Maggiore and Orta

The room where the breakfast is served at Hotel Pironi is decorated with frescos dating back to the 18th century, and tall double doors opened to the old town. The breakfast is served on lovely set tables to the sounds of Barocco music. Certainly works for me!
The town is tiny but we spent 3 hours exploring it, all its nooks and crannies, where delightful surprises awaited us around each corner – like the hooks to hold the shutters that were shaped like little people.
This town, unlike Bellagio, lives its life while allowing tourists to partake, but not to take over. The tourists here are mostly German, which is reflected in the local cousine catering to them – the food is accompanied by boiled vegetables.
The prime real estate on the lakeside promenade has not been converted into hotels. People actually live here. We saw a woman hanging out a window, talking to a man on the ground who was walking his dog, a man in his undershirt was smoking in another window, the smell of a home-cooked meal was wafting from yet another. The whole town is tasteful, peaceful, and distinguished.
On the hotel’s recommendation, we set out on a road trip. Our first stop was Carmine Inferiore, where we parked our car and then hiked up the crooked stone stairs to Carmine Superiore, an ancient village perched on a mountain. The village dates back to the 900’s, and the crumbling stone houses attest to their advanced age. Shockingly, people still live here and haul their supplies and their kids up the mountain several times a day. No treadmill needed, thank you!. The village church is new in comparison. It was built at the end of the 13th- beginning of 14th century. Practically modern 🙂
From Carmine, we drove to tiny Lake Mergozzo to visit the eponymous town. The town was medieval all right, but has not yet happened in this century, so you might want to wait until it does happen, and skip it for now. In this town, I encountered Italy of old. When I went to a cafe to use the bathroom, the only people inside were men. They all stopped talking and playing cards when I walked in and silently followed me with their eyes as I walked to the back of the cafe to the only available bathroom that was equipped with a urinal.
The last town we visited today was on Lake Orta. Orta San Giulio is another charming village that found its own way to be beautiful. The facades here are more renaissance than medieval. There is a small picturesque island on the lake, right off the main promenade – a home to a convent and several mansions. Sadly, we were too late for the last ferry for the island and had to admire it from the mainland promenade instead.
Tomorrow is our last day in Italy – we’ll try to make the most of it.

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