The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur In Italy
July 29 - Lake Maggiore

Time to move out. Hildie and Ella are spending the next three days in Florence before going to Venice. Eric and Karen have to drive to southern France to see Eric's family and Margene and I are off to the lake country to see if we can find some cooler air. We were figuring an 8-hour drive, but got to Lake Maggiore in six hours, even with a 45-minute dead stop delay outside Bologna.

The autostrada moves very well, if very quickly. It is a four-lane high speed toll road. People are only in the left lane to pass, then immediately return to the right lane (to avoid getting mowed down by drivers who must easily be traveling over 120 miles an hour! If someone is ready to pass you, they pull right up on your tail until you move over -- a move that would get you shot in many places in the US!

This was the first weekend of the European vacation period (which officially starts on August 1st) so there was more traffic out there than normal. It did make finding a room a little harder but we managed to locate a place high above the town of Verbania on Lake Maggiore, the largest of the Italian lakes.

We got a bit turned around working our way past Milan and ended up on the wrong side of the lake, but found a car ferry that took us right to Verbania, so we just pretended that it was what we had in mind all along. The ferry made us a little homesick for Seattle -- we are definitely getting ready to get home!

The hotel is 2000 feet above the town on top of a small mountain. The road up to it is 3 miles long and very winding (we stopped counting switchbacks at 38!) Once up there, however, the view is 360 degrees and spectacular. Il Monterosso is a working farm of about 25 acres with a 10-room bed and breakfast setup and a restaurant that does a strong local trade. (I can't imaging driving out of here after a couple of bottles of wine, but apparently the locals have it figured out!)

Dinner was huge and based on a fixed menu -- three antipasto items, two pastas and a meat course. You get them all for the equivalent of $15 a head! Wine is inexpensive (the most expensive wine on the menu, a 1990 Barolo, is about $37 a bottle but most are priced from $6.50 to $10 a bottle!) The desserts are the best we have had on the trip and the risotto with mushrooms was to die for! You just need to be prepared to take your time. We sat down to dinner at 7:30pm and got up at 10:30!

We will start working on our "best of the trip" list tomorrow, so stay tuned for the late returns. Now if we can just find a way to get online . . .

Il Monterosso

The ferry across Lake Maggiore

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