Well, it was raining the day we arrived, but we have been lucky with the weather ever since. Lago Maggiore is, possibly, even more beautiful with clouds lowering over the surrounding mountains. (Hills, really, with only one that could be called a mountain, but mountains they are called so mountains they shall be.
Lago Maggiore is in the northern part of Italy, close to Switzerland, in the foothills of the Alps. We are staying in a small town called Stresa, right on the lake. Stresa was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite town on Lago Maggiore, and was featured in his novel, A Farewell to Arms. We were greeted upon arrival by the hotel golden retriever. I’m finding it very strange to speak to the dog in Italian, but wet Italian golden retrievers smell the same as wet North American golden retrievers and we’re getting on fine.
The first day we boated around the lake to explore the Borromean Islands. These islands are owned by the Borromeo family, who still live in one of the palaces on Isola Bella. The islands are a paradise of flowers and exotic birds such as the white peacock below.
The Borromeos were bankers in the 15th Century who became very rich and powerful. An extremely influential family in the area, they included nine cardinals, four popes and one saint.
A bit of rain here and there, but we were prepared with umbrellas. The Italians take rain in their stride. It began to drizzle while we were sitting at an outside café. As we soft tourists moved to seek shelter, the couple sitting beside us just put up their umbrellas and continued to sip their drinks without missing a beat.
Yesterday was an extraordinary day. We toured Milan, its magnificent cathedral, and saw Leonardo’s painting, The Last Supper. Of course I’ve seen innumerable reproductions of the painting, but nothing prepared me for the original. We had attended a lecture beforehand about Leonardo and his work, so I was able to look at it with a bit more understanding of the geometrics and mathematics behind it. The diagonals from each corner run down to cross exactly at Jesus’s head: that is the vanishing point of perspective that he was using. The result, as we backed slowly away, was that the painting deepens and deepens until it becomes almost three dimensional. Seen in its original setting, the expressions and postures of the apostles are revealing. It is painted at the moment that Jesus declares that one of them will betray him, and their reactions tell us the whole story. The painting moved me more than I expected.
A stunning sunset over the mountains this evening. The Alps were visible in the background, so I can really call them mountains. Today we cross into Ascona in Switzerland for the day. Ascona is on the northern shore of Lago Maggiore. Hoping that our luck with the weather holds.