Tag Archives: lago maggiore

Royal Wedding on My Lake

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Even though this wedding took place last July (and I didn’t receive an invitation but we won’t mention that!), I was reminded of the occasion by the post in Donna Moderna yesterday when they announced that the bride, Beatrice Borromeo, may be expecting her first child.

Congratulations to the lovely couple – they will definitely have beautiful children! After all, she is a Vogue model and a distinguished journalist while he follows in his father’s business pursuits and dabbles in car racing. And their families are quite beautiful, too!

But I wanted to reminisce about their gorgeous wedding day, with all the festivities happening on my beautiful Lago Maggiore! I love referring to Lago Maggiore as my lake, but in reality, nothing of it is mine except for my roots and memories! Most of it belongs to the grand Borromeo Family and it’s because of this, that this wedding was so magical and grand.

The bride and groom, Pierre Casiraghi, both descend from some of Europe’s most influential families. Her family is one of the most aristocratic and noble families of Italy and are the owners of the Borromeo Islands right outside of Stresa. My blog post about them is here if you want to know some of their history. He is the grandson of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, and the youngest son of Princess Caroline of Monaco.

The couple celebrated their civil ceremony in Monte Carlo a week before the religious wedding in Italy. At that ceremony, the bride wore a gorgeous gown by Valentino. But for her ceremonies in Italy, she opted for gowns by Armani.

 

The private religious ceremony and luncheon were celebrated on the tiny private island Isolino di San Giovanni.

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This island (which I never knew even existed) is one of the Borromeo Islands (which include Isola Bella, Isola Superiore dei Pescatori, and Isola Madre)¬†and not open to the public. In fact, I wasn’t even able to find any pictures taken on the island itself.

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From here, the party headed over to the Rocca D’Angera, an old fortress sitting on top of my future summer home, Angera! (It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?)

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This fortress is visible from so many parts of the lake and I’ve seen it countless times. Back in the day, it was a scary place, but now it’s become a doll museum and a venue for some of the most elegant weddings ever! My mom actually attended a wedding here many years ago and she said it was gorgeous!

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Looking at the beautiful wedding pictures, I was transported back to my favorite place in the whole world – MY Lago Maggiore!

 

 

My Italian Hometown of Ispra

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A few years ago, I wrote some posts about my time in Ispra – the town on Lago Maggiore that my parents hail from…and that is very close to my heart! I feel at home there whenever I visit – as if it’s in my soul. Here is a gorgeous pictorial of this beautiful little town on the Eastern shores of Lago Maggiore.

Ispra is affectionately nicknamed “La Perla del Lago Maggiore” – the pearl of Lago Maggiore – because it is one of the most beautiful villages along the lake. The afternoon sun shines on it and it’s gorgeous shoreline. It is about 70 km from Milan along the shores of Lago Maggiore and it sits between two rocky hills that slope gently towards the lake – Monte dei Nassi and Monte del Prete. The views of the nearby mountains is stunning, and on sunny clear days you can see the majestic Monte Rosa – an Alpine peak always covered in snow which glows pink when the sun shines on it.

Ispra’s history is impressive, being first inhabited in prehistoric times and then as a settlement of the Celtic Insubri. The Insubri were a civilization made up of Ligurian, Celtic, Etruscan and Gaulish tribes. They were the original founders of Milan in the 2nd century BC. These people lived by fishing and agriculture and were later colonized by the Romans followed by the Lombards and Franks during the Medieval Era. The Renaissance brought the noble and powerful Visconti and Torriani families from Milan who fought each other for domain over Ispra. It remained under Milanese rule until the Borromeo family (of Isola Bella fame) took it over. For a short while, it fell into decline with a brief occupation by French and Spanish troops, but rose once more to aristocratic status during the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. During this time, the current port was built and used as an important base for the transportation of goods through the Swiss border. Several riots by local patriots against the Hapsburgs took place here and finally Ispra joined Garibaldi and the troops of the Savoys, the future kings of Italy, to overthrow the Hapsburgs. Many artifacts have been discovered, including engraved stones, jars, amphora, Roman tombs, an ancient canoe and a parchment dating back to the 8th century – all these evidence of Ispra’s occupation during history.

Ispra’s center, dominated by the beautiful church of San Martino, was inhabited by aristocrats for many years – thus resulting in some impressive mansions throughout the town. My parents told me stories of sneaking into the grounds of these villas as children to climb the fruit trees ūüôā Some of the aristocratic families were still living there then and the entire town knew about them, even though they didn’t associate with the common folk! My mom says she remembers a special “box” near the choir loft in the church that was reserved only for them. The beautiful church, San Martino, has frescoes dating back to the 17th century! My parents were married in this gorgeous church over 50 years ago! In more recent times, I took refuge in this church during a huge summer thunderstorm ūüôā

Ispra, La Perla del Lago Maggiore, never disappoints me and I look forward to my visits with anticipation!

