2nd June 2012
Wow, this was a fantastic day! We visited 2 of the islands on Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella & Isola Pescatori for most of the day then some of us took the cable cars and chairlift to the top of Mount Mottarone after which some of us went to dinner at one of the local restaurants.
It was like going on a school excursion, we were all excited to catch the boat and the captain on our boat played an operatic version of the Australian anthem at full blast. He was like an old-fashioned Lothario gone to seed but was gorgeous. As we got off the boat I got a “bella signorina” but Dale did even better and received a wishful marriage proposal!
The palace and gardens belong to the Borromeo family and work to transform the rocky island began about 1630 and continued on and off well into the 19th century although the palace itself was basically finished in 1670. The palace has an amazing amount of ornate furniture, paintings, books and musical instruments to just touch on a few of the sights we saw.
We had a guided tour of the palace which was another adventure because the tour guide was an absolute crack up He gave us a running commentary of the history and stories with jokes the whole way through. He was really informative but fun as well. Val sat down on a chair at one stage and just as if it was part of the commentary he told us to look at this lovely statue of a 600 year old princess, very well-preserved, and gestured to Val who was turning around looking for the statue. It was totally hilarious!
It was just how I imagined Italian palaces would be – over the top, very ornate and gorgeous. It’s not my style but to see it in real life is just amazing and I can’t really believe I’m here at last. We then had some free time to walk around and I thought it was just the gardens so I was a little disappointed to find out there was a lot more to the island other than just the palace – all the more reason to come back again!
I sat and had a drink with Margaret and Ron and started to go back to the meeting point fifteen minutes before we were due and found all these interesting laneways, houses and markets. Just before I got back I saw some really nice tops so stopped and quickly bought two tops and a scarf in about two minutes – then I was late, and of course I copped a fun ribbing for the rest of the day. It was worth it though, both tops fitted and nobody was seriously upset as I was only just late.
We then caught the boat to another little island called “fisherman’s island” or “Isola Pescatori” which was much smaller but quite lovely. Apparently there are about 50 full-time inhabitants and their main source of income these days is tourism. I had my first piece of Italian pizza there for lunch and it was another pinch me moment. It was all laneways and apartments and shops in the middle with a promenade all the way around. Had a great time and bought some canvas bags for the scrapping girls and a calendar on heavy paper with watercolor prints of the island.
When it was time to leave the island the younger of the two captains was waiting but the older one was nowhere to be found and was getting an earful on the phone for
being late – very voluble and animated and quite amusing to watch and listen. He eventually came speeding along in his boat full of loud chatter and laughter, not in the least upset or chastened by the phone call.