Tag Archives: locarno

My St. Francis

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St. Francis has always held a special place in my life. Not really because of his life or his holiness, which my no means is meaningless, but simply because he is the one whom my birth city is named after…and he frequently seems to appear in my life at random times and in random places! I have a fondness for St. Francis and his gentleness with animals has always fascinated me.

October 4th was his feast day which reminded me of him and how he seems to find me wherever I go.

A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip through the Cento Valli above Lago Maggiore. One of the stops was Locarno where we visited the beautiful Madonna del Sasso sanctuary way atop the city. As were were wandering through the sanctuary, I found myself face to face with St. Francis! The first thought that came to me was that he was with me and protecting me and reminding me of my home. Of course, I had to take a picture of him!


Another time, we were visiting Jacuzzi Winery in Sonoma on Mother’s Day and lo and behold, whom should I find in the courtyard? Yep! St. Francis!


San Francisco is filled with shrines and memories of St. Francis. The famous Porziuncola at the oldest church in San Francisco, which naturally bears the name of St. Francis, is always there as a reminder to him. (here is a post about the shrine) The Porziuncola

Of course, the gorgeous ancient town of Assisi, in the Italian province of Umbria, is all about St. Francis…as this is where he lived and performed his ministry. The gorgeous church, with its countless frescoes, is a majestic tribute to this very holy man. And visiting this town only brings you more in tune with how special of a saint, and man, he was.


His love of all creatures has made him a special saint for animals, and during his feast day many animals are blessed! Even my crazy little Sophie dog was blessed at his holy day (even though she wasn’t a very obedient participant!)

St. Francis always seems to find me in my travels, rooting me always to that special city by the bay that I will always call home. But…now it’s my turn to look for St. Francis… I want him in my garden where I can see him every day. Keep a look out for a stone, or preferably bronze, garden stauary of St. Francis! If you see one, please let me know as I want him close to me at all times!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Cento Valli and Lago Maggiore

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Even though I have visited Lago Maggiore countless times, I had never navigated the northern part of the lake before this last trip.  Some friends advised us to take the Cento Valli Tour offered by the Lago Maggiore Express.  This “tour” combines a train ride in a panoramic coach through the beautiful Valle Vigezzo (which sits northwest of Lago Maggiore) with a boat ride throughout the lake.  The train takes you steeply up the canyons high above the lake where you will see waterfalls and rushing rivers.  Tiny, picturesque hill towns pop up everywhere.  We made a stop at Santa Maria Maggiore, a cobblestoned small town with a lovely main square and beautifully decorated buildings.  We visited a local delicatessen and had them make up some delicious panini which, along with a bottle of prosecco, became an impromptu picnic lunch at a local park! 

The Cento Valli tour can be taken in both directions – you can either do the train first or the boat.  It doesn’t matter and you end up seeing the same things.  We decided to do the train first because we wanted to end the day with a relaxing tour on the lake.  The train ride began in Baveno, but we didn’t actually board the Cento Valli panoramic train until Domodossola.  We disembarked at the final stop of Locarno, at the northernmost tip of Lago Maggiore.  Locarno is fairly large and busy, with some interesting sights.  We didn’t have much time here, so we decided to only visit the main attraction –  the beautiful church of La Madonna del Sasso,which sits at the top of a hill with a gorgeous view of Lago Maggiore.  There is a funicular that takes you up to the church…but, if you are feeling energetic, you can also walk the entire way!

After spending a few hours in Locarno, we boarded the boat and began our journey back to Baveno.  The boat ride took about 3 hours and we went past so many beautiful lakeside resorts – Cannobbio, Cannero, Intra, Pallanza and many others.  We sat inside and outside, and enjoyed a glass of wine while cruising the calm lake.  This was a memorable day and one that will remain with me forever 🙂

So many places to see, but so little time…

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This coming September, we are taking a trip back to Italy.  Originally, we were planning on making a stop in Deruta to pick up some more pottery for my shop, Tesoro.   As much as I want to do this, I realized that it would make our trip so much more duty-oriented rather than just about taking time and being at leisure.  So, I think I’ve made the decision that I will skip Deruta this time, thus giving us more time to explore Italy’s backroads.

This past weekend, we actually sat down and tried to find some places and things to do that fit into our path of travel.  I think we’ve come up with some unique and fun things to do.  I would love it if anyone reading this blog had anything to add to our ideas – whether you’ve experienced them or have any other tips!  Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Since we are travelling to and from Zurich, Switzerland, we have decided to incorporate a teeny bit of Switzerland into our itinerary.  The first thing we are planning to do is to take the William Tell Express, a scenic train ride from Luzern to Locarno.  The William Tell Express goes to Lugano as well, but we chose Locarno because it is on Lago Maggiore and the starting off point for our next adventure.

From Locarno, we are planning on taking the train ride through the Cento Valli.  Another scenic train ride through the valleys in the Piedmont region west of Lago Maggiore.  I have heard lots of favorable reviews of this excurion.  It can be combined with a boat ride along the western shore of the lake from Arona back to Locarno.  Even though I have been to lots of places along the shores of Lago Maggiore, I have never experienced anything north of Stresa.  So this sounds extremely appealing to me!  Exploring the lake of my roots has always been a dream of mine, and this will be a start to fulfilling that dream!

After visiting family and friends on Lago Maggiore, we plan on making a road trip to the Cinque Terra via Piedmont.  Stopping in Piedmont and exploring some of this area’s wineries and charming little towns is hopefully a possibility.  Visiting the Cinque Terre will be another new experience for me.  I have always wanted to see these enchanted towns set along the Ligurian coastline but never before had the opportunity.  We are excited to visit in September – hopefully the throngs of tourists which frequent these places will be gone and we can have the place to ourselves?  (am I being too hopeful?).  Irregardless, the tourist crowds have to be better than in the height of summer!

From Liguria, it’s on to Cecina in Tuscany to visit more family!  A trip along the coast is in the plan.  Being from California, travelling along the coast is always so scenic and beautiful.  I’m sure this Italian coast will not disappoint! 

Alas, at this point, our trip will be  almost over so we will have to take the Autostrada back up to Lago Maggiore, and then back to Zurich.  But….some quick stops along the way are a very strong possibility. 

Now I am starting to get excited!!!