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Need info re Stresa/Lake Maggiore? Ask here.

Need info re Stresa/Lake Maggiore? Ask here.

Jun 21st, 2007, 10:11 AM
  #1  
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Need info re Stresa/Lake Maggiore? Ask here.

I'm in Stresa at the moment, halfway through a two week holiday. This is my second visit to Stresa, and since there appear to be a lot of people on the forum at the moment who are considering or planning trips to this area, I'd be happy to provide details re hotels (I've stayed at or visited a number in the area, and have a strong preference for the one I'm in at the moment), restaurants, day trips (with or without a car), services (laundromats, banks), airport connections, etc.

Contributions from others re same also welcome.
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Jun 21st, 2007, 10:21 AM
  #2  
 
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Actually I had hoped to visit there in late August but have decided to postpone until next June. I'd love to hear about various daytrips - we are not planning to have a car. And do people swim in the lake or is it too cold? What hotel are you staying in - we were looking at Hotel Primavera I think. Thanks for the info!
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Jun 21st, 2007, 09:17 PM
  #3  
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Postponing your visit until June of next year rather than August of this year is an excellent one: hordes of tourists and heat (it's cooler than the south and at slightly higher elevation than, say, Milan, but it can still get pretty hot and muggy) would make August pretty hideous.

As for Hotel Primavera, its web site describes is as a "modern hotel" in the "elegant pedestrianized zone" of Stresa. It also mentions balconies. There are a number of similar hotels in Stresa, all at the southern end of town, so very convenient to shops and the supermarket and the ferry landing and the small convention center. The Primavera, the Modern, the Meeting, the Italie et Suisse and several others fall into this category. The Modern is probably the best of the lot, but IMO that's damning with faint praise: my last visit here to Stresa was for a meeting, and various colleagues from all over the world were lodged in all of these properties, and to a man (and a few women) they found them wanting.

Small rooms with worn decor, street noise (though fortunately Stresa does get quiet at night), not much in the way of lake views. All of my colleagues were pretty much despondent when they realized that there were significantly nicer accomodations.
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Jun 21st, 2007, 09:38 PM
  #4  
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So, alternatives to places like Primavera do exist. The four star hotels on the lakefront on the northern end of town are (mostly) elegant, with beautifully decorated public spaces and lots of staff, etc. They are right on the waterfront, so lovely views of the lake and the mountains. The rooms are, reportedly (I haven't been any personally, so second hand news here) small, and of course they are expensive.

The other option that I know of (and there may be others) is the hotel that I'm at now: La luna nel porto (http://www.lalunanelporto.it/). On the lake, new, beautiful, almost ridiculously pleasant staff (it's owned by a couple who own a real estate agency next door). Rooms are large, ranging from studios to one bedroom apartments. All have either small balconies (so two people could sit and have a beer in the evening), grassy yards, or terraces. We have a terrace with a table for four and two lounge chairs. One of the rooms has a terrace that would be large enough to host a cocktail party for 80 people. Small kitchens in all rooms (including diswasher, fridge, microwave/toaster over, cooktop), and laundry on site.

You can have breakfast at the hotel, or have your own (which we do, especially convenient with kids) in your apartment.
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Jun 21st, 2007, 09:49 PM
  #5  
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We've been on lots of day trips, and I'll describe them (along with some very specific tips) as this thread progresses. But I'll go ahead and point out that precisely which trip you choose for a particular day may well depend on the weather, and the weather is extremely changeable. Absolutely no point in checking the weather on line in advance and trying to plan---just assume that some days will be sunny but not searingly hot, some days will be muggy and overcast, and some days there will be thunderstorms (as we're experiencing this AM, with possible hail predicted).
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Jun 21st, 2007, 09:56 PM
  #6  
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Ah, yes, swimming. Yes, you can swim in the lake, and yes, it's cold. I've yet to see a single person swimming in Maggiore, though I have personally been swimming in Garda, Iseo, and Como. That I've not seen anybody in Maggiore is probably related to the fact that it not's really set up as a beach town, but more as an old-fashioned resort. Lake Mergozzo (a small lake a few miles northwest of Stresa, at one time connected to Maggiore) is a much quieter lake with lots of swimming and lake sports (and a much younger crowd---I'd say the average age of visitors to Stresa hovers around 65, though of course there are also plenty of families and younger couples).

