From Milan we planned to take an early train to a town called Stresa. When we got to the subway, one metro came by but we couldn’t fit because it was full with people headed to work or school. If we wanted to make our train, we absolutely had to get on the next one! We shoved our way in with our big packs. We arrived at the train station and searched everywhere for the machines that give you your tickets. Milan Central Station is so confusing! At about 8:22 Aneisa stepped up to a machine and selected a train that left at 8:25am (the one we planned on taking). I said, “Noway! We can’t make that!” But she apparently thought otherwise.

The tickets printed and we sprinted (as fast as a heavy backpack will allow) all the way up two escalators, down a hallway and out to the platforms …. “Which platform is it?!” “I don’t know it doesn’t say!” We decided to quickly ask a lady walking by, showing her our tickets. “I’m not sure… let’s see… Binario 2 I think, si si binario 2.” We.. sprinted again from one side of the station to the other through 100s of people only to be completely let down when there was no train at the platform. Turns out the lady told us the wrong platform.

We stood there thinking, sweating, breathing… disappointed. What a way to start the day. Aneisa wanted to sit down and rest, but there was no way I was about to waste our day when we had planned to be somewhere else. There was a customer service desk right in front of us. Fantastic! Maybe they can give us a refund and tell us when the next train leaves to Stresa. Not until noon. But! We could take the metro to another station in Milan and catch a 9am train.

Va bene! We ran back to the subway having absolutely no idea which line we would take or which direction we’d go. Eventually we made it to Garibaldi Station and found our train.. To Stresa!

Alright, so. We arrived about an hour and a half later in Stresa and went outside to call our B&B La Sorgente so they could pick us up. We waited in the rain for a good 30 minutes guessing which car would be the one picking us up. It was so foggy and cold and rainy.. but we were on “vacation”! We had to enjoy ourselves. The driver was a very nice man with silly looking teeth and a scratchy looking navy blue sweater. He asked us what we would do–we had no idea, so he gave us some tourist tips and dropped us off in the middle of town, taking our packs with him. Our room wouldn’t be ready until 1pm so we had a few hours to explore.

We walked around Stresa and stopped at a cute little cafe for brunch. We decided we would take a boat to each of the islands in the lake (Lago Maggiore).

Boat dock in Stresa
Boat dock in Stresa. As you can probably imagine, there weren’t very many people out and about. Stresa is primarily a summer-vacation area, so the season to be on the lake ended about a month ago.
Cool lookin place

Cool lookin place from the boat, beautiful green trees! I definitely miss Washington when I'm in Florence.. There really isn't any greenery except for the park right next to my apartment. And even then... it's a pretty gross park haha. You have to be super careful about where you step.

Isola Bella

First stop: Isola Bella

We got to the first island pretty quickly, Isola Bella. Isola Bella has some big gardens you can walk through, but because it’s offseason, they were closed. It was still a pretty fun island to explore. We walked around for a while just looking at the buildings and the shops, stopped in a park for a while, then started moving back to the boat dock.

Caffe Lago

Caffe Lago

On the way back we came across the coolest little cafe!! Caffe Lago. The first thing about Caffe Lago that caught my attention was this guitar sign they had outside. I walked a little closer to see the second thing that caught my attention: an excellent plaque with a Stevie Ray Vaughan quote hanging next to the doorway. I had to go in there!

It felt so familiar to me–I definitely could have been in the states. The walls were covered with guitars, posters, pictures, old framed vinyl… and the coolest part about it is that everything was autographed! Bruce Springsteen, ACDC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds!!!!, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd …. Whoever owns this place definitely knows people. It was so cool! ! I felt so at home for some reason haha.

Caffe Lago

Caffe Lago

In order to linger a little longer and not feel too awkward, I ordered a cioccolato caldo and took a seat at the nice wood tables. Dad I think you’d have loved this place–it had a definite, warm log-cabin feel to it. The tables and benches seemed handmade, probably from olive trees. My hot chocolate was, as always, aaaamazing! So thick and tasty. It was a perfect cozy remedy to the cold and rainy day we were having.

We sat in the cafe for a good half hour then meandered back to the boat so we could hop to the next island. I don’t think I stopped smiling for a bout an hour after we left that place.

When we got to Isola Pescatori, we walked about 15 feet, turned around and got back on the boat. We sort of mutually decided we had done enough exploring and needed to get out of the cold. We both felt pretty satisfied with our day.

La Sorgente

La Sorgente

The boat took us to a town north of Stresa called Baveno. From Baveno we walked 2km south (a little less than halfway to Stresa) to La Sorgente, the BEST Bed & Breakfast!!! It was like a vacation from vacationing! The walk was a little scary at times because Italian drivers are absolutely nutso and drive way too fast. Because the roads were wet, I kept imagining a car driving by and either splashing me with a huge muddy puddle, or spinning off the road and sending us flying into the rock wall, “Two American students hit by car in Baveno, killed.” Yeah, sorry, not so funny haha. Anywho, the walk was also pleasant at times–we could tell that the whole area would be a beautiful and relaxing vacation during the summer months.

 We hung out at the B&B for awhile, got warm and cozy in some dry clothes and eventually… we got hungry! We asked the nice lady who owned the place with her husband where we should eat for dinner. She recommended a bar for an apertivo, and then a restaurant called Sotto Sopra. We walked back in to town, and found a clean looking bar. I ordered a glass of the local red wine and then they brought out some snacks.. Bread with prosciutto, cheese, olives and potato chips. We watched the TV and giggled at the Italian singers. For some reason I just can’t take Italian musicians seriously, well the ones that I’ve seen live at least. Here’s one that was catchy enough for me to remember the artist: “Pop Porno” by Il Genio

After we had our apertivo, we walked a few blocks to the Sotto Sopra restaurant. Besides one couple over in the corner, we were the only customers! Oh…my. The food was SO good. For an appetizer the chef brought out some roasted/sauteed? peppers covered in a yummy sauce. Aneisa and I couldn’t figure out what it was, we only knew it was tasty! For our main course we had pasta with cream sauce, mushrooms (it’s the season for funghi! therefore…it’s the specialty dish of the season)… and it was great! For dessert……. we had…. chocolate ..soufflé, che buona!! Oh man it was perfect. We enjoyed our dinner so much we had to tip them–people in Italy generally don’t tip.

souffle cioccolato - Look at that presentation!

souffle cioccolato - Look at that presentation!