Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stresa: A Friday Foodie Tour

Nowadays there are more and more apartments to rent in Stresa so if you've chosen to self cater you need to know where to buy those Italian foodie treats!

The supermarkets are great for the basics and there is a very good Carrefour in the centre of town as well as out of town hypermarkets, but there's nothing like a mooch around the smaller food stores and the market. You'll find Stresa has a treasure trove of local and seasonal produce to enjoy! So I thought I'd let you know where I enjoy to shop.

Every Friday I set off from home with my trusty shopping trolley for a few regular purchases and also to see what's in season at the market ..... and this is my personal Friday foodie tour of Stresa!

My first stop is Le Fantasie della Pasta fresh pasta shop where sisters, Maristella and Manuela cook up a whole host of tasty treats. If you fancy some tagliatelle or pappardelle or other ribon-type pasta just selct what you'd like from the sample try in the cabinet and they will give you as much as you need, freshly made. On the counter there are trays of plump ravioli with fillings such as meat, spinach and ricotta, gorgonzola and walnut or speck and brie. Not sure how much to ask for? Don't worry, just tell them the amount of people and they'll weigh you out the right amount. Maristella and Manuela also cook up goodies like crespelle or cheesy pancakes, lasagne ready to take home and pop in the oven or sweet treats like strudel, tiramisu and crème caramel.

Further down the road I call in at the local butcher where the Catarinella family, father Donato and son Maurizio, sell a decent choice of veal, beef, pork and poultry as well as their own very long sausages!

The entrance to the market
My next stop is the weekly market which is held in Piazza Capucci on a Friday morning. If you enter the market from Piazza Possi you will go under a short covered area. This is where you will find the artisan stalls. During the summer from about mid-June you will find the Alpe Selviana stall where you can buy organic blueberries, raspberries, honey and jams. If you're lucky there will also be the cheese and salami man (so sorry I don't know his name!) who sells the most wonderful produce from his little stall. Peppery salamis and sausages, fresh ricotta, butter and try before you buy cheeses. Some of the tastiest I've ever had!

Lorenzo, Maria and Giuseppe
Further in, you absolutely have to stop at the fruit and vegetable stall on the right. Twins Lorenzo and Giuseppe, along with their mum, Maria have by far and away the best fruit and veg in Stresa. Quite simply, if it isn't in season and the best quality and taste, they wouldn't feel happy selling it. I always linger longest here as it is about more than just doing the weekly shop. As well as a catch up on how things have gone since the previous week, there's recipes to be shared (most recently tagliatelle with mushrooms that Lorenzo had cooked the night before) and a slice of melon, an apricot or some olives to sample. Originating from Puglia in the south of Italy, they are always proud to highlight the produce available from their own region. The whole family is super friendly, service is with a smile and they will never rush you whilst you decide what you would like: plump red tomatoes, juicy peaches, fresh peas in the pod, crunchy apples or crisp greens! I'm already looking forward to tomorrow as pesche tabacchiere and frigitelle (small sweet peppers) are in season :)

Claudia at the bakery in Piazza Cadorna
After Giuseppe has loaded up my shopping trolley it's off to the bakery in Piazza Cadorna. Claudia has only recently taken over the little shop but is continuing the friendly and efficient service of the previous owner. On a Tuesday and Friday I go to buy pane di segale - hoping I'm early enough so it is still warm! On Fridays there is also bread with raisins, olives or walnuts. Claudia also sells the most enormous chunky grisini which are wonderful with a slice of ham wrapped around!

By now my trolley and shopping bags are usually jam packed with goodies so shopping for store cupboard type ingredients at the local Carrefour supermarket is left for another time. And so my Friday foodie tour of Stresa comes to an end and I head to the office to start my working day.

Below is a map showing all the places I've mentioned.

View Sarah's Friday Foodie Tour in a larger map

Have you got a favourite foodie place in Stresa? Share it with us so we can all go and enjoy!

