In the summer of 2007 my family spent a week in Stresa. No this does not begin with the letter M but this picturesque town is located in northern Italy, on the shores of Lago Maggiore, or Lake Maggiore, which has an M in it's name. So it counts.
I realise I've said this a couple times already, but this was one of my favourite family vacations. We flew in to Milan and rented a car and drove to Lago Maggiore. This region is surrounded by green hills dotted with envious villas and in the distance you can see the snow covered alps on the Switzerland border. We stayed at the Regina Palace Hotel right on the shores of the lake and it was the perfect location.
We would enjoy breakfast on the hotel patio over looking the water and then head out to explore, which translates to: "find gelato." With gelato in hand we strolled through the winding streets and admired all the hydrangeas growing wild.
The lake is dotted with several islands called the Borromean Islands and each day we would hop on the water taxi to visit a different one: Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola Pescatore
Isola Bella is home to a beautiful palazzo and an even more beautiful garden constructed for the influential House of Borromeo. Here my family and a whole host of white peacocks roamed the palatial grounds freely.
Isola Madre is home to a little more modest villa but it's even more lush than Isola Bella. There are ivy covered walls, moss covered pebbled stair cases and even more peacocks- which are actually quite intimidating up close and personal.
Isola Pescatore is known for its fishermen and fish restaurants and is the only island inhabited year round, population 32. We enjoyed one of many delicious meals on that island. Seriously the best part of Italy is the food. Pizza, pasta, limoncella and more gelato. One of the best meals I've ever had in my entire life was up in the hills above Stresa. This "restaurant" was actually on the patio of someone's private home. We went to meet up with a local my dad knew from his job and we were the only people there- it was like a hidden secret.
The taxi driver that dropped us off kept asking us if we were sure they knew we were coming. There is no menu, I have no idea what is was called, and I could probably never find the place on my own. It was the epitome of a husband and wife operation and it was spectacular. You ate whatever they were cooking that day. We spent four plus hours dinning on zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh mozzarella, fresh pasta noodles and ravioli made right inside the house with the most amazing view overlooking the lake.
We got an even better view of the lake and of Switzerland one day when we took a cable car to another cafe and scenic spot up above the town. Every meal was followed by gelato. And when we weren't eating or island hopping or eating, we lounged by the hotel pool and enjoyed another unforgettable week together as a family.