Italy - my spiritual home

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post mainly due to been manically busy with client work but I also had a two week break in Italy over Easter. As many of you know, I was married to an Italian and lived in Italy for ten years so it’s my spiritual home and I try and go back at least once a year. I stay with friends who live in the Piemonte region and we usually jump into their camper van and head off somewhere for a few days.

This trip was particularly memorable as I went to Venice for the first time! You’re probably thinking how strange given how long I lived in the north of Italy. I agree with you but cannot offer an explanation!

I find Italy so inspirational for my interior design business – the light, the colours, architecture, art, textures, even the food and wine.  It’s the whole package. Don’t get me wrong, other countries offer similar sensory stimulation but I guess it’s because Italy is my second home.  

I flew into Malpensa airport (one of two Milan airports) and my friends whisked me straight from the airport to one of my favourite places, Lake Orta (lago d’Orta). This lake is right next to Lake Maggiore (lago Maggiore) but is much smaller and more intimate.  We grabbed a seat right on the lake at our favourite family-run restaurant

After a leisurely lunch we drove up the hill above the lake to the 16th century Sacro Monte di Orta (literally 'The Sacred Mountain of Orta').  It is one of the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, included in UNESCO World Heritage list. The views from the mount are spectacular. Each of the 20 chapels dotted around the mount depicts a different biblical story.

No visit to Lake Orta would be complete without a walk around the exquisitely beautiful historic town, Orta San Giulio.

Next day, a walk in the fields and woods around the village where my friends live - Cellamonte in the Monferrato hills. I lived in this little village for eight years and never tired of the views.

Off the next day in the camper van to Ferrara where we based ourselves for day trips, the first of which was to Venice. We took the train there and nothing quite prepares you for the scene when you exit the railway station which is right on the Grand Canal. 

But the narrow canals and streets with very few tourists were so much more beautiful.

I love the way some of the houses are decorated with window boxes of colourful flowers

There are church towers everywhere.

The largest church in Venice is Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari which is mind-blowingly beautiful.

One of the highlights was a bookshop that we stumbled upon called 'Acqua Alta' which means 'high tide'. It is on the edge of a narrow canal and nothing quite prepares you for the interior! You can enter from a narrow courtyard or from a boat on the canal. It's full to the ceiling with books including bathtubs and boats full.  The little courtyard is stacked with books which have been used to create steps to a viewing platform of the canal.

Piazza San Marco was bumper-to-bumper with tourists so we jumped in a water taxi back to the railway station. You see so much more from the water!

It was only a day trip but enough to give me a flavour of the city. I shall return in the near future and spend several days visiting the art galleries and museums.

Another day trip from Ferrara was to the gorgeous little town on Comacchio which is nickname 'Little Venice' for its canals (it does in fact look like a mini version of Venice).  There was hardly a soul out and about but that may have been because a serial killer had murdered two people in the town two days earlier !!!  In the images it seems rather like an abandoned film set!

On the last day we walked around Ferrara which is 

Back in Cellamonte the next day and we decided to visit the Santuario di Crea (literally 'Sacred Mountain of Crea'). The 20+ chapels are dedicated to the Mysteries of the rosary and are positioned around the 1,000 year old Marian sanctuary on the highest of the hills in low Monferrato. This sanctuary was one of my favourite places when I lived in Italy in the 80s. 

Phew, I hope you made it to the end of this Italian spam and that you enjoyed following my little two-week Italian break. Would love to hear about your Italian holidays and places that you recommend to visit.

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