Books, writing, reading and words. I love them; do you?

Italy: Trip of a Lifetime. Final Part

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Lake Maggiore on an uncharacteristic dull day, with a displaying cormorant in the foreground.

This is the last of the posts recording our stay in Italy in September 2018. We had a great time, so we decided to share our experiences.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12.

30th September, Sunday.

Our last day of the holiday, and the weather turned overcast. We’d no real plans for the day, but we’d noticed, on the map, a ‘crazy golf’ place on the edge of town. It was a location we’d not so far visited due to road works making pedestrian access a little awkward. So we walked the lakeside toward the suspected destination, noting some of the sights we passed along the way.

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This magnificent cedar graces the grounds of a public building in Stresa.

We travelled the road again, passing the old harbour and expecting to find a street off the main lakeside road back up into the town. Just as we were losing hope about the golf, we came on the site, nestling on a narrow slice of land between the lake and the road. And it was open. ‘Lov Golf’ had no clients at the time, probably because the road works had cut it off from the town.

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Valerie putting her first ball.

We were given our putters and balls and off we went round the numbered holes, enjoying the fun challenges such courses generally employ. It was a spell of simple fun and we laughed a lot as we tried to get that little ball into all sorts of nigh-on impossible places. But we completed the course, with Valerie’s superior hand-to-eye co-ordination making her the victor, and went back to hand in our clubs. Turned out this was the last day they were open for the season. And they were giving up the business to go off and do something else. So, our visit was possibly one of their last. A pleasant interlude.

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And yours truly ready to put on the fifth hole.

We walked back up the main road until we found the first side road leading up the hillside and took that so we could discover more of the place that had been home for the five days of our stay by the lake. We found evidence of wealth and poverty, new properties and an old abandoned house falling into ruin.

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Faded glory as a once fine villa slowly drifts toward ruin.

Come lunch time, we discovered Sunday’s a busy day for the many eating places and we ventured into a trattoria attached to a hotel on one of the main shopping streets. Ristorante Fiorentino was fairly crowded but the lady waitress guided us through to an area beyond the crowded interior and in an outer area sheltered by the canvas cover that keeps off the odd shower. Two women were the only other customers in this space and that meant we were able to eat in peace. We had a simple lunch and drinks before continuing our exploration of the town.

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Two painters display their work for sale in the grounds where the big cedar grows.

There’s a huge cedar tree in the grounds of one of the public buildings and a couple of artists display and sell their paintings here. A mixture of original work and some copies of well-known works, much of it quite good. No point in us shopping for such work, however; we’d never get framed prints into our suitcases!

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One of the piazzas in Stresa.
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The Conference Centre in Stresa.
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A sparrow takes a drink from the bowl beneath a decorative street lamp.
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A dull day, but still warm enough to eat outside.
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There’s a small Sunday market on the promenade in Stresa.

Stresa179Hotel La Palma, where we spent our nights in Stresa.

Stresa180The hotel gardens are overlooked by the restaurant, with the lake beyond.

Stresa159A statue of the Madonna stands guard beside the main road through the town.

Stresa161As everywhere in Italy, Roman remains can be found.

Stresa172Ristorante Fiorentino, where we ate our last lunch in Stresa.

Stresa178On a dull day, some flowers remain remarkably bright!

Stresa167Cats get everywhere. This one posed for me on a garden wall.

Stresa157The main road through Stresa.

Valerie spent the latter part of the afternoon and early evening finishing off the packing until it was time for dinner. Our last at La Palma, and as good as any we’d had. As usual, we finished our evening with a saunter along the lakeside promenade, needing jackets for the first time due to the cooling weather.

On Monday we were picked up by our lady driver in a people carrier around 09:50 and travelled to Milan airport via some of the local towns and through unceasing rain. The airport was, of course, busy. Signage was entirely in Italian and we had to find out where we needed to go to check in. The first woman we asked at the information kiosk sent us in entirely the wrong direction, but we wondered if that was due to translation issues, as she’d told us to go ‘down’. Once we discovered there was no point in being downstairs, we returned and asked the other woman. She pointed us in the direction alongside the kiosk to our check-in desk, and we wondered if the first woman had meant ‘down that way’.

The check-in staff for FlyBe couldn’t tell us where the lounge was that we’d booked so we could relax before the flight. So we walked off to see what we could find. What we found were a couple of young women in uniform who clearly worked at the airport. On being asked where we could find the lounge, we were sent off towards boarding gates lettered A1-A61 and we discovered the lounge at the very end, after passing through all the shops etc. There we discovered this was the wrong lounge and that we needed to be at the exact opposite of the airport at gates B1-B60, where, after passport control, we would find our lounge.

It was a long walk, but at least passport control was brief. And we discovered our boarding gate was nearby, as was the lounge. By this time, of course, we were pretty close to our boarding time. We had a nibble and a drink and then joined the queue to board our plane to Cardiff. Originally, our arrangements had been to return to Bristol with Easyjet, but they’d cancelled their flight from Milan so the agents had found us this alternative, with our agreement, before we’d left England.

The steward greeted us aboard with a cheery remark that generally this flight took folk from sunny Milan to rainy Cardiff. This time it was the other way round, with Cardiff enjoying full sunshine. We arrived after a short, uneventful flight to an airport that was quiet and efficient and easily passed through.

I contacted Nigel, our friendly lift provider, and he guided us to the car park to take us home. Once again, he was busy with hands-free calls for some of the journey and, as he was delivering us at our home had to take a lengthy call regarding some work he was doing for a national retail concern.

We arrived home to discover a pile of mail on the coffee table, where our neighbour, Judy, had placed it. In time to visit the local shop, we were able to walk down and buy bread and milk and other perishables to tide us over until we could do a serious shop.

We’d had a wonderful holiday, full of experiences and incident. Thoroughly enjoyable. I now had 1757 pictures of our stay to sort, download and edit in order to illustrate this series of posts. This is the last part, so you’ve now had the (almost) full story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all. We hope you’ve enjoyed it, and maybe found some inspiration for your own travel tales. Thank you.

Our next trip will, we hope, be a visit to New Zealand and Australia, where our daughter lives with her fiance in Darwin. Not entirely sure when we’ll do that, but it’ll need to be quite soon, as age is catching up on our ability to cope with long flights, and that travel insurance fee increases with the years! But, whenever it comes around, I’ll be sure to post our travel tale here. For now, it’s back to my writing for this blog.

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It seems appropriate to let an Italian graffit artist have the last word, especially as it’s the most common greeting!

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