The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso

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santa_caterina_sasso1[1]While on a private boat tour of Lago Maggiore on Day 3 of our Italy – Wine, Dine & Unwind Tour, we will have the opportunity to explore this very ancient and beautiful sanctuary, Santa Caterina del Sasso,¬†perched precipitously on the side of a cliff.¬† It is located a¬†few miles north of the town in which my parents grew up and it wasn’t until 2009 that I was able to actually visit this magical place.¬† The sanctuary sits on a cliff above the eastern shore of the lake, and it is best accessible by boat.¬† We accessed it by road, but we had to climb down (and then eventually back up) from the parking lot.¬† The climb was a bit arduous, but the result of being able to explore this extraordinary place was beyond compare.¬† My mom used to tell me that the lake’s depth here at the sanctuary is the deepest in the entire lake and that there are rumors of sunken treasure which no one has ever been able to recover due to the great depth.¬† Who knows if this legend is true, but it just adds to the mysticism here.¬† The sanctuary is home to a small group of Domincian friars, after having been part of the Carmelite order of monks for many years.¬† The church has recently been restored, and the frescoes have been cleaned and brought to light after many years of being hidden beneath rubble and dirt.

The story of the this sanctuary and how it came to be are enchanting.¬† The story goes that a certain rich merchant by the name of Albert Besozzi, while crossing the lake during a storm in 1170, capsized his boat near the rocky shores of the stone cliff.¬† He clung to the rocks and prayed to Santa Caterina to save him.¬† He promised that if his life were spared, he would build a santuary to the saint and live the rest of his days as a hermit.¬† His life was saved, and he kept his promise by devoting his life to her.¬† It is believed that several miracles happened here, all due to the intervention of Santa Caterina.¬† The evidence of one of these miracles can still be evidenced today, and I was fortunate to see it.¬† During a rock slide in the 17th century, a huge boulder came off the cliffs and was destined to destroy the altar and Alberto Besozzi’s tomb.¬† Miraculously, the rock was lodged above the altar and never came down to destroy it.¬†¬†The site is still¬†evident today, with that part of the chapel being kept unrestored so that the miraculous recovery can be seen.

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Strolling along the arches and gazing out at Monte Rosa in the distance, you can see how this very scenic piece of coastline would lend itself to a life of devotion and prayer by the faithful.  Experiencing the silence, only interrupted by the sounds of the lapping waves on the rocks, was a moment that will stay with me forever as I remember the shores of the lake that is such a part of my core.

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A Glimpse into Italy’s Antiquity – L’Abbazia di San Donato

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In Northern Italy, where the Ticino river leaves Lago Maggiore, is a small town named Sesto Calende.  During the ancient Roman Empire and later, this town was a stopping point for many as they made their journey from the North, over the Alps, on their way into Italy.  As this map shows, several towns along the lake were important destinations for them.

People like the Roman Longobards, Hannibal, Napoleon, and Garibaldi stopped in Sesto and left their mark.¬† One such mark is the tiny church of L’Abbazia di San Donato.¬†¬† We will spend a very special evening (and be treated to an extra special event) ¬†in this beautiful and ancient church on our Italy…Wine, Dine, and Unwind Tour. ¬† The original church, which was¬†built between 500 and 600 AD, ¬†stood on the site of an ancient pagan temple.¬† This location was chosen to¬†beseech God to protect those travelling across the lake.¬† The¬†first structure is no longer standing, but an ancient stone was preserved.¬† This stone was originally gilded in gold and silver and was probably part of the pulpit.

The current Abbazia di San Donato dates from the IX century and was erected by the bishop of Pavia, Liutardo del Conti.¬† Even though, geographically, it was within the Diocese of Milan, it fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Pavia and belonged to the Benedictine order of monks.¬† During¬†this time, the Benedictines were extremely influential with the Holy Roman Empire¬†¬†and benefitted both in wealth and power.¬† These circumstances created conflict¬† with both dioceses, and in 1111, the monastery and all its wealth were seized by the Diocese of Milan.¬† Conflicts arose and with the help of the Holy Roman Emperor, Barbarossa, the Benedictines once again regained control¬†of the Abbazia itself but not of the surrounding territory.¬† Their possessions now belonged to Pope Innocent III.¬† The monks’ morale and San Donato suffered until 1455 when a Benedictine name Nicola Tatti took control and¬†the Abbazia regained prosperity once again.¬†¬†Over a period of 40 years, many monks passed through and works of art were commissioned.¬†¬†This beautiful choir room behind the altar was one of these wonderful artistic masterpieces.¬† The monks would sit here during Mass and sing their beautiful hymns.

In 1534, once again,¬†the monastery passed into control of¬†Milan and this time the¬†monks left.¬†Over the centuries, the Abbazia fell into the care of others and into disrepair, even becoming a home for soldiers during various insurrections and wars.¬† In 1911, badly damaged and in total disrepair, it lost it’s status as a parish.¬† But this gem could not be forgotten…and in 1959, restoration began in the hopes of bringing this important¬†piece of history back to be treasured once more.¬†¬†With the help of¬†many, it regained its parish status in 1963.