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stresa Travel Recipes: Vitello Tonnato

In the name of research I've dug out my Piemonte recipe book that came with the Corriere della Sera newspaper a few years ago. I've got the full collection for every region in Italy but have to confess to not having used them very often! I guess it's the usual story of a shelf full of cookery books that you only delve into once in a while.

I've decided to try a recipe that I've been curious about for a long time and that Luca assures me he loves! Vitello Tonnato is sliced, cold roast veal with a tuna fish sauce. I'll be honest that the idea of meat with a fish sauce doesn't immediately get my taste-buds tingling but it is a local dish that is often served in Stresa's hotels so I'm going to give it a go.

When I went to the butcher to get the piece of veal his wife checked how I was going to go about the recipe (roast or boiled veal, sauce made separate or cooked together) and my answers of roast and sauce made separate seemed to go down well, so it looks like the recipe book is faithful to the real thing!

Ingredients (for 6 people)

1kg piece of veal (in Italian the cuts is called which I think would be the rump roast)
1 glass dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
olive oil
salt and pepper

200g tuna in olive oil
3 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
2 salt-packed anchovies
2 spoons of capers in vinegar
400ml olive oil


Heat the oven to 150°C / 300°F

Seal the piece of meat in an ovenproof dish or tin with 3 spoons of olive oil. Add salt, pepper and then add the white wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the bay leaf and onion then cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 1 hour.

In the meantime you can prepare the sauce. Beat the egg yolks with a pinch of salt and pepper then add the lemon juice and whilst still beating, add the 400ml olive oil in a very thin stream. The sauce will emulsify into mayonnaise. Drain the capers and rinse all the salt from the anchovies. In a pestle and mortar give the tuna, capers and anchovies a good pounding then add to the mayonnaise. Work the sauce until it is nice and smooth.

When the veal is cooked let it cool and slice it into very thin slices and lay them out on your serving plate. Cover the veal with the tuna mayonnaise sauce and serve with salad and/or as we did, some cold new potatoes.

My verdict? Well the combination of meat and fish was actually very nice and it was a great cold dish for a hot day. It uses a lot of oil so not something I would make everyday, but I'll certainly be making it again. Luca definitely approved - the fact he used plenty of bread to mop up every last drop of the sauce is usually a good sign!

Let me know if you have a go.

Here's the photo: apologies for an unappetizing image ..... only had my phone to hand :(

The finished product!
Oh and if anyone's wondering what the recipe is for the pudding on the front of the book (pictured above) then watch this space...... might be my next attempt at piemontese cooking :)

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stresa: Streets with a Story to tell

I love learning about Stresa's local history and recently I started to wonder about all the different street names and who they're named after. So I got the tourist office map and with the help of Luca and a few local history sources I investigated the streets and squares that I walk and cycle through everyday.

Let's start in Stresa's main pedestrian square, Piazza Cadorna. Luigi Cadorna wasan Italian politician and General.and was born in the nearby town of Pallanza. He devised the Cadorna Line, a defensive "line" which was built to protect the area around Milan and Bergamo from a hypothetical attack from Germany through neutral Switzerland, or from a possible invasion by Switzerland. It took 5 years to build between 1911 and 1916 and parts of it can still be seen today, particularly above Verbania. In Piazza Cadorna you can enjoy a drink or a meal at one of the many cafés and bars.

Piazza Cadorna
Exiting Piazza Cadorna near the bread shop you will arrive at Piazza Possi, a smaller square which has recently been renovated and where you can now enjoy a seat in the sun. This square is named after a local doctor, Felice Possi, who was much loved in the town and who died in 1964 (the square was named in 1984). The yellow building that backs on to one side of the square is part of the council offices and is where we go to get, among other things, our ID cards. The town police are also based there.

Piazza Possi
Taking the narrow street up the side of Osteria degli Amici you will enter Via A.M. Bolongaro. The Bolongaro family made their money from manufacturing, especially in Holland and Germany, and became very wealthy. Over the years they gave a lot back Stresa, including schools, houses, a pharmacy, lodgings for a town doctor and they contributed to building the church.

