Time to rest in Verbania

I am now in Verbania, on Lake Maggiore, the second largest lake in Italy. I arrived here today at 5 pm, after taking two local trains: from Varenna to Milano and then on from Milano to Verbania. The train system in Italy is quite strange. On the one hand you have the Trenitalia Frecciabianca and Frecciarossa, fast, modern and efficient, better, though not faster, than the French TGV; on the other hand, the local trains are terribly shabby, slow, unreliable and look like they used to transport Mussolini’s troops. Surviving not one, but two local train rides a day takes a toll on your mind and body – and that’s what I did today. But then, no travel can be completely hassle free and I take such things in my stride rather well. Anyway, after arriving in Verbania and a long taxi drive I finally got to my hotel.
I chose my hotel, Il Chiostro, in Verbania for two very good reasons:
1) it is cheap – 50 Euro per night, to be precise…a bargain everywhere in July, and more so on expensive Lake Maggiore.
2) it is a former monastery (Chiostro = Cloisters) revamped, which worked well with my theme of peace and relaxation for this trip.
Most of the time, if not all of the time, cheap hotels come with a catch, and I was expecting some type of surprise.
To my astonishment, however, the taxi deposited me in front of a rather modern facade. Could it be the wrong hotel? I came in sheepishly expecting the receptionist to turn me away…but he didn’t.

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I got my keys, passed through some very chic furnished corridors, went up to my room, closed my eyes, open the door: a perfectly clean, modern, nice little room lay before me. I went to the window and opened the venetian blinds…would it be opening into a brick wall? No, in front of me I had the charming cloister garden, well-kept and serene, just as I had hoped. With a big sight of relief I quickly unburdened myself of my luggage, plugged in my dead iPhone and, while waiting for it to recharge, decided to go downstairs and take photos around the garden…

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…As I entered the charming cloisters, not a soul was disturbing the peace. Two elderly ladies were chatting on a sofa but otherwise, all serene and quiet. I strolled around taking photos, admiring the architecture, when the two ladies were joined by another elderly couple. Three minutes later an old man, walking with the help of a walker and carrying a big white bag marked with the green cross lovingly signifying Farmacia came in, and the conversation among all got quite animated! I suppose bringing a full bag of drugs to an octogenarian gathering is the equivalent of bringing sample sale designer bargains to a young women’s lunch. The excitement can barely be contained!!! And so, it dawned on me that this was, indeed, the catch. Il Chiostro is beautiful, clean and priced adequately to entice the well into retirement group. How fun for me. I did want a place conducive of rest but didn’t exactly foresee one that my well be the last place before the Final rest…

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I have nothing against old people, God knows, should we be so lucky as to survive all that life mockingly throws at us, we all get to be old! But, I have to admit, in fear of my own mortality I ran fast up to my room and gathered my things and half charged phone and ran out of the hotel, heading to the equally serene and sedate waterfront, populated, as it is, by not one barer of other than grey hair.
I then headed quickly for the nearest bar, got a beer, munched on the aperitivo offerings and called my parents to share the irony of my location…. And then I noticed that the ferry to Laveno across the lake is still operating. So you know what I did? I got on it, late in the evening, had dinner in the much younger spirited Laveno and came back to sleep.

However, as I walked into my hotel I noticed the bar was open and vibrant: my neighbours were now living it up, drinking Limoncello spritzers and playing cards….but the one thing they didn’t do is use the wifi so I have now descended into the empty gardens to write this post. I also stopped by the bar on my way here to get the latest trendy drink and ended up with a big glass of tap-poured red wine, poured generously and on credit (no coins in the till, pagare domani) at the pension-friendly price of 1 Euro by a bar lady who didn’t seem concerned with my leaving this place before settling the bill. I suppose most people don’t!!!

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