SIM card for my iPhone. The reason it took so long was because the salesperson spoke very limited English & I speak very limited Italian. Thank heavens for google translate!
Vodafone is running a special right now which includes 300 minutes to call the US, 500 minutes for calls within Italy and 4GB of data for €30/ month. The only drawback with this plan is that it does not include MSM texts to the US, but I can use free WiFi while in my hotel and in many restaurants.
After getting my new Italian SIM card, I enjoyed strolling on Piazza Cadorna, getting a new scarf (my souvenir!), and eating deliciously creamy gelato at L' Angolo del Gelato, recommended by one of the ferry staff. I was so busy visiting the Islands that I skipped lunch!
You know what they say; don't go to the market when you're hungry... Well, before finding the gelateria, I found a Carrefour Market on Via Roma and managed to find some cookies...
To be continued below...