Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Exploring the grounds

Should there be someone who still isn’t completely fallen for Castello Visconteo of my previous post, although there surely can’t be anyone, here comes some more proof of its beauty and extraordinary character. Let’s set off to explore the site with an eager but gentle canine companion native to the place. (I am trying to keep him/her from rushing to my feet in the above photo.)

The castle stands on the western bank of the river Ticino. It is surrounded by a walled embankment. Only after a stroll along that will you understand the impressive size of the construction with a tower on each corner as most of it remains hidden behind the stately façade.

The first structure at the location is believed to have been a watchtower for guarding traffic on and across the Ticino. Today, the river can hardly be seen because of thick vegetation on the sloping strip of land between the embankment and the waterfront.

In addition to a little bit of wilderness, there is also plenty of sloping lawn for the domestic animals to graze, the pets to run around – and the groundskeeper to take care of.

The surroundings of Castello Visconteo are not only absolutely picturesque to behold but a most soothing haven in their relaxing tranquillity. To me, they totally complete this dream place to stay.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Living in a castle

Finally, back to Piedmont and last October. You might remember we flew to Milan and spent a few days there (posts here and here). That much was decided very early on. Then the plan was to rent a car and drive to any of the great lakes in northern Italy. It could have been Lago di Garda or Lago di Como in Lombardy. However, as I found such a stunning place to stay at the southern tip of Lago Maggiore, on the Piedmontese side of the river Ticino close to the point where it leaves the lake, that was where we headed. I am sure you can see why.

The village is called Castelletto sopra Ticino, the little caste on the Ticino, and Castello Visconteo where we stayed is the castle the place was named after. It was such a gorgeous lodging with such charming hosts I’ve been feeling most happy thinking about it when preparing this post and choosing photos for it. (We have so many it was quite a task!) 

Being able to drive through the iron gate along the alley to the beautiful setting with the historical Visconti caste felt truly special. For those few days, the inviting and relaxed atmosphere helped us make believe we were residents at such a wonderful place, too. Our apartment was on the second floor behind the little arched window on the right. Let the orange tabby cat from next door lead the way to the enclosed inner courtyard.

The entrance to our apartment was through the wooden gallery on the first floor where the neighbour’s cats drowsed the afternoons away. The black beauty seemed to be quite of a balancer.

The oldest structure of the castle, a tower closest to the river at the far end of the somewhat quadrangular building complex dating from the 12th century or thereabouts, is visible from the gallery. A couple of centuries later, two brothers who lived in the castle together built a wall in the middle of the courtyard to separate their premises.

Now is the time to climb the stairway to our quarters. In an ancient building like this you cannot avoid stairs, which is the only imaginable downside of staying at such a place. Every corner of the apartment served as a section of the owners’ extensive library.

We felt at home among all the volumes book lovers as we are, although at a more modest scale. The spacious and colourful living area with a handy kitchen corner was very comfortable, not too cold even in October thanks to the under-floor heating the present owners have had installed. Not to mention the bed which was most comfy and warm, something that is not always the case in rented apartments, a total opposite to the one we had to endure in Milan.

The apartment and its location offered everything we could possibly hope for at a self-catering place. However, even more than all that we appreciated the fact that this gorgeous medieval castello is an actual home. You can only imagine the expenses entailed in running such a place. The present ‘lords of the castle’ are university professors who occupy the southern wing together with a cousin who doesn’t live there permanently. The apartment where we stayed is rented out by their daughter who also lives elsewhere. The northern wing has residents, too.

That is what makes the place unique. Being able to do your teeny-weeny bit in helping someone maintain their family’s remarkable cultural heritage so admirably is just the kind of support we want to give in our attempt to travel sustainably. I do hope we will return one day when the hydrangeas are in full bloom. Meanwhile, I will have to settle for the photos. I am also publishing a separate post on the stroll we took around the magnificent castle and the lovely park on a sunny afternoon (here) and another one on the tour we were given inside the castle (here).