Tag Archives: via del amore

Coming Into the Home Stretch

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Returning to Ispra after my galavanting around Milan and Como, I found new areas to explore. After visiting some friends that lived on the north end of town, I realized that I didn’t know that area at all! So one day, after lunch (and leaving my mom with her sister), I set out. First destination was the lake. But instead of heading South as I always do, I headed North. Now I had been to the edge of the north beach before, and had even looked at one time about continuing in that direction, but had been intimidated by the lack of a path and the many granite boulders hugging the lake’s edge. But this time, since I knew that there was a path there somewhere, I braved the unknown. To my surprise (and relief), a path eventually appeared…and it was gorgeous! It reminded me of the Via del Amore in the Cinque Terre!!! Who needs to go all the way to Liguria when this exists here!


Winding along the lake’s edge, it was a beautiful and peaceful stroll. I was alone on this stretch of granite pavingstones with only the lake’s gentle waves lapping against the boulders. At one time, this area had been where the limestone mines were. When my parents were young, many of their parents worked there. My mom told me that when she was a little girl, her and her friends would ditch preschool in order to sneak down to this part of the lake to play! A bell would sound when they were about to blast, and the kids would take cover in some caves in case of falling rocks! Can you imagine the adventures they must have had? Today this area is filled with some gorgeous villas that even have water garages for their boats! When I reached the end of the path, I took a LONG winding staircase back up to the road.


From here I had to trek up to the top of the hill before heading down back into town. I passed some gorgeous properties – some new, but also some old stately villas!


The walk was strenuous but so rewarding!

Upon entering back into town, I passed a real estate office. In their window were pictures of properties for sale in and around Ispra. It’s always been my dream to own a little part of this little paradise! So I picked up their little property guide and started dreaming. Heading back to my internet connection, I began to do some research. To my surprise and excitement, I found an apartment in the center of town in the same complex as my mom’s friend. We had just been over for dinner the night before, so I was familiar with the building. We called him and he knew all about the place for sale….he even had the keys! What a thrill! The apartment sits on the third and final floor, and it has two bedrooms, one bath, two balconies, a kitchen, a large living room/dining room, a storage closet….and down in the basement a cantina! It is sunny and bright (the apartment, not the cantina!!! Haha) It is large and spacious! AND the price was great! But, with all this excitement comes the harsh reality of what buying a property in Italy really entails. Do I really know anything about renovating? What about finding reputable contractors? Yes, the apartment did need work….a new kitchen and bathroom would be great….new floors….removal of wallpaper and painting….some new windows….all the things I would need to make it mine! But the possibilities were clear. I had the picture of the renovated apartment that our friend had, and I knew that with some patience and some money, it would turn out beautifully!!!! So….I’m still dreaming and perhaps my dream will come true!


Sadly, our time in Italy has come to an end. We are on our LONG flight back to San Francisco. I have come back with treasured memories of my home away from home…and I have experienced life as it was here through my mom’s eyes. So much of who I am comes from this tiny little gem.

Ispra – La perla del Lago Maggiore
Ispra- The pearl of Lago Maggiore


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Location:Ispra

The Cinque Terre!!!

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There has been a lot written on recommendations for visiting the Cinque Terre, therefore I’m not going to go into great detail on each land.  But I will share my experience – the pros and cons of what we did – in hopes that it may give travelers who are contemplating a trek there some tips!

The Cinque Terre is a National park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In order to maintain the area, admission is charged to enter the National Park which comprises the 5 lands.  There are 2 levels of park admission – one covers admission to the  park,  and the other combines the entrance fee with access to the train system between each town.  I would highly recommend getting the combination pass.  Even though we had every intention of hiking the entire 8 km path connecting the lands, we quit after the 4th one, and therefore were glad that we had bought the combination pass. 

Our visit began at the southernmost land, Rio Maggiore.  We spent lots of time visiting the town and walking up into the hills surrounding it to see all the beautiful views.  Once we had stopped and gotten some sustenance, we began the hike to the next town, Manarolo.  The path connecting these two towns is beautifully paved and winds around some incredible cliffs.  This path is called “La Via del Amore” and it is filled with expressions of love that lovers have left – grafitti on walls and locks of love! 

The second hike connecting Manarolo with Corniglia becomes a bit more difficult.  The hike takes about an hour on a path that is narrow and not paved. It ends with 382 steps zigzagging their way up a hill.  Once at the top, you are treated to some wonderful vistas of the towns you just left, which now seem so far away.  It amazes you to realize that you have already walked a great distance, without really too much of an effort.  Once you have reached Corniglia, you are supposedly half way through all the towns.  But…..then comes an incredibly difficult hike to Vernazza.  One and a half hours of heavy duty trekking is in store for this part of the trek.  Knees and hips are surely put to the test, as well as the efficiency of your hiking shoes.  I wore hiking sandals which allowed my feet to breathe, but it probably would have been better to have had some real hiking shoes to negotiate all the boulders and rocks along the path.  We saw many people with trekking poles, and after having spoken to them, they touted their praises!  Water is a must as you will get very thirsty and sweaty!

Upon entering Vernazza, we came upon the most amazing view!  Vernazza is by far the beauty of the Cinque Terre.  It sits on a hill with a beautiful tower at its southern tip.  Upon entering the town, while you are still very high up on the cliffs, there is a wonderful restaurant with a terrace that overlooks the entire town.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it is at the end of the trail coming from Corniglia.  Anyways, with sore and trembling legs, we sat down and had a glass of wine!!!  It was well worth it, but was definitely a mistake if we planned on continuing the hike to the last town, Monterosso al Mare!  Our muscles cramped up, and we decided that, since we had heard that this last path was the most difficult of all the hikes, we would skip this last one.  We instead hopped on the train and visited the last town the lazy way!  Luckily, because we skipped this last trail,  we have an excuse to come back to this enchanting place.

Looking back, would it have been easier to do the trail in the reverse order?  Perhaps – we would have begun with the most difficult hikes and ended with the easy “Via del Amore”.  We would also have been going down all those 382 steps instead of climbing up them!  Would the views have been the same?  Probably!  Hmm…something to ponder for next time 🙂