Okay, gotta go figure out what to do today. The rain may well clear off.
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 04:34 AM
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Is Lake Mergozzo easily accessible by public transportation? Taking note of your hotel rec. Thanks!
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 05:30 AM
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ttt
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 08:56 PM
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Hmm, public transit to Mergozzo. Most likely via bus, but since we've got a car that's the one sort of public transport that I've not looked into. There were a number of people on the road around the lake on bikes. I'll see what I can find out. If I don't find it easily on line I'll just ask the lovely and efficient desk clerk here at the hotel. She'll either know off the top of her head (and have accompanying documentation to provide) or will look it up. Or she'd know a cool place to swim that is easily reached by public transit. There is a public beach here in town somewhere. Hmm, possibly the area called the lido (from which the funivia to Mottarone departs, a possible activity for today, which has dawned bright and very sunny), since lidos typically include beaches. I'll report back.
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 09:17 PM
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Okay, a day trip.

This one was yesterday, which had dawned very gray and muggy, and got worse as the morning progressed. So, no hiking, boat trip on the lake possible but not too appealing, and a drive through the mountains also not ideal, as not much in the way of views.

So we decided to go to Milan for the day, with shopping and museums in mind. Despite having rented a car, we both knew better than to drive in Milan. But fortunately Stresa's got very good train connections directly to Milan, with frequent departures to either Milano Central or Porta Garibaldi, and Metro connections from there.

So I looked up the schedule on line (free DSL here at the hotel, and my husband brought his lap top), mapped out our likely itinerary, and finally sent my husband downstairs to ask the desk clerk to print out two copies of the schedule (as we were planning to separate, one parent with one kid). He returned several minutes later to tell me that there was "bad news and good news" and did I want to know what it was? I replied "There's a train strike, but there's some easy way to drive to Milan and leave the car on the outskirts." Which was exactly the case. I gleaned this information not from the Trenitalia web site (which made no mention of the strike) but from past experience: strikes ("scioperi") are very, very common, and Italians typically have a back up plan. The desk clerk had drawn out a nice little map of the route to take, and printed out a color copy of the Metro map.

So off we went, driving straight to Milan and parking near the San Siro stadium at Lampugnano. When you enter you're issued a sort of credit card, which you'll use to pay right before you leave at one of the machines in the lot: just put in the card, wait for it to calculate the amount to pay (under 4 euros for the entire day in our case), put in the money, and wait for the card to spit back out. Drive to the exit, where another machine will suck the card back up and open the gate for you.

Lampugnano's got its own Metro station. If you park in the open air spaces you may have trouble finding the sign (a big M); just walk into the parking deck and peer around until you see it. Inside the Metro you can buy tickets from machines, but the ones at this station only offered (so far as I could tell) single and one way trip tickets, and I wanted day tickets. So instead I bought our tickets from the lady at the newstand (specifying "giornalieri"). These tickets cost 3 euro each, and entitle you to unlimited subway rides for a 24 hour period.
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Jun 22nd, 2007, 09:32 PM
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Tickets in hand, we set off for our first stop, Cairoli. This station is right in front of the Castello Sforzesco, a very cool palace and park that also contains several museums (at least some of which are free on Friday mornings). We'd arrived at lunch time, so snagged an outside table (as the weather in Milan was sunny and breezy, as opposed to the driving rain in Stresa through which we'd driven) at a place called Farinelli. Acceptable pizzas and salads. After a brief visit to the Castle, my daughter and I left my son and husband in search of shopping, taking the Metro to Duomo. Wallet slightly lighter, we headed for a cafe (well, a bar, since it was time for "aperitivo") in the breezy, pleasant galleria that's just off the Piazza del Duomo. We chose Zucca, as it was very old school, and offered great people watching. At 7:00 PM we headed over to our pre-arranged meeting place (a corner of the piazza) to wait for my husband and son.

