EuropeItalyMilan

Day 7: Turin to Stressa to Milan

Milan Travel Blog

 › entry 7 of 11 › view all entries
Isola Bella in the middle of Lake Maggorie

"Mama Mia, that's a spicy meatball!"  -- Woody (on our group) after seeing Lake Maggorie. 

Our first stop, after leaving Turin, is the town of Stressa on the beautiful shores of Lake Maggorie.  This the famous Lakes region of Alpine Italy that is famous the world over.  Lake Como, the largest lake in Europe, is close by.  It is here that George Clooney has a summer home and Benito Mussolini was executed on the shoreline as he tried to sneak into Switzerland. 

Stressa is a beautiful little town.  It's bustling during the summer months with tourists and shuts down completely during the cold winters.  Winston Churchill honeymooned here and Ernest Hemingway recovered in a hotel after serving as an ambulence driver in WWI (Stressa is the setting of his novel "A Farewell to Arms").

Brian and me in the garden.
 

We take a 15-minute ferry ride to Isola Bella, a small, private island in the middle of the lake.  The island was once the private residence of the Bormeo family, wealthy Italians who hosted the likes of Napolean Bonaparte on long weekends.  The palace is lovely.  It's full of big, charming rooms all with a lakeside setting and sweeping views.  The palace, by the way, was also the setting of the Stressa Treaty signing, a 1935 accord signed by Mussolini pledging to unite with France and England to stop Germany's aggression.  A few months later Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and pretty much sided with the Germans for the rest of the war making the treaty ineffective, but he would get his comeupance later.  Downstairs there is a grotto made entirely (floor to ceiling) out of shell and rock mosaics.

A white peacock
  And outside is the best yet--beautiful gardens surrounding the palace and full of the most beautiful flowers.  They are also home to rare, white peacocks brought in from China.  We enjoy our time here and then ferry back to Stressa to meet up with our bus. 

From Stressa we drive straight through to Milan where we have a late afternoon appointment to see da Vinci's Last Supper.  Seeing the Last Supper takes a bit of effort.  You have to have an appointment to do so (only 25 people can be in the room at one time) and appointments should ideally be booked at least a month out.  Luckily for us, our tour group as set it up for us.  Prior to coming here, I always assumed the Last Supper was a painting, but it's actually a fresco painted along the wall of a monestary dining hall.

Looking down on more of the gardens.
  It's huge.  Leonardo da Vinci was one of two artists hired to paint the walls of this dining room giving the silent monks something to contemplate while they ate each night.  da Vinci chose to paint the scence of Jesus's last meal and the other artist did a painting of the crucifixtion.  Unfortunately for the other guy, da Vinci's work is amazingly better.  His art is amazing and seeing the Last Supper on a large scale in its orginal state is something that is truly amazing.  We had 15 minutes to look at it and I didn't take my eyes off of it the entire time we were there.  We learned that da Vinci painted Jesus and the apostles from the inside out meaning he painted their naked bodies first and then covered them with clothes.  This was only recently discovered when the clothes of Bartholomew began to fade away leaving a perfectly drawn leg behind.
A beautiful shot of the lake.
  We also learned that da Vinci researched the lives of the apostles for two months before he even began his art.  He made Matthew the most handsome and best dressed (as he was the wealthy tax collector) with long, slender fingers.  Judas is the only apostle with a shadow on his face and one hand reaches for Jesus's plate while the other clutches his bag of silver coins.  A few centuries after it was made, the monks decided they needed to widen the door to their kitchen so they cut out Jesus's feet (already crossed on top of each other as they would be on the cross).  Later when Napolean took over the city, he used the building as a stable for his horses.  During WWII, Milan was bombed and the entire church was destroyed except for the walls containing the Last Supper and the other painting. 

After our tour, we checked into our hotel for the evening (and watched the Euro Cup final).  Tomorrow there will be more time to explore Milan. 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Isola Bella in the middle of Lake …
Isola Bella in the middle of Lake…
Brian and me in the garden.
Brian and me in the garden.
A white peacock
A white peacock
Looking down on more of the garden…
Looking down on more of the garde…
A beautiful shot of the lake.
A beautiful shot of the lake.
Another picture of us.
Another picture of us.
Me in the garden.
Me in the garden.
Milan
photo by: williamsworld