From Como to Maggiore

On our last morning on lake Como, we went to a nearby palazzo turned museum, Villa Carlotta. This luxurious residence was presented to 18-year old Carlotta on her wedding day by her mother (sorry Lisa ;-(.) Villa Carlotta is surrounded by a blooming garden, a feast to the eyes! We loved the interior, the views of the lake from the windows, and the lavish landscaping, could have gone to some other, similar villas, but it was time to leave Como and move on to another Italian lake, Maggiore.
Our gps suggested a shortcut through Switzerland and we followed the route to save half an hour on a 2-hour journey. When we entered Switzerland, we were hit with a $45 tax for the privilege of driving on Swiss roads – a very expensive half an hour!
As soon as we entered Switzerland, something imperceptible changed in the scenery: beauty remained, but the charm was gone.
We entered the country right outside a rather big city, Lugano. As soon as we left Lugano we saw an unmistakable sign that we were indeed in Switzerland: right outside the city boundaries, there was a pasture with a heard of cows. They sure love their cows!
So we drove through the perfect but boring countryside, through the tunnels, alongside the lakes, when we realized that we were near a big outlet mall called Fox Town. We decided to check it out. This outlet is similar to our Woodbury Commons – most major designers represented. And once again: the prices and merchandise are the same as in the US -I’m telling you, it’s not fun anymore shopping in Italy (or Switzerland, for that matter.)
When we were finally approaching the Italian border, we happened upon a pretty town, Locarno . We drove up to it – it looked perfectly Swiss, with perfect houses and perfect flowers perfectly arranged on the perfect windows. We drove up to it, turned around, and drove back to the Italian border, to the imperfect beauty we’d rather have.
Ten minutes over the border, we found it in the village of Cannobio. Our hotel is in the heart of an old town on a pedestrian-only street. We were instructed to drive onto the narrowest of streets to a parking lot, and from there, we dragged our suitcases across a cobblestone piazza onto the cobblestone street where the hotel sits. From there, only a few steps up to the elevator, and anther several steps up from the elevator to our room. Yet, may this not discourage you from staying at Hotel Pironi in Cannobio! The hotel is a charming and tastefully decorated, restored, and converted 15th century palazzo. Our room is somewhat quirky – under a sloped roof, with stairs leading to the second floor bathroom, two double doors opening to a balcony overlooking a narrow medieval street. There is a tiled roof under our balcony and a window of another house right across the narrow street. From the balcony, over the many multileveled tiled roofs, we can see a steeple of a distant church and the Alps. It is out of a storybook, it is magical!
The hotel is carefully and beautifully restored to maintain the air of an old palazzo down to faux paint to resemble the crumbling paint on the outside walls.
It was late, and in the darkness, we walked to the lakeside promenade where people were lounging in outdoor cafes, a band was playing, and a crowd was dancing to the music. Can’t wait to explore this town further tomorrow!

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