Together we all boarded the Metro, heading for Porta Genova and an area of Milan called Navigli. As the name suggests, the neighborhood features navigable canals that were originally built to connect trade across the north of Italy. It feels like a cross between Amsterdam and Venice. Well, sort of. The streets become pedestrian-only at night, with shops and restaurants and bars doing a lively business. We stopped again for apertivi in a place called Mag, and then walked some more until we felt like stopping, which happened to be at a pizzeria called La Tradizionale. Cones of gelato to finish off the night, and the Metro back to Lampugnano to pick up the car and drive back to Stresa. We got to our apartment at midnight, tired but happy.
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Jun 23rd, 2007, 10:09 AM
  #12  
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In answer to the query upthread, Mergozzo is actually on the train line that connects Milan and Domodossola. So less than 15 minutes between Stresa and Mergozzo.

But as it turns out people do swim in Stresa, at the northern end of town near where the funivia to Mottarone (which my husband and children took today, riding down by rented bike) leaves. Eye witness report by him---actual people in actual water.
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Jun 23rd, 2007, 10:12 AM
  #13  
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We're going dancing tonight. Should be interesting.
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Aug 10th, 2007, 07:14 AM
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Revisiting this thread after a hiatus of several weeks---we've had a French exchange student staying with us, and that's taken up much of my spare time.

So, dancing in Stresa, or nearby.

I'd asked at the front desk about potential options, specifying that I didn't want a place that mostly youngsters (under 25), and ballroom dancing (called "liscio" or smooth in Italy) would be cool, but salsa/latin not so much (as much husband doesn't feel as comfortable doing it, don't ask me why). In the end they sent us to a club in Arona, one of the towns at the southern end of Lake Maggiore. The club is actually on a boat, moored near the ferry landing in Arona, so very easy to find. This was a Saturday night, and although there's plenty of parking in Arona there's also a great deal of competition for it, as the downtown waterfront area features a lot of nice restaurants and bars. Lots of families and couples out for a stroll, very pleasant ambience.

Past experience told me that clubs in Italy open quite late, so we had dinner at the apartment with our children, and headed down to Arona at about 10:00 PM. We walked around a bit, stopped for wine at a wine bar (where the owners pointed out that for some reason the bumper-to-bumper traffic had not been routed around the waterfront street as is apparently the usual custom for busy times of the year, and they were none too pleased), and finally headed over to the club, Il Batello. Batello means boat, and this particular boat is easy to find: it looks a bit like one of the old paddlewheel steamboats from the Mississippi river, and it's strung with lights on the outside. But otherwise it looked pretty dead, apart from the cluster of bouncer-looking sorts at the top of the gangway. We sat down on a bench (there's a park right there) to check out the comings and goings (it was about 11:00 by now) and things were not exactly hopping. Very occasionally somebody would approach the bouncers and either leave or (very rarely) be permitted entry.

Finally, about midnight, a few more people gained entry (after cooling their heels for a few minutes while the bouncers apparently coordinated things with management inside), and I told my husband it was time to go inside. He was incredulous: "Are you kidding? This place is dead. And what if they don't let us in anyway?" I reassured him, and after screwing up his courage for another five minutes (which saw a few more people gain entry) he agreed to go in.

As we approached the bouncers I noticed a sign saying something to the effect of "private, members only..." etc. but of course didn't let that sway me. I smiled at the bouncers, said good evening, and asked whether the club was open. One of the bouncers asked me to wait for a few minutes. He made a phone call, and finally dropped the gate, wishing us a nice evening (and closing the gate behind us).

And we proceeded down the gangway, wondering what we'd find...
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Aug 10th, 2007, 08:44 AM
  #15  
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Any guesses as to what we find? Opium den? Mobster hideaway? A cooking class?

And questions welcome, as they'll remind me of what we did, and help others find things they'd like to do.
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Aug 13th, 2007, 06:40 AM
  #16  
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Okay, is anybody even vaguely interested in hearing about how dancing in Arona went? Or what other sorts of cool stuff there is to do in Stresa, or an easy drive from Stresa? Or some of the more boring details of daily life?

If so, speak up, as otherwise I'm going to pull the plug on this thread.
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