Discovering Maggiore Lake: the wonderful Borromean Islands (Italy)

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photo credit: Sway me via photopin (license)

When I was a child, one of the typical summer day trips was to Maggiore Lake, starting from Stresa and reaching the three Borromean Islands by boat.

Maggiore Lake is the second largest Italian lake, after Garda Lake, and its shores are situated in Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland.

Every year, this pre-alpine basin attracts many tourists from Italy and from abroad thanks to its beautiful landscapes, its charming coastal towns and the archipelago of the Borromean Islands (Beautiful Island, Mother Island and Fishermen Island).

The best starting point to discover this amazing area is Stresa, a little town situated on the Piedmontese shore, not far from the city of Novara, which is often referred to as “the pearl of the lake” for its favorable geographic position and its charming historic centre. From here, you can use the public ferry boat service to quickly reach the three islands.

For more information take a look at http://en.isolelagomaggiore.com/

The Borromean Islands take their name from the noble family who has been living here since XIVth century and who still owns Beautiful Island and Mother Island!

Beautiful Island (Isola Bella)

This is the most famous and the most spectacular one. It’s also the nearest to the shore and its name stems from Isabella (nickname “Bella”), who was the wife of Carlo III Borromeo, the noble man who purchased it in the XVIIth century. It’s entirely dominated by the glamorous baroque Borromeo palace, which can be visited with a guided tour. Outside the palace you can also visit the huge terraced gardens full of exotic plants, flowers, statues, water effects and artificial caves. One of the most beautiful elements of the huge garden is the statue of a unicorn, which was the emblem of the Borromeo family. In the garden you can also see many white peacocks that add their unique charm to the place, making the visitor feel like being in a fairy tale. The noble family used to host friends and relatives here for the holidays, but also important people were invited to enjoy the place: for example you can still see the room were Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina stayed in 1797.

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photo credit: isola bella 104 via photopin (license)

Mother Island (Isola Madre)

This is the biggest one and it also has a beautiful palace, now hosting the Puppet Museum, and a big botanic garden, where you can admire plants from all over the world. Here you can also see white peacocks, parrots and pheasants wandering around in the green.

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photo credit: Isola Madre via photopin (license)

Fishermen Island (Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore)

On this island there is a little village built around San Vittore church, dating back to the XVIth century. It was once inhabited by the fishermen of the lake and it’s till populated by around 60 people, who are mainly employed in the tourist sector. It’s here, in effect, that you can find restaurants, local handicrafts and souvenir shops, while the other two islands are now uninhabited.

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photo credit: Isola Superiore via photopin (license)

For more information about the tourist attractions of this wonderful archipelago, visit http://www.isoleborromee.it/eng/home.html

Enjoying the ocean at South Beach (Florida– USA)

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View of South Beach from Lummus Park

I love the sea…its ever-changing colors, its waves, its taste in the air…just everything 🙂

The most beautiful sea I’ve ever seen is the ocean in South Beach, Miami. I’ve heard that Pacific atolls are the best, but I’ve never been there so, up to this moment, Miami Beach wins 🙂

I was fascinated by the differences I noticed compared to the beaches I know well, that is the ones situated in Liguria (North West Italy) and Côte d’Azur (South East France).

First of all, South Beach is so wide that, even if it gets crowded at times, it never gets suffocating, since you always have a lot of empty space around and in front of you to watch the sea or to walk around. In my European experience, this is rarely possible, because the beaches are smaller and they get packed with people very easily, so that they always surround you, even into the water at times! This is something I don’t really like, since it make it impossible to quietly stare at the waves or to swim without paying attention not to hit people!

The beach is mostly free and there are only some spots where you can rent umbrellas and sun beds for the day. This is very similar to South France, while in Italy you can hardly find a free beach, especially in the north shores. Even if it’s a public beach, the sand and the water are very clean and there is always some police to check everything’s ok, which gives you the feeling to be really safe.

The only remark I can make is that the beach is completely dark at night, which can make it quite dangerous to walk around after sunset. That’s a pity, because I think that one of the must-do summer experiences is a night picnic in the sand with music, campfire and watermelon!

Another thing I loved in Miami were the long waves and the view of surfers practicing near the shore, not to mention that swimming in the waves is much more fun! Mediterranean sea is usually calmer and colder. I was so surprised by the hot water of this part of the Atlantic Ocean, because I had always thought it had very cold water everywhere, but I’ve been told that in South Florida you can enjoy the Gulf Current flowing from the Caribbean, so that the water temperature never drops below 24°.

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The sea at sunset in South Beach

In South Beach you can easily see some local fauna, such as big pelicans that almost touch your head while diving into the water, small fishes very close to the shore and also some fenced turtle nests on the beach. In fact, in the period between April and October, a lot of sea turtles come here at night to lay their eggs!

Another distinctive feature of South Beach is the view of the colored lifeguard cabins in art-déco style, perfectly matching hotels and bars in Ocean Drive!

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The typical lifeguard cabin

 

Waiting to leave for Nice (France) in two weeks, I’m taking one more look at the pictures I took in Miami almost 2 months ago!

Have a nice holiday!!!

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Miami sunset

A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)

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photo credit: reggia di venaria quattroterzi via photopin (license)

Over the last 20 years, Turin and its surroundings have undergone major redevelopment and upgrading of touristic facilities, which made the area one of the most attractive destinations for foreign visitors in the North of Italy.

In my opinion, one of the most successful examples of local heritage enhancement is the Palace of Venaria with its beautiful gardens. The Palace was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 and it rivals the famous royal palaces of Caserta and Versailles in elegance and glamour.

Continue reading “A small Versailles in Piedmont. The Palace of Venaria (Italy)”