Isola Dei Pescatori, Lago Maggiore
Gold and red nets hang in fat tresses outside doors and adorn stone façades beneath wrought iron balconies draped in wisteria. Every other doorway is a restaurant or a wine bar or a mini market. Shop signs line alleys narrow enough to drag your fingers along each side as you stroll. Crumbling stone steps cling to the walls of old cottages, or is it the other way around? And at the end of every passage, eyes are drawn to the cobalt sea lapping the shore. At 6.30pm when the last ferry leaves, blinds come down, shutters narrow and menus are brought inside closed doors.
Leaving the bright glare of the street, I walk into the cool, calm reception of Restaurant Hotel Belvedere and climb the stairs to my room. Filling the bathtub, I open the balcony door of the bathroom, climb into the tub and hit the whirlpool button. Then I lie back amidst the bubbles and soak up the vista beyond the window where the blue waters of Lake Maggiore stretch to the distant shore of Verbania. For the next 14 hours, Isola dei Pescatori belongs to its residents, and to me.
Buzz Trips View
Set on quaint and characterful Isola Dei Pescatori, in the centre of Lake Maggiore, Hotel Belvedere is an elegant hotel and restaurant in a uniquely beautiful location and is the perfect romantic getaway. Capitalising on the extraordinary quality of light on the lake, panoramic windows and simple, contemporary design allow the hypnotic views to dominate. The hotel’s ambience is as laid back as the fishing boats that bob on the quiet waters of the bay; the vistas are worthy of capturing on canvas; the food is fresh and creative, and the staff are warm and welcoming. In short, it’s very hard to drag yourself away.
There are just eight double rooms, each individually styled and each exploiting the light and the world outside the window. In our bright and sunny room, a pine hardwood floor, furniture made on the island and plain, string tie-backs are coupled with a whirlpool bath, wifi and air conditioning, bringing the island’s fisherman character into 21st century comfort and convenience. Patio doors adorn every wall and open onto small balconies which bring the lake views almost to our feet and curtains are too thin to bother closing, there’s no-one to see in anyway.
The en suite bathroom was one of the nicest we had in a long line of lovely bathrooms. Not because it was the most luxurious, although having a whirlpool bath is always a welcome luxury, but because it was so different from the sort of en suite you find in most four and five star hotels. It was more like a real bathroom; large, blue, and opening onto a balcony so you felt like you were taking a bath outside. Add a glass of chilled bubbly to your soak and you could easily end up with shrivelled finger tips.
A popular venue for weddings and parties, the restaurant dining room has fabulous lake views and the menu features fresh lake fish along with typical regional, rice and pasta dishes using local ingredients from known producers. We enjoyed an evening meal featuring local cured ham and cheese, savoury ravioli and succulent herring rolls.
Breakfast is served in the pretty little garden alongside the lake and is a scrumptious affair of fresh fruit, cereals, meats, cheeses and fresh eggs cooked to order. Along with lashings of Italian coffee and sweet Sicilian orange juice, breakfast has never been more romantic and special than in that garden on that sunny morning with the peace, beauty and tranquillity of Isola Dei Pescatori and Lake Maggiore all to ourselves.
Restaurant Hotel Belvedere, Isola Dei Pescatori, Lago Maggiore, Stresa, Verbania, Italy; (+39) 0323 32292; double room with breakfast from €109 per night
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+