Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 15, 2015

This is the song that never ends…

Each night, all of downtown Intra is hostage to these guys, who stroll around playing trumpets and an accordion. The first night it sounded quaint, like a Paris cafe. By now we know all their songs. By heart. There is always O Sole Mio. We expect them any minute now.


Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 13, 2015

Ferry Fun, or Who Needs a Dollywood Pass?

Elizabeth and I are once more aboard the ferry for our nightly ritual: crossing Lake Maggiore, and then crossing it again. I thought I would give you a little tour of our favorite ferry, the Sempione. It’s the biggest of the three that go back and forth between the town of Intra, where we’re staying, and the village of Loveno across the lake. This connection is one of the few places or maybe the only one on Lake Maggiore where you can also take your car along for the ride. We have no car but still enjoy the extra space on “our” ferries since the boats between the other towns are smaller.

OK, so we’re walking on. The friendly men and women who work at the docks check our tickets or passes. On hot or nice days we sit outside and enjoy the breeze and splendid view. But today it’s rainy and those seats are wet, so we head up to the enclosed third deck, which has seating and a snack bar. We settle in for a twenty minute ride. Twenty peaceful minutes there and twenty peaceful minutes back affords a nice chunk of time to read, write, chat, or reflect on the day. There’s nothing else you feel obligated to do. Nothing else you can do. We could all use an evening ferry in our lives, and not just on vacation.





Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 12, 2015

St. Carlo Borromeo

Soon after we arrived I bought a Lake Maggiore guide from the shop at the harbor. The pictures look like they’re from the 1970’s and the text is poorly translated. But at least it gives us some idea of the features of the surrounding towns. Last night I asked Margaret to look through it and find something interesting to do. It didn’t take long. “How about the creepy giant guy,” she suggested, referring to a colossal statue of St. Carlo Borromeo in Arona. Since several of us were interested, we went we that, getting up and out for the 9:10 bus to Arona.

The bus dropped us off at the train station, roughly a mile and a half from the hill above Arona where St. Carlo resides, along with a beautiful church and a convent. The climb is steep and we were winded when we got to the top. We went into the church to sit down just as a service kicked off with about fifty nuns singing acapella. If you haven’t heard fifty nuns sing acapella, I recommend it for sheer beauty.

Tim decided he was not up for the trip up into St. Carlo. The kids and I paid for our tickets and headed for the spiral staircases at the rear. I’d assumed that the inside would be more of the same. How wrong I was. About mid-torso to St. Carlo, the staircase gave way to a ladder, and the climb was straight up. With other members of the family behind, turning around was not an option. My hands were sweating from pure fear and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold on. Fortunately there were roughed metal braces that were easier to grip.

He view from St. Carlo’s neck flaps was superb. Margaret and I clambered up the remaining ten steps to perch on a ledge where we could look out his nostrils and eyes. This view overlooked the church bells and the fortress of Arona beyond. I decided it was worth the climb–assuming we all got down safely again. We had to laugh when we read that children were supposed to be harnessed going up and adults could be to on request. The ticket guy never mentioned it. I’m pretty sure St. Carlo would be shut down in the US. But the view…

It looked like rain was coming so we took off down the path at a trot. But it was too late. We were caught in a thunderstorm. We found the most protected spot we could and ate our lunch cookies. They were very good, even wet.

Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 11, 2015

Sunset on the lake


When we arrived, we bought one month passes for the ferry between Intra, the town where we’re staying, and Loveno. As a result, we ride the ferry a lot. Bored? Ride the ferry. Hot? Ride the ferry. Elizabeth really loves this and she and I have gone across numerous times after dinner. Our favorite ferries are the Ticino and the Semperone, the two biggest ones featuring double parking decks and then a third level. Rarely is anyone on the second deck so we have it to ourselves. So much loveliness slipping past as the sun sets. Every time it’s different.

Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 11, 2015

Pallanza, Italy





Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 11, 2015

Isola Bella, part 2

More Isola Bella pics. It’s truly amazing what you can do from a phone, but one limitation of the WordPress app is that it won’t let you post more than four pictures at a time.



Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 11, 2015

Isola Bella

Isola Bella is an island owned by the Borromeo family on Lake Maggiore. We passed this and the other two islands (Isola Madre and Isola Pescatore) on the ferry to Stresa last week, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It’s ostentatious even from the water. But as I discovered when we got inside, it’s one of the rare places I’ve seen that isn’t necessarily trying to awe or impress–it’s simply a case of what can happen when a family has unlimited sums of money to spend on their house. It seemed a labor of love over many generations. The only part that seemed truly too much was the garden wall.

Here is a shot of the palace from the water, and then several pictures taken behind the tourist shops. The last picture is of the entrance hall.



Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 10, 2015

Evening on the ferry

We have 30 day passes on the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Loveno. So when we are hot or at a loss for something to do, the ferry is our go-to solution. It takes about 20 minutes to get across. Elizabeth never gets tired of it. Monday night we went on a whim. The bookstall near the harbor was still open and we found a bargain. We waited for the next ferry and watched the ducks.




Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 10, 2015

Cannobio, the Lake Maggiore candy box

Beautiful, perfect little Cannobio. I could stay here forever. Oh, and the cool breezes here were welcome too.





Posted by: ourtravelingcircus | June 10, 2015

Run for the border

The Swiss border, that is. Not for too long (just felt too hot to be out!) but long enough to see the stellar chocolate selection and some white capped mountains.



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