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2023, Spring Northern Italy Final


100+ Posts
April 11-25, 2023

On this, our last full day of our trip, we woke up in time for the sunrise. Positioned on a lake with mountains around us the sunrise was a delayed event! Similar setting to our Lake Como villa, we would sit and watch the sun light up the mountain tops across the lake and slowly work its way down to the lake.

Excited to start the day we walked to Piazza Motta to see if anyone was open for coffee, not many folks out at 7am, I think the local population is less than one thousand? One cafe owner was just opening, putting up umbrellas and wiping off the morning dew from furniture. He took our orders including wonderful warm croissants filled with something good. We relaxed long enough to have refills and watched the town slowly come to life. It's peaceful in Orto San Giulio.

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Fueled up for our morning walk to the pilgrimage site of Sacro Monte (UNESCO)! We headed straight up the hill towards the 15th century Church of Santa Maria Assunta. It's perched just above the town square and it actually felt like a pilgrimage just reaching its steps! It's a beautiful church and we timed it right to see the sun rays gloriously light up the amazing alter.


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After lighting a candle we continued our journey up the cobble stone lane. You gain altitude quickly and the views of the lake become more and more beautiful with every step.

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At the top of our climb we entered through an inviting arch welcoming us to Sacro Monte. We first stopped at the Church of San Nicola which is managed by a small group of Franciscan monks. The church is beautiful of course and the views of Isola San Giulio and surrounding area is breath taking!

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At the end of the 16th century and through most of the 17th twenty small chapels were built and various artists of the times created amazing works depicting the many stages of the life of St Francis of Assisi. The sculptures and frescoes are incredible, can't imagine the work it takes to have preserved these for centuries. The small chapels are each unique and spread out amongst the large property. The natural setting is not only beautiful, but there is a great peaceful feeling about it. There were maybe 2 dozen visitors walking the property, but I remember everyone was quiet and respectful of others space when experiencing the chapels, this would make the original designers happy I think.

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After looking at every chapel we reversed our course and walked back down to town center where we stepped onto a beautiful wooden boat. Destination was "Island of Silence". I believe we only paid around 10 euro for this? There were quite a few people around the dock waiting for their return trip from Isola San Giulio. We sort of followed the herd into the 4th century Basilica, I believe it's still a "working monastery". It was pretty crowded inside, but we were able to take it all in, quite interesting. If we were to visit again I think an early morning or late afternoon ferry would afford you a little more breathing room.

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We eased out of the Basilica and found the walk through the tiny town to be fairly crowd free! We poked our head into perhaps the only restaurant and they said they had no tables open, ok we continued our walk. The path is called the "Walk of Silence" and spread out along the walk are thought provoking signs over head encouraging meditation such as "In silence you accept and understand" or "The moment is at this time, here, now". There were a couple shops along the walk, but at that moment I was quietly thinking that I was hungry! We went back to the same restaurant and we were given a wonderful waterfront table ! This sign didn't hang anywhere but "good things come to those who wait"! We ordered a cold beer and glass of wine, but they have a signature drink with fresh fruit so we had to try this as well, relatively expensive but refreshing. The food, fish lake dish and a pasta dish were just ok. Prices are higher here, but it's the location of course. The atmosphere was incredible but I'm sure if we waited to dine in town we could have experienced better food.

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Back in town we continued our walk stopping in many shops. We were feeling great and decided to walk the outer walkways and boardwalks that run along the picturesque shoreline. Before we knew it we were a good distance away from town and decided to hike back up to Villa Crespi and down the other side of town, basically a full circumnavigation of the peninsula. It was a workout, but quite beautiful.

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Walking back through Piazza Motta it was nearing sunset and we found a lovely waterfront hotel a couple blocks away with a gorgeous deck for drinks. Hotel San Rocco looked very nice from our limited visit. I can't remember the exact pricing the desk manager told me, maybe 130-40 euro per night? The website can show you the rooms and complex. We really enjoyed this spot to soak up the remaining warmth of the afternoon sun. I was happy that they served perhaps my favorite Birra Ichnusa from Sardinia!

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Our waiter was so nice and generous with the bar snacks which included bread, sliced peppers and olives etc! So generous in fact that we would not need a full dinner experience this evening. We asked our waiter for his favorite take away pizza in town and he said it's II Pozzo "The Well" just up the hill, perfect!

In the twilight hours we walked back to the villa with a fresh hot pizza. The temps were comfortable so we sat on the veranda simply not wanting the trip to end. We talked about our many memorable stops along our adventurous two week road trip. I'm not sure our itinerary technically fits "slow travel", but the fact that we planned much of it while there gave us a sense of freedom, no strict schedules, often no specific place to be and never really having time constraints. Last minute planning, especially booking lodging just two days ahead isn't for everyone and I wouldn't recommend it during the "busy seasons", but it is certainly doable. We saw many beautiful places of course, but meeting various interesting people, both travelers and locals, is what makes the trip. We were fortunate to meet winemaker Mr. Fabio Tassi in Montalcino and told him we would enjoy a bottle of his 2014 Brunello di Montalcino on thiis lake, we kept our promise.

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If you followed along thank you for reading. Until we meet again, ciao!

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