Saturday, July 30, 2011

Verbania, Part 1

I am making some pre-preparations for my trip back to NZ. So far this has consisted of staring at my borrowed suitcase and realising that the available space is oh-so-much smaller than my newly accumulated clothes, shoes and presents… it’s the eternal travel dilemma.

The impending completion of ‘Euro 2011’ in no way signals the end of this years travel blog. It will probably take me another month to finish editing and uploading pics. My just-finished three day excursion to Northern Italy was particularly photo-dense. Verbania was, as expected, absolutely picturesque.

I first visited Northern Italy in 2000 and promised myself that I would return as soon as possible, which turned out to be ten years later. Last year I went to Lake Como with The Programmer and my Grandparents, which was super special. This year I headed back there with my Liechtenstein-based family.

The original idea was to stay in the tourist trap of Locarno, on the shores of Lago Maggiore. However, as it is high season, last-minute accommodation was both hard to find and stupidly expensive. I went Googling and found Verbania, an area also on the shores of the lake, but which is far less touristy and correspondingly less pricey. The drive is an easy 2-3 hours from Liechtenstein (depending on traffic) and gets progressively more Italian. By the time the BIL informed me that we had crossed the border, my head had been in Italy for at least half an hour! The Swiss-Italian part of Switzerland is definitely more Italian than Swiss. 

Although we were looking for a budget hotel, we also needed at least 3 stars in order to cater for the needs of a baby. The spectacularly named Europalace, in Pallanza, fit the bill perfectly; in fact it exceeded our expectations in both service and facilities.

The Europalace is also home to La Cave Restaurant
We were expecting a four bed room, but for €120 a night we got a two bedroom mini-apartment, with balcony. A similar setup in Locarno would have been at least four times the price.
The room I shared with Miss J.She is very tidy for a small person.
Breakfast was included and it wasn’t just a dry bun and box of orange juice.

On day one we explored the town of Pallanza on foot. I quickly realized that, as with many small Italian towns, trying to photograph every beautiful or charming thing would require supergluing my camera to my face. Around every corner there was a ‘wow’ moment (until I got sick of hearing ‘wow’ and instructed everyone in the art of exclaiming ‘bellissimo!’).
I am thinking my next house will look like this. Just can't decide between the house on the left or right...

Pallanza is small, so we stopped for coffee at ‘The American Bar’ (excellent coffee, but as for the name…why?, oh why?) and scoped out our options for the next day. Having decided on a round trip boat ride to the various islands and towns, our next mission was dinner. I was keen on the Ristorante di Cigni but the impossibility of manoevering a push chair up the narrow staircase drove us instead to a nearby pizzeria.

I almost didn't post this pic on account of the top making me look f.a.t.

Not for the first time in Northern Italy, I experienced communication difficulties. After waiting 10 minutes and wondering if the waitress had forgotten about us, she turned up at our table with four beers. Encountering four blank faces, she asked me in Italian and then in English ‘what did you order?. Considering that all I’d done was poke my head in the door and tell her that we wanted a table for three adults and two children, were sitting outside and would like some menu’s, I don’t really know what happened there. I think it was a double-edged ‘funny accent’ problem – hers and mine, combined with the general aloofness of the blonde Northern Italian.

Having sorted out that little mix up, we settled down to dinner. I’m going to say it – I’ve never had a really fantastic dinner experience in Northern Italy. Lunches and coffee are fine, but for awesome food and fantastic, fast, friendly service in the evening you have to head further South. The further South, the better (however, on the flip side, ‘faster in the South’ applies also to the pickpockets and the male flirting!).

The food was pretty average, but with a bottle of vino under our belts, and a view of Lago Maggiore, it didn’t really matter.
After dinner, Miss J made me post in this alley with BabyG so she could take a pic with the lights that had just come on for the evening. She is mastering the art of digital photography, and I guess the importance of focus will come later.. :).
Later that night there was a thunder storm, during which I learned from a sleep-talking Miss J that ‘thunder’ and ‘lightning’ are ‘donner’ and ‘blitz’, like Santa’s reindeers. I fell asleep feeling happy to be alive and woke up ready to tackle breakfast and a day on the lago.

Part 2 coming soon!.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...