Lake Maggiore

We’ve just returned after a rather spontaneous trip to Italy. It took us about 5 days beforehand to come up with the idea, or to be precise, it was my sister who came up with the idea of us all together going to Lake Maggiore. So we did, and even ended up also going through some parts of Switzerland, as we were near by and thought why not to explore further on. As a result, it proved once again, that deciding and planning things on the spot, it’s not always a bad idea. Sometimes it’s necessary to forget all the travel books and just drive where it takes you, discovering the things as you go along.

Magnificently scenic, Lake Maggiore has a unique geographical position: it borders with Piedmont, Lombardy and Ticino canton in Switzerland. It is the second largest lake in Italy, it stretches nearly 50km and has a depth of 372m. It’s a great destination for someone who’s interested in enjoying the harmony of peaceful atmosphere, Italian food culture and historical sights.

Along the lake there’re numerous villages and cities worth visiting. Below there are just few of them, which were particularly highlights for us. On the first day we visited Laveno Mombello, Ispra, Arona and Stresa. Most famous of them are two below:

Laveno Mombello, Italy

In the 19th century, Laveno Mombello was home to important ceramic industries. Today, it is a port town that connects the province of Varese with Verbania and the famous Borromean Island across Lake Maggiore.

Stresa, Italy

Once a fishermen’s village, now a popular tourist attraction, mainly because of descriptions of famous writers such as Stendhal, Byron and Dickens.

Town prospered in the 1800s with two noble families in town, the Borromeo and the Visconti. When steam ferries and rail lines increased in this zone, tourism traffic to Stresa and Lake Maggiore increased as well. Some grand hotels were built and famous travellers followed, like Rockefeller, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw and Hemingway. Stresa became known as a spa center.

On the second day we drove to Switzerland and visited Lugano, Bellinzona, Locarno and finishing our day back to Italy in Luino.

Lugano, Switzerland

Lugano is the largest town in the region of Ticino, it is not only Switzerland’s third most important financial, banking and business centre, but also a town of parks and flowers, villas and other important historic buildings. The two closest mountains to Lugano, Monte San Salvatore and Monte Brè, give you an outstanding panorama of the town, Lake Lugano and the alpine scenery.

Below there is a mix of our highlights in pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Road trip through Somerset & Raspberry Oat Slices

Over the Easter break we spent two nights, three days in rural Somerset, having a little road trip and visiting National Trust places. I know it sounds very grown-up, but we find it very therapeutic after a busy and sometimes stressful week to get away from towns, shops, news, chores and reconnect with the nature and simple things.

For some of you who are not familiar with National Trust, it is charity that works to preserve and protect historic places, spaces and historic landscapes.

Our fist stop was Montacute House, a grand Elizabethan mansion house with what used to be described as an ‘Elizabethan garden’.

Then we moved on to Lytes Cary Manor, which is much more intimate medieval manor house with its beautiful Arts and Crafts-inspired garden, was once family home to the Elizabethan herbalist Henry Lytes.

Next day we visited a place called Tyntesfield, a Victorian country house and estate, which serves as a backdrop to the story of Gibbs family who built their wealth from the guano trade. They transformed a Georgian house to a Victorian Gothic masterpiece and filled the house with the incredible collection of more then 60,000 objects.

This paces is amazing and so different from any other NT places we’ve been, it’s huge and packed with so many interesting things, that one visit is not enough to fully appreciate and experience everything this house has to offer.

On our last day before coming back home, we went to Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot Museum and Lacock Village. The Abbey itself has almost 800 years of history of previous owners with sophisticated taste, who turned it from a nunnery into a quirky family home, furnished with well-loved mementoes and furniture. It was also a home of William Henry Talbot, creator of the first photographic negative and now this place counts as a birthplace of photography.

I also want to mention the place where we stayed for two nights. I found it on airbnb the night before we left, what luck it was. It is a small converted barn at Amberwell, small village of Alhampton, run by a lovely couple Jeffy & John. This place is perfect for the people who appreciate a low key country retreat, but at the same time Jeffy and John made you feel like a very special guests, providing everything you need for your comfort and more. The weather wasn’t great during our stay, but we didn’t mind at all, because after our day of the house and grounds trotting we were coming back to most comfortable and relaxing place with the log fire.

If you are in UK the and looking for the week-end away, I can not recommend this place enough: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/23850201

While we were there Jeffy treated us with tea and homemade raspberry slices. They were so good, that  I had to ask for the recipe and make them as soon as possible. It turned out to be one of this very uncomplicated bake, which proves again, sometimes less is more. And thank you again, Jeffy, for introducing these to us.

These oat slices are something in between flapjack and biscuits, and absolutely delicious. The original recipe asks for raspberry jam, since we arrived I already made them twice, once with the raspberry jam and another with homemade blackberry and apple, and the next time, I’d like to try them with the apricot jam. So here is the recipe (originally came from allrecipes.co.uk):

RASPBERRY OAT SLICES

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons light brown soft sugar

125g plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

pinch salt

100g porridge oats

125g butter, softened

250g good quality raspberry jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease one 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
  2. Combine brown sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and porridge oats in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.
  3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin, reserving the rest for the topping. Spread the jam over the base, but not quite to the edges as it will spread.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top and lightly press it into the jam.
  5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

 

 

Day on Isle of Portland

A giant lump of largely treeless land jutting out from the sea and connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, the ISLE OF PORTLAND is a strange place. Labelled the ‘Gibraltar of Wessex’ by Thomas Hardy, it’s best know for its hard white stone, which has been quarried here for centuries.First impression is not very appealing – with an industrial port and quarries, towns as hard and unforgiving looking as the rocks themselves – but head for the far side of the island and you may well acquire a taste for the strange landscape. 
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