Finally getting back to my trip to Italy...
Thursday, July 16th:
Thursday morning, my last full day in Stresa, turned out to be a gorgeous day, the perfect day for a daytrip to Orta San Giulio (also known by many as just Orta). I headed down to the waterfront area to wait for the bus 10 am bus, which was the only bus heading to Orta for the day (except for two later afternoon buses). When I arrived, I noticed a small group of people waiting. I was pretty sure this was the bus stop but asked just in case. I really had no idea which type of bus we would be taking. In Italy, there are two types of buses that I am used to seeing. Local orange buses, which can be either small or regular size and large blue buses, called pullmans for longer journeys.
I was in shock when a tiny blue bus pulled up. This was the first time I ever saw a mini blue bus. This was going to be interesting. Not only was a large group of people waiting for this bus (the only morning scheduled bus to go to Orta) but also there was a couple waiting with two HUGE suitcases. There was no underneath spot for these suitcases. Chatter started in Italian as the couple boarded first instead of letting at least the older women board the bus. The couple plopped one of the suitcases down in the space between the front seat (which made that seat unusable) and put the other suitcase in the very front right by the stairs. This made it very difficult for everyone else to board the bus. I can’t remember now, but I think there were about 15 spaces total for seating. With one of the front seats taken up with the suitcase, the bus was just about full, and this was only the first stop!
I ended up sitting next to this very nice older woman from Milan. She spends her summers at her Stresa summerhouse and was traveling to a little town about halfway to Orta San Giulio to do some shopping for the day. We had a delightful chat until she got off at her spot. I mentioned to her how surprised I was that the bus was so small. She said that usually only a few people take the bus and it is never full.
As we arrived in Bevano, the next pick up stop, I looked out and saw a large group waiting for the bus. This was really going to be interesting now. The bus driver took the two suitcases off the bus. The crowd got on. The bus driver lugged the two suitcases back onto the bus. One went back up front and the other ended up in the aisle so that two people could sit in that front seat. Even with all of the seats free now, there was not enough seats for everyone. A few people ended up standing in the aisle and we were not even finished picking up people. At the next stop, an older woman who knew a few people on board was waiting. She ended up sitting on the suitcase in the front. Many people offered her their seats, but she refused, saying she was getting off in a few stops.
There was a lot of discussion by some of the local people on the bus (all in Italian). I understood most of what was being said. I don’t think that the other tourists understood anything. There was concern that the very nice bus driver, who really should have refused to pick up any more people once the seats were full, would be in big trouble if the police stopped the bus. I was mostly concerned about the route. The bus ride went up over the mountain pass with many tight curves along the way.
I am not a fan of buses and often get bus sick. My choice of public transportation goes in this order – boat, train or subway, and only if necessary bus. I think the only reason I did not become bus sick (forgot my ginger for motion sickness once again at the hotel) was because I was so claustrophobic, which distracted me from feeling sick.
The woman sitting next to me started joking with the bus driver as we got close to her stop. They were discussing just how she was going to get out. A few minutes later, we pulled into this cute little town (can’t remember the name now) and the woman along with a few other people got off the bus. There was now room for everyone to have a seat. The rest of the bus ride was pretty smooth.
When we pulled into Orta, the bus driver told us to remember where the bus spot was and not be late for the afternoon pick up. There were only two afternoon pick up times – 3 and 6 pm. If you missed both, you would be spending the night in Orta.
I was so happy to get off that bus!
The bus stop was above the little town. I had no map, and not much knowledge of the town. I only knew there was a little island that I should try to visit. Not having a map is definitely not a good thing for someone like me who constantly gets lost. Somehow, I managed to figure out, after one wrong turn, the way to the main part of the town (or at least the tourist part of the town).
I loved Orta! The town was so cute and charming. Lots of narrow medieval streets, not many cars, and a cute little piazza overlooking the lake.
I discovered this cute little church along the way to the main piazza.
When I reached the main piazza, I saw a few boats waiting to take tourists to Isola San Giulio. I had no idea about the boat schedule, did not know if they took long lunch breaks, and didn’t know much about this little island. I figured I might as well visit the island first. I approached one of the boats and asked about the schedule. I was told that a boat would be departing in a few minutes. Perfect timing!
View of Isola San Giulio from the main piazza...
Views of the town of Orta San Giulio from the boat (from left to right)...
Next up, my visit to Isola San Giulio...