Eremo di Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro, Italy

The monastery is built into the rock itself, overhanging
Lake Maggiore, Italy

Just along the coast from Clare's complex, is Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro. This is a small monastery, dating from the 12th century, built on a rocky ledge in the face of the cliff. It is said to have been founded by one Alberto Besozzi, and dedicated to Saint Catherine of Egypt, after he survived a huge storm while crossing the lake.

The complex where Clare lives is on the right,
overlooking the lake

Here, you can see the distance between Clare's complex, on the left,
and the Hermitage on the right.

Unfortunately, the monastery is only accessible from the top of the cliff, so it involves a long climb up from our beach. Fortunately there is a lift down to the chapels, as the 240 uneven steps down the cliff face played havoc with my knees. As this is also the only route to catch the ferry across the lake, I can't avoid the 72 more steps that lead down to the port, so I save my knees for them.

Looking down onto the ferry station, from the monastery

Its solitary position, clinging to the face of the rock, gives an air of peace and serenity to Saint Catherine's Hermitage. It is easy to imagine many centuries of quiet meditation here. We entered the church to the sound of monks chanting, which promoted such a feeling of calm and tranquility, that I almost felt disembodied!

Clare, standing in the archway of the entrance gallery

David and Jessica walking along the entrance gallery, with
great views of the lake on the left.

There is a grotto outside the church, showing the
three kings bringing their gifts

Inside the church, lie the remains of Alberto Besozzi,
although now his hands and feet are made of wood

In one of the courtyards there is this ancient wooden 
olive press, dating from 1759.

Above the monastery, and on top of the mountain, is a
 great restaurant, where we often eat

This is a speciality of the house, a platter of hams and
cheeses to share between two. Delicious!


Monte Sasso del Ferro

Clare and Reg begin their journey up the mountain. 

Who could imagine soaring up a mountain in a bucket? It certainly felt like it when we took the funicular up to Sasson del Ferro from Laveno. Jessica and I shared one bucket, while Clare and Reg shared another.

Lake Maggiore gradually spread out in a panorama before us 
as we climbed 1,062 metres up the mountain.

Once at the top, Clare and Reg made the strenuous climb up to the summit, while Jessica and I peered out over the baulestrade to try to identify places we knew, before venturing into the playground.

Jessica swung high into the air

Clare and Reg found miniature strawberries on the mountain.
They were delicious!

We also found this strange insect.

On the way down, we saw paragliders on the way up, ready
to throw themselves off the top.

Once down in Laveno, we spotted a film being made.

This actor appeared to be the star. Does anyone have any idea who he is?

We also found this market by the port. They had a wonderful
array of meats and cheeses for sale.

This was an excellent day out and definitely worth doing again.


The Game - Queen Tribute Band, Reno di Leggiuno

 The Game - Queen tribute band, from Milan, Italy

What a wonderful holiday we are having in Reno di Leggiuno, Italy. So much happens on this tiny stretch of beach, on the edge of Lake Maggiore. Last night we were treated to a free programme of Queen songs by "The Game" - Queen tribute band. We thoroughly enjoyed their performance, and sang along to all the numbers.

Manuel Rinoldi as Freddy Mercury. He had all the gestures, very believable!

Marco Spano plays Brain May. Marco is a great guitarist in his own right!

Each member of the band personifies the famous name they are representing, down to the smallest gesture. It was such fun. Everyone had a great time and, although the crowd was small by international standards, our little beach was packed out with cheering Queen enthusiasts, all singing their hearts out, and dancing to the music. Definitely an evening to remember.

"Freddy" with the "John Deacon" of the band

In this shot, he really could be Brian May!

The expression says it all!

Here is the final line-up. The extra on the right is the keyboard player. 
Freddy Mercury always played keyboard himself,
but this guy was amazing, so we forgive them for a little change there. 

The band are playing in Stresa tonight, so we are looking forward to hearing their music winging across the lake. Unfortunately, the ferries don't run at night, otherwise we would be there. Good luck "The Game" - Queen tribute band, I hope this evening's concert is as successful as last night's was!


Holidaying on Lake Maggiore, Italy

If I look my right, I see this enchanting sight

We are so lucky to be staying with our daughter, Clare, overlooking Lake Maggiore in Italy. The view from her apartment balcony is wonderful. Every day, we gaze across the lake to the mountains beyond, and watch the boats coming and going on the water, and count ourselves very fortunate to be here. We can also see the three islands belonging to the Borromee family, Isola Bella, Isola Superiore, and Isola Madre.

The beach by Clare's apartment

Looking over the balcony, I can see the beach where Clare, David and Jessica swim nearly every day. Unfortunately the lake water is far too cold for me to venture in, as it is fed from mountain streams, and is very deep (as much a 372 metres). Even though the the weather is hot, there are still snow-covered mountains visible in the distance.

The view across Lake Maggiore

Although Leggiuno is a small town, we were delighted to find it had a town band. They came to give a concert one evening, right in front of Clare's complex; and they were excellent. It reminded me so much of the band in Ondara, Spain, that Clare and Jane played in.

...and the band played on

There are players of all ages in the band. Here is the clarinet section

There is so much on offer in this area, and so many sights to see, that we will never be short of things to do. The problem is in deciding what to do first from our vast list. We are having such a wonderful time.

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I couldn't resist this one!