Have You Heard of a Pearl Called Pallanza?




I hadn’t, not before last summer. We we’re wondering what to pair with the hiking trip to Matterhorn in Switzerland: key words for the search were Italian lakes, Italian food, sunshine and beautiful views. And, after some google maps and image browsing, Pallanza popped up! And what a delicious and pleasant little pearl by Lake Maggiore it turned out to be.

What made me fall for Pallanza? First, the extra wide jogging and cycling road, which follows the waterfront and leads to the next district, Verbania Intra. There was such proper road width reserved for the runners, so delightful! The morning run from Pallanza to Intra and back with a stop for some stretching, (catching one’s breath) and a water break took around 50 minutes. Our plan on the first morning was to enjoy espressos after the energizing run on the terrace of the café right next to our hotel, but this proved to be a utopian idea since we were sweating like two little piglets and the salt was stinging our eyes. But, anyhow, it was a good workout in a pretty setting.


What I also didn’t know beforehand was that Pallanza is quite the culinary hotspot. The stylish aperitivo in the lakeside garden of Ristorante Milano, the superb and nocturnal Spaghetti allo Scoglio (spaghetti with seafood) of La Tentazione by the market square (nocturnal because we are quite late eaters and their kitchen was open a bit past 9:30 pm), the rich ravioli of Ristorante Il Portale… Il Burchiello was also delicious but during the holiday season remember to book in advance.


And what would be sweeter for an Italian food lover than an Italian food festival taking place right outside our doorstep by the lake. It was sotto le stelle, a dinner and a gastronomic taste journey under the stars. You could buy the tickets either at the entrance or beforehand in the local restaurants. The long tables were covered with white tablecloths and flower compositions and there were candles placed in white paper bags waiting to be lit up after sunset. We got a stamp card with which we could get an apertitif, 5 different small dishes, two glasses of wine and a desert from the different stands of the local restaurants. A local elderly lady who apparently knew everyone in town was kindly pointing us towards the wine and food stands to ensure that we got the hang of it. The evening was tasty and bustling and a good gastronomic dive to the offerings of the district.



Pallanza has its own ferry stop and after some running and culinary delights I recommend you take a lake cruise to the islands (Isola Bella being the botanical crown jewel) and to the city of Stresa: a stroll by the beach promenade, marvelling at the extravagant luxury hotels, a cone of creamy pistachio ice cream, doing some bric-a-brac discoveries in the shops of the old town and sipping a strong espresso on the terrace before heading back to the boat, the components of a happy day trip.



Isola Bella and its peacocks and unicorns


You know the feeling when you’ve had a small and futile argument with your special loved one about something utterly unnecessary and then you come to a place that is breathtakingly mesmerizing or beautiful and so skillful. The sun is shining, the warmth of the sweet summer day caresses your cheeks and the lake water sparkles as the sunrays dance on its surface. Very soon you come to realize that you really don’t want to lose any time from experiencing the beauty, the gorgeous day, the efforts of the gardener and moments of this life that we have. Perhaps a bit sappy but actually very true once you start thinking about it.

One place that has this effect is Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore in North of Italy. And in there particularly the blooming baroque garden of the Palazzo Borromeo.




The island got its name from Isabella D’Adda, the wife of Carlo Borromeo III, when the spectacular palace was built for the aristocratic family in the 1600s. The high rooms of the palazzo include for example the decorative Ballroom, the ornamental throne and the Sala di Napoleone where the French emperor stayed with his wife. Not to forget the numerous artworks from old masters, the ornate grand piano decorated with a painting even from the inside, the magnificent halls, the detailed ceilings and in the bottom floor the impressive grottoes, with walls made of pebbles and lava stone. The palace is still the summer home of the Borromeo family.


When we step outside to the palace gardens we see first the gallant white peacocks strutting on the green and well-attended lawn. They don’t care about the visitors but are wise enough to escape the sticky hands of an energetic toddler who sweeps past us reaching towards the fascinating white birds.


The gardens include well-kept verdant boulevards, tall obelisks, a unicorn statue, geometrically trimmed trees, many terraces, ponds with water lilies, a parrot house and the imposing Teatro Massimo. And a myriad of flowers.


Isola Bella can be reached easily with ferries from the cities of Stresa, Laveno, Pallanza and Intra. The last ferry back to Pallanza goes quarter past seven. After the palace has closed the island quiets down quickly. The entrance fee to the palace is 15 euros.


Isola Bella is definitely worth visiting but I wouldn’t opt to have the accommodation there. It is beautiful, crowded on the small streets during the day and a fine place to spot skilled Italian style gardening. And oh yes, a lunch spot tip is Il Fornello Bottega con Cucina: a beautiful terrace, friendly service, quality bubbles and a tasty antipasti plate.

Two Gorgeous Beach Discoveries on the Atlantic Coast



Salty sea water in my hair, grains of sand on my skin dried by the sun and the mighty sea that opens in front of us. The one who said that salt water is the cure to anything was on to something very essential.

There are plenty of beautiful beaches by the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal and in Spain. What I really value are specific beach tips and coordinates when it comes to the best of the best beach gems. I want to share two beach recommendations with you from our road trip along the Atlantic Coast in Portugal and in Andalucía in Spain.

The first one is Praia do Malhão around 2 hours (186 kilometres) by car from Lisbon. The beach is located 7 kilometres north of the town Vila Nova de Milfontes and it is best reached by your own (rental) car or by bike. The beach is beautiful, natural and peaceful (read: remote, no masses here), and the sea is quite wild. The best thing definitely was jumping against the mighty waves. The second best thing was having fresh and juicy cherries for lunch on the beach while sunbathing. A lunch tip: keep your eyes open for fruit stands by the roads: you can find such ripe and luscious fruit (cherries, watermelons, peaches and tomatoes) for a very affordable price.


The coastline is rocky with dunes and in the sea there are some large basalt rocks. The beach is situated next to the Sudoeste Alentejano natural park and therefore the coastline is empty of development. Hence there are no facilities (apart from the car park area). This suited us perfectly but might not make for an excellent beach day for someone who gets a craving for some snacks or wishes to rent beach tennis equipment, a body board or a sun chair.

The town Vila Nova de Milfontes was nice, peaceful and relaxed. We did a little stroll there and then around 4 pm were wondering if we could find a place for a late (second) lunch. And after a quick search we found the bistro Stress Free (on Rua Sarmento Beires 28). To me, one of the lovely joys of being on holiday is that we can live in a vacation rhythm that is rather different from the office life rhythm. Hence gotta love places that serve delicious lunch until the late afternoon and dinner until midnight. I’ve come to learn that I am a late (emphasis on late) Mediterranean diner. The lunch spot choice, Stress Free, served good food with laid-back vibes.


The second beach find is the Playa de Mazagón on the Costa de la Luz (the Coast of Light) in Huelva in Southwest Spain. Loved it during the day and especially loved it at sunset. The beach is long and beautiful, and in the evening you can walk a long way right toward the sunset. On the beach you can find a zone of sea shells of all shapes and forms.


We stayed at the Parador de Mazagón (on Carretera San Juan del Puerto-Matalascañas), overlooking the ocean. Parador in Spain refers to a certain kind of special accommodation where an old historic building (for example a castle) is turned into a hotel. If you’re looking for a pleasant place for relaxation, a game or two of tennis, dips in the ocean and watching the stars on your own balcony after dinner, then this might just be the spot for you in Huelva, the strawberry province of Spain.