Albergo Ristorante Stampa in Ponte Tresa

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When travelling I very often book  hotels through booking.com. I’m very pleased with the site and have found many charming places scattered across Europe. After returning home I always leave a review with a few words, both positive and negative comments, I keep it real! After travelling this autumn I came home to a full timetable and hectic days. I wanted some time on my hands when writing the review to make sure it turned out well. But when I did sit down it was too late. It turns out you can’t review the hotel later than a month after you left, which I missed by a few days. We stayed at some small, family-run hotels and a positive review means a lot to them, so I was very disappointed not to be able to do so. However, I have a blog where I can write whatever I want and share with whoever bothers. But hopefully what I write here will pop up among search results if someone ever wonders just how wonderful the small hotels are. So here goes:

IMG_9720We drove from Nice in France in the morning and headed towards Lörrach in Germany to catch a train to take us back north. The drive is about six-seven hours so we decided to have a small break either in Italy or Switzerland. The hesitation in deciding which country to stay in resulted in a small town called Ponte Tresa; which is divided by a river: the northern part of town is Swiss, the southern part is Italian.

The hotel we found was located far up into the mountain and I utterly and completely fell in love with the view. The hotel is family-run and as far as we could make out there were three generations running around. The hotel seemed very large from outside, but once inside it seemed to centre on the restaurant, the lobby and the kitchen. There was a swimming pool out on the back, but it was closed in early October. Our room had a double bed and a bunk bed, and plenty of space for a crib as well. The design was a bit outdated, but it was still bright, open and spacious.

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The hotel was both an ‘albergo’ and a restaurant, which meant that many visitors, many seemed to be locals, came solely for the food. During the day three young men ran up and down the stairs outside to get wood for the pizza oven inside. We felt a little sorry for them as they ran many rounds with heavy loads of firewood on their backs, but when we tasted the pizza we realised it was indeed necessary. Typical Italian pizzas were produced during the evening with heavenly crusts and delicious toppings. Baked in a woodburning stone oven. The menu in the restaurant consisted of many common