Via A.M. Bolongaro
Anna Maria (A.M.) Bolongaro dedicated her life to helping people in Stresa. After her husband's death in 1780 she forged ahead with plans to assist the town. She founded a school for the poorest girls in the town and even paid the teacher's wages. She contributed to, and laid the first stone of the Parish Church in 1786. When she died in 1801 she left behind a daughter and a grand-daughter, both also called Anna Maria. They carried on the charitable work of their mother and grand-mother, founding a pharmacy in their own villa to dispense medicine to the needy and a rest home for the elderly and infirm. When the grand-daughter died in 1848 she left the Villa Bolongaro to the Rosminian Brothers and it is now their study centre and is known as Villa Ducale.

At the end of Via A.M. Bolongaro you turn left into Via G.F. Bolongaro (you can imagine what fun the postman has!!) which is named Anna Maria's husband, Giacomo Filipo Bolongaro. In 1723 he followed his uncle to Frankfurt in Germany to help him with his flourishing tobacco business. He returned to Stresa a very wealthy man and built Villa Bolongaro (now Villa Ducale) in 1771.

After a few meters you can turn left into Piazza Capucci. This is a car park everyday of the week except Friday when the weekly market takes over which is worth a visit. The square is named after Second Lieutenant Edmondo Capucci, declared missing at war in Russia in 1942. His sister donated the current premises to the local Alpine Troops Association in memory of her brother and at the opening ceremony it was also announced that there would be a square named after him. You can donate to the Alpine Troops Association by eating at one of their festivals - we have already had their fish festival and Luca and I are looking forward to their second festival later this summer where there is good food, good company and good music!

Piazza Capucci
Exit Piazza Capucci along Via L Bolongaro ..... yes another road named after the Bolongaro family! This time, Luigi Bolongaro who was an artist and some of his works can be seen at the Museo del Paesaggio in Pallanza. On you way down Via L. Bolongaro you will cross Via de Vit named after historian, Vincenzo de Vit who published a book about Stresa in 1854.

Piazza Marconi
At the end of Via L. Bolongaro turn left and head towards the ferry station. You will now find yourself in the square that all visitors to Stresa will see as it is where you will park your car, catch a ferry or visit the tourist office: Piazza Marconi. This is named after Guglielmo Marconi who invented the radio, Marconi's Law and a radio telegraph system. It is also world famous for being the home of Viaggi Tomassucci ;)

Via Principessa Margherita
Head back into the centre up Via Principe Tomaso which is just to the right of our office. Prince Tomaso is the brother of Margherita, Queen consort of Italy from 1878-1890 during her husband, King Umberto I's reign. Turn right when you you reach Piazza Possi and then take the second right into Via Principessa Marghertia named after the aforementioned Queen consort who used to spend her summers in Stresa at the Villa Ducale. The yummy Margheritine di Stresa are named in her honour!

When you reach the Church and the lakefront turn left and then take the next left up Via P Canonica (next to the Hotel Regina Palace). Pietro Canonica was a sculptor whose works can be seen along the lakefront (the statue of King Umberto I) and in the Sala Canonica at the town hall.

When you reach the crossroads by the Congress Palace turn right and go straight down Via De Martini until you reach the wide road that takes you back down to the lakefront. This is Via Duchessa di Genova. Elizabeth of Saxony, the Duchess of Genoa was the mother of Principessa Margherita!

Via P. Canonica
As you walk down Via Duchessa di Genova look left as you pass the Carabinieri station. The road with the little church (now converted into holiday lets) is Via Fratelli Omarini. This narrow street is named after the four brothers who, in 1861 purchsed the first plots of land where they would then build the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées

Further down on the left you will pass the entrance to Viale Mainardi (Ex Viale Regina) which was named in memory of Albano Mainardi. He was the headmaster at the prestigious Stresa Hoteliery School

Once you reach the lakefront you will be on the main lake road, or Corso Umberto I (named after Italy's King).