 

From the XV Century

 

 

Tiny and Picturesque Lago d’Orta

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Another stop on our Italy…Wine, Dine & Unwind Tour, and not far from Lago Maggiore, tucked into the hills of Piemonte, lies the tiny jewel of a lake called Lago d’Orta.

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It is peaceful and quiet with million dollar views. I visited this little known gem during the Christmas Holidays and it shimmered with the snow along the shores. The old town of Orta San Giulio, on a peninsula jutting out of the eastern shore of the lake, is one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Italy. It is a pedestrian only area where you can walk along the narrow cobblestoned streets and look at all the quaint little shops, and eat in wonderful restaurants overlooking the lake.

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The ancient buildings such as the sixteenth century “city hall”, the fourteenth century House of the Dwarves, and the Palazzo Gemelli from the Renaissance are among some of the architectural wonders of this old village. The Casa dei Nani (the House of the Dwarves) is the oldest building in Orta and it derived its name because of four small windows that are above the wooden architrave.

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Looking out into the lake from Orta is the serene and tranqil Island of San Giulio. The most famous building on the island is the Basilica of Saint Giulio with its beautiful and carefully preserved bas-reliefs from the twelfth centure. Adjacent is the monumental old Seminary from the 1840’s that, since 1976 has been transformed into a Benedictine monastery. The island exudes an aura ofspirituality. A walk along the Path of Silence, traveled in the opposite direction, becomes the Way of Meditation, whose signs invite you to an inner journey which involves listening and study.

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Another Glimpse into Italy’s Antiquity – L’Abbazia di San Donato

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In Northern Italy, where the Ticino river leaves Lago Maggiore, is a small town named Sesto Calende.  During the ancient Roman Empire and later, this town was a stopping point for many as they made their journey from the North, over the Alps, on their way into Italy.  As this map shows, several towns along the lake were important destinations for them.

People like the Roman Longobards, Hannibal, Napoleon, and Garibaldi stopped in Sesto and left their mark.¬† One such mark is the tiny church of L’Abbazia di San Donato.¬†¬† The original church, which was¬†built between 500 and 600 AD, ¬†stood on the site of an ancient pagan temple.¬† This location was chosen to¬†beseech God to protect those travelling across the lake.¬† The¬†first structure is no longer standing, but an ancient stone was preserved.¬† This stone was originally gilded in gold and silver and was probably part of the pulpit.

The current Abbazia di San Donato dates from the IX century and was erected by the bishop of Pavia, Liutardo del Conti.¬† Even though, geographically, it was within the Diocese of Milan, it fell under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Pavia and belonged to the Benedictine order of monks.¬† During¬†this time, the Benedictines were extremely influential with the Holy Roman Empire¬†¬†and benefitted both in wealth and power.¬† These circumstances created conflict¬† with both dioceses, and in 1111, the monastery and all its wealth were seized by the Diocese of Milan.¬† Conflicts arose and with the help of the Holy Roman Emperor, Barbarossa, the Benedictines once again regained control¬†of the Abbazia itself but not of the surrounding territory.¬† Their possessions now belonged to Pope Innocent III.¬† The monks’ morale and San Donato suffered until 1455 when a Benedictine name Nicola Tatti took control and¬†the Abbazia regained prosperity once again.¬†¬†Over a period of 40 years, many monks passed through and works of art were commissioned.¬†¬†This beautiful choir room behind the altar was one of these wonderful artistic masterpieces.¬† The monks would sit here during Mass and sing their beautiful hymns.

In 1534, once again,¬†the monastery passed into control of¬†Milan and this time the¬†monks left.¬†Over the centuries, the Abbazia fell into the care of others and into disrepair, even becoming a home for soldiers during various insurrections and wars.¬† In 1911, badly damaged and in total disrepair, it lost it’s status as a parish.¬† But this gem could not be forgotten…and in 1959, restoration began in the hopes of bringing this important¬†piece of history back to be treasured once more.¬†¬†With the help of¬†many, it regained its parish status in 1963.

 

From the XV Century

Snow….Snow…and More Snow!

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Italy, and a lot of Europe, has been covered in record snowfall this year.¬† Pictures and pictures of famous sites covered in snow have been appearing all over the media.¬† Rome received a record amount of snow – the most they’ve gotten in over 26 years!¬† The Cinque Terre has been a winter wonderland – the beauty of the white snow surrounded by the warm sepia toned houses perched on the hills has been better than a postcard!¬† But, as I recall, the January I spent in Italy in 2009 brought with it more snow than they had had in over 20 years.¬† I think that was the beginning of the new winter trend – snow, snow…and¬†more snow.

Scenes along the Shores of Lago Maggiore

The Duomo with its “Snow” Frosting¬†

….and the Castello Sforzesco

Snow covered Santa Maria delle Grazie