From the Italian Lakes....

lessons for clara

Dearest Clara,

I think one of the nicest surprises you can have is when you unexpectedly find yourself back somewhere that holds a special place in your heart.  Sometimes, places you loved just have a way of working themselves back into your life.  Six years ago, I met your father---long before he was your father, and before he was a husband even---in the Italian Lakes region.  Como . . . Lago di Garda . . . Lugano . . . we did them all.  But the one that's just a little more special is Lago Maggiore.  That's where he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife, and it has been one adventure after another for us ever since.

We have always wanted to go back, but we never pulled the trigger on the trip.  We said we would go for an anniversary . . . for a birthday . . . for a long weekend . . . but somehow something always got in the way.  Yet on this trip, which was not at all about Italy, the little town of Stresa, where we stayed after our engagement, just so happened  to be on our way as we were driving from Austria to France.  We couldn't help but stop to spend the night---in the same hotel no less. And it turns out it was worth the wait, since we were able to come with you.

In thinking about our very first trip there, here is what stands out in my mind:

  • Always have some cash in your pocket: Believe it or not, while we were out on the lake, taking the ferries from island to island, we ran out of money.  We didn't think much of it, but it quickly became clear that credit cards were not going to get us on the last boat. We weighed our options between panhandling and swimming to shore; the latter lost out.  We will forever be grateful to that total stranger, and your father always makes sure he has some cash in his pocket when we leave home.
  • Eat a big breakfast: No one does a breakfast like an Italian hotel---chances are you already paid for it with your room so take advantage.  Pick good proteins and fresh fruits, and a little roll in your bag for later comes in handy.  If you enjoy a nice leisurely and full breakfast, you can often skip lunch and make the most of your day out and about.  And don't forget a good cappuccino. Or two.
  • A passegiata every night: The lakes aren't exactly bustling with nightlife, in the traditional sense.  No clubs here, but you'll find nearly the entire town taking a walk along the lake every evening before dinner.  That's a party to be part of.
  • Admire pretty things . . . just because they are pretty: In this region, there are so many beautiful hotels, some would even call them over-the-top.  And you'll find some of the decorations to be excessive, maybe even unnecessary.  Just admire them for what they are: adornment.  The region is so beautiful, you can't blame people for trying to translate the visual feast of the view into their everyday surroundings.
  • Take time to do nothing: The pace of life is entirely different around the lakes.  Days are calm, and there is nothing to hurry for.  Take in the view of the lake, enjoy a long walk, read a good book, have another coffee.  Or just sit and be.  You'll have time for it all here.  There will be hardly any obligations here---enjoy that rare freedom.

All my love,