I hope you've enjoyed our look at the people behind the names of Stresa's streets and squares. Let us know if you would like to hear more about Stresa's history!

Sources I used for this post are: Le Tre Marie Bolongaro, Stresa: Borgo Millenario, Museo del Paesaggio, Alpine Troops Association and Scenari.

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stresa Walks: Montorfano and Mergozzo

Luca and I have finally done a walk that we've been wanting to do for a long time: Montorfano and Mergozzo. Although the start and finish points are not in Stresa you can get to and fro using the train. The following timings are for a morning walk. It is not too strenuous and only takes a couple of hours.

Basic Walk Information
  • Height difference: 138m
  • Time approx: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: T
We started out from Stresa on the train to Verbania-Pallanza station. From there the walk begins.

On the woodland path
Turn left out of the Verbania-Pallanza train station building and walk towards the main road and turn right and right again into Via Montorfano (signposted Montorfano with a white signpost). After 150m you will be standing below the granite quarry. The granite from Montorfano is white and to the right you will see where they store the huge blocks of granite before it gets shipped to its final destination. Giuseppe Lusetti, a local picasass or stone mason, entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011 for sculpting the longest chain out of one block of granite. It is a real chain with 239 individual links. It is 30m long, weighs 400kg and is on display at the stone mason's workshop in Via Roma in the centre of Mergozzo.

Follow the road that winds up through the woods full of oak trees to the hamlet of Montorfano. En route you will pass the tiny Montorfano cemetery on your left. In Italy cemeteries are more often than not on the edge of towns and villages rather that by the church itself.

Keep following the winding road up to the pretty hamlet of Montorfano. As you come into the hamlet you will see the church across a small field to your left. On your right is another building which also used to be a church and behind which lies an interesting story.

S. Giovanni Church / The Old Protestant Church
At the end of the 19th century the Catholic priest would no longer make the climb up to Montorfano to celebrate mass, so the inhabitants found themselves a protestant pastor from Intra. For some time the Protestant pastor was celebrating mass in a Catholic church! When the Catholic Church found out they decided that this arrangement could not continue and so the villagers decided to build a Protestant church. Over the years the Protestant church has closed, however all villagers whether they are Catholic or Protestant are buried in the tiny Catholic cemetery that you passed on the way up.

Montorfano Village
If you are lucky enough the key-holder of the S. Giovanni Church will see you arrive and come along to open the door. Inside you will find the recently excavated font which dates back to the 5th or 6th century. The font is so large and set in the floor because most of the baptisms at that time were adults and it was a full immersion baptism.

You can carry on up through the village past the B&B and up to see the animals at who you can contact in advance to have a donkey ride!

Retrace your steps back through the village and exit the way you came in. A short back down the road and a path opens up into the woods. This path takes you all the way through the woods down to the little town of Mergozzo. Along the route, between the trees, you get stunning snapshots of Lake Mergozzo.

Mergozzo and snapshot of the lake from the woodland path
Once we arrived in Mergozzo we had plenty of time for lunch before we had to catch the train. We went to Vecchio Olmo in the main square where Luca enjoyed a pizza and I had a plate of cold cuts.

Then it is a 10 minute walk up to Mergozzo train station and back to Stresa.

Practical Information
The following trains and prices are correct at the time of writing (updated June 2014):

09.16 depart Stresa / 09.25 arrive Verbania-Pallanza
09.38 depart Stresa / 09.44 arrive Verbania-Pallanza
10.38 depart Stresa / 10.44 arrive Verbania-Pallanza

14.20 depart Mergozzo / 14.34 arrive Stresa
16.20 depart Mergozzo / 16.34 arrive Stresa

The ticket Stresa to Verbania-Pallanza is €1.90
The ticket Mergozzo to Stresa is €2.10

Let us know if you try this walk and especially if you go pony riding!
Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci