Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stresa Travel: Dinner on Isola Pescatori

This week Luca and I celebrated 11 years together and to mark the occasion we decided to go to one of our favourite places for dinner: Isola Pescatori. There's nothing like the atmosphere of the island "after hours" as the sun goes down on a summer's evening.

Setting off from Stresa on the ferry
 We took the ferry from Stresa at 18.00 so that we could enjoy a stroll around the island and an aperitivo before dinner. Setting off from the port in Stresa at the end of a long working day felt like going on holiday for the evening! Knowing that for almost everyone else on the ferry it was the end of their sightseeing or working day made it more exciting :)

Luca enjoying the journey
As we pulled away and set out into the Borromean Bay we really got a chance to see Stresa in a way that we don't normally see it. The town really is nestled into a green haven of trees, plants and flowers. The grandeur of the lakefront hotels really stands out and it is great fun spotting the almost hidden villas on the hills behind the town.

Heading for Isola Bella
The ferry stopped at Isola Bella first and we couldn't believe the amount of people getting on the ferry! It must have been a very busy afternoon in the palace and gardens. We set off again and the next stop was ours: Isola Pescatori.

Arriving at Isola Bella
The island itself is inhabited all year round by about 50 residents and the traditional occupation of the islands, fishing, is still practiced by a couple of families. The winding lanes, island life and the tiny San Vittore church make it a charming place to visit.

Arriving at Isola Pescatori
Isola Pescatori is already a favourite place of mine for the aforementioned reasons, but in the evening it takes on a whole new persona. As the tourists depart for the day, the islanders reclaim their island and it becomes their playground. The "tail" of the island becomes a meeting place for new Mums with their babies, for friends to catch up on the day's gossip and for children to run and play. There's sunbathing in the late evening sun, diving off the jetties into the lake and a spot of fishing to be done.

A Fisherman's House
After a leisurely stroll around the island and a stop in the church we took a seat at the Miralago bar for an aperitivo. Their terrace extends over the lake and we watched the diving, swimming and fishing. As we were sat, the last ferry of the day called in and the ticket office was closed up for another day. Although the bar was closing so the owners could catch the ferry home, we paid, were told to stay as long as we liked and just to leave the glasses on the table when we'd finished.

At around 19.30 we decided that dinner was calling. There are many excellent restaurants on the island: Ristorante Verbano, Ristorante Italia and Casabella although we tend to go to the Ristorante Belvedere and that is where we dined on Tuesday.

The Ristorante Belvedere is run by Paco, the forth generation of the Garofoli family to do so. He is immensely proud of his family's restaurant and of being an islander.

The outside terrace is simply heavenly and our table looked out across the lake to Isola Madre, Pallanza and Laveno. The service and food was exceptional as always: we ate a starter of boccincini bite size pieces of three types of fish with julienne pickled vegetables and a delicious second course of perch with brown butter and almonds. For dessert Luca chose apple cake and I had a very naughty chocolate torte! This was all accompanied by a crisp, chilled bottle of Arneis.

Starter, Ristorante Belvedere
On the beach below we watched children taking their dogs for a swim, small boats coming and going and the fishermen going out to set their nets.

At the end of the evening we travelled back to terra firma and real life! Dropped by taxi boat on the beach opposite the Hotel Astoria we enjoyed a stroll along the lakefront to close up the office and head home.

Table with a view :)
We highly recommend an evening out on Isola Pescatori to everyone and it need not be as pricey or difficult to arrange as you might first think. The easiest way is if you are over there to visit during the daytime. Just pop in at the restaurants and ask to see their evening menu. Then you can gauge prices. From what I remember for the Ristorante Belvedere, starters were approximately €12, first courses €12-€15, second courses €18-€20 and desserts around €6. When you book the restaurant will arrange the transport to and from the island for you at no extra charge, either by their own boat or taxi boat.

Let us know if you've ventured over to Isola Pescatori for dinner and where and what you ate :)

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

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