Exploring Lago Maggiore with Barley, the Dog Who Blogs

July 9, 2019

It is always a pleasant experience when you can explore Italy with another blogger who loves it too. This time is was somewhat of a unique experience. It added a special perspective as I spent time with Barley, the Chocolate Lab of Barley’s Grand Adventures. (http://barleysgrandadventures.com.)

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 His Mom, assistant and typist, Karen Helms, was with us every step of the way.

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I first met Barley, Karen and her husband, Tom in Ivrea for Carnevale. 

Here’s Barley receiving a treat after assisting a local nonna down some stairs in Ivrea.

We all hit it off so when the opportunity to see them again (except Tom who was in the States), I jumped at the chance.

These intrepid travelers have been living in Verbania-Pallanza on Lago Maggiore, in Piedmonte for almost a year. This area has long been on my Bathtub list. I took 2 trains and a bus to get there.  Barley and Karen met me at the bus stop and off we went to their lovely 2-bedroom apartment. It was owned and lived in by a local chef. The kitchen was incredible. 

The views from their balcony of the Alps

And the park area were stunning.

Verbania-Pallanza is on Lago Maggiore directly across from the lovely but more touristy Stresa. 

Barley’s town is just as lovely and has hardly any tourism.

It gets more sun on this side of the lake. And the sunsets are stunning.

We had an aperitivo by the lake just before the sunset.

Karen and I shared the above beverages and snacks while Barley had his own at ground level. Barley went nearly everywhere with us.

Barley loves the weekly market in town. 

This is Barley’s and Karen’s favorite street shop for formaggio, cheese.

But Barley prefers drooling at this shop. Frankly, I think I was drooling too.

We walked all along the water and through the market before Barley needed to return home. Our next adventure was one that Barley refused to experience. After Barley hugs and kisses, Karen took me on a ferry ride to the lesser known town of Laveno.

Laveno is near Stresa but again, off the beaten tourist track. When we arrived, we found it was their market day. I wondered if it was possible to find something different at this market. And we did.

Live birds were on sale in Laveno. That was a first for us both.  

We did not come here for the market, however. We came for the views. Laveno offers an open-air, individual gondola ride up 1000 Meters above sea level. Are you ready for a ride?

I am on the gondola alone riding up to the top.

It was a perfect day for this gondola ride.

There’s Karen ahead of me. We could see everywhere.

I could NOT get enough. 

Who needs that group gondola up above Stresa? Not me. 

At the top there are restaurants and bars plus even more views. 

Can I do this again? Please? Please? 

No, Barley was waiting at home. 

The next day we were invited to the home of Chef Marco Perocco where we experienced a meal prepared for us. 

His home has been refurbished over the course of a couple hundred years, but the kitchen is almost completely original.

Marco teaches cooking classes in his lovely home an hour from Milan and not far from Lago Maggiore. Marco met us at the train station in Sesto Calende and drove to his home. We discussed his cooking as he prepared it for us.

 Always cook your vegetables separately to retain their original flavors, he said. 

And we watched him do just that. He made a delicious Caponata and served it with our secondo piatto along with Arrosticini.

But wait! I am getting ahead of myself. Our primo piatto was Strozzapreti pasta in a meat sauce with shaved pieces of beef and pork, cooked with red wine, cinnamon and nutmeg plus salt and pepper. I believe it was a Sicilian Busiate.

I thought I had died and gone into the Light! Oh, so very very very good.

He had also made a Torta di Nonna before we had even arrived.

Nel Bosco Cuisine for Friends.

Not only was each course exquisite and accompanied by wine and water, it was in the middle of the family bosco, forest.

We strolled down the stone staircase,

To find this table set in a forest glen.

Marco ate with us, critiqued his work and shared in our pure JOY of tasting it all. The setting was perfect, peaceful, quiet. Marco explained how he normally does a complete cooking class and then the food. But he invited me there to see what he could offer. He could offer a huge amount. 

We moved inside for our coffee.

His home is full of lovely pieces of art and antiques. This one caught my eye.

Marco shared with Karen and me the story of his father and grandfather. His grandfather worked in interior design and antiques and his father was a sculptor.  His home was its own museum showroom of their work. 

If you will be near Milano or on Lago Maggiore and would like a chef for your home, a cooking class and meal in the forest or a personal chef for your visit, please let me know. I can connect you with Chef  Marco Perocco. 

We needed to return to Barley. He waited patiently for us but more for Karen who would be taking him for a walk. It was now Barley time. As was the next morning. 

One of the main reasons that Tom, Karen and Barley chose Verbania-Pallanza as their home was how dog friendly the entire area was. Today, we traveled to Barley’s favorite place, THE DOG BEACH.

Karen and Barley walked while I took the ferry.

There’s Laveno and that dent in the mountain is the gondola ride we took.

Is that Isola Bella? 

And now we are in Barley heaven at the DOG BEACH. We had it to ourselves today. 

Barley was picking out his favorite branches to chase and Karen tossed the branch for nearly an hour.

After we all cooled off with at least feet in the water, we headed for another slightly off the most common tourist path, Villa Taranto.

Originally, the house and grounds were owned by Count Alessandro Orsetti in 1870. 

It was opened to the public by Scottish gentleman, Neil McEacharn, who purchased the land, refurbished it for 30 years and donated it to Italy.

It is so impressive. And I loved all the Lotus blooms.

The sculptured gardens were the most amazing of all.

Barley loved it so much he howled.

By the end of this adventure I needed a doggie snack. No, wait. That was Barley. I needed a prosecco.

The final ferry ride we shared was all the way to Switzerland. We chose to visit Ascona, a smaller town, just across the border. And we took the hydrofoil one way to save time.

Ascona was Italian with the Swiss proficiency added. Everything looked perfectly balanced and artistic.

And it cost 3 times as much for everything.

Barley insisted on a dip in the lake before we hit the backstreets of the town.

It was a lovely day in Switzerland but the highlight for me was the ferry ride home.

Sailboats on sparkling water below the surrounding mountains.

The fierce wind,

And snow-covered mountains.

Beautiful towns on the edge of the water,

And more sailboats.

Until we returned to the area near Verbania-Pallanza.

We experienced so many more things, ate excellent meals and drank wonderful wines. We attended a local choral recital where one men’s group made my heart soar. Even Barley loved the music. 

Having Barley with us made me realize just how different life is when you have an animal whose experience at your side is quite different from yours. Check out Barley’s Grand Adventures blog to see what I mean. And, when traveling, check out the lesser known towns and islands as we did. Your experience away from the clamoring hordes of tourists will change your experience. You will return home with a piece of the Italian Soul. Let me help you accomplish that. Email me at: Marilyn@TakeMeHomeItaly.com. Until then, dream of your visit to Italy.

A dopo.

Ciao for now!

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