Yesterday I went on a trip to Lake Maggiore, before Autumn started to kick in. I have to admit that Maggiore's my last favourite out of the the three big lakes of northern Italy, mainly down to the impression I have that both Como and Garda are livelier than Maggiore. Part of the idea of going to Maggiore for the day was to change my mind about this. So yesterday morning I was up at the crack of dawn (6.30!) to catch my train to Stresa.
For the journey to Stresa I took the 8.25 (hence my oh-so-early alarm) Milan-Genève Eurocity train. Even though I'd only bought my tickets on Thursday I managed to score myself a bargain - €9 for one-way first class! To put that in perspective, it's €7.60 for a second class Regionale (aka bog-standard, slightly grubby trains) ticket, and €23.70 for a full-price first class Eurocity ticket! Feeling very pleased with myself I enjoyed the extra leg room and comfy seats as the train made its way up to the lake.
It was 9.20 when I arrived in Stresa, still early for a Saturday morning. I followed the sloping streets downhill to the lake, and there it was, a slightly hazy Lake Maggiore. I went for a long walk around the lake, enjoying the relative peace and quiet of the morning, before retracing my steps back towards the town centre and stopping off for a second breakfast. I decided on a lakeside bar/trattoria called Lido Blu, and in true Italian style my second breakfast could only be a cappuccino and a croissant - the pastry is more commonly known in my neck of the woods as a brioche. And I don't think I'd ever had a jam brioche with that much filling before! Delicious!
After refueling I carried on exploring, following the lakeside path before heading into the town centre. It was just as touristy as I expected, but I didn't imagine that there would be so many food shops aimed at tourists. They sell typical Italian products, mostly pasta in pretty much any shape you could imagine, and all sorts of liqueurs. And of course there are the usual knick-knacks, postcards, magnets, Pinocchio toys, and a surprising amount of Mokas in lots of different forms and colours...
Unfortunately lunch was a bit of a disappointment as I let myself fall into a tourist trap thanks to the reasonable prices and the presence of some Italians in the restaurant. The service was quick, but the pizza was a let-down. Admittedly I didn't make the wisest decision with my speck and scamorza pizza, seeing as it was still sat on my stomach at 10pm last night... One of my pet hates in Italy is people who continue to speak to me in English when I answer them in correct Italian. And this is what one of the waiters at the restaurant continued to do. I can understand if someone initially greets me in English because with my blonde hair and blue eyes I look nothing like your average Italian, but if you carry on speaking to me in English when I speak to you in fluent Italian without hesitation then I'll get annoyed.
Stresa is a beautiful town. The little narrow streets are completely different to Milan, and it's always nice to have a change of scenery. The lungolago path that goes around the lake is part of a well-kept park, with plenty of beautiful flowers and plants. I didn't go out to the islands, as I don't travel very well on land... Maybe I'll risk it next time. They looked beautiful from the mainland though.
To reach Stresa from Milan:
Regionale trains leave from Milano Centrale and Milano Porta Garibaldi (M2 green metro line), taking anything from around 1 hour 10 minutes to almost one and a half hours to reach Stresa. The trains from Milano Centrale are the quicker ones, and from either station you'll pay €7.60 for a one-way second class ticket.
The Eurocity train departs from Milano Centrale, and reaches Stresa in 55 minutes. Unlike the Regionale train here you have a reserved seat. Advance tickets are available for both first and second class for €9 one-way. Full-price tickets are €23.70 one-way in first class, and €16.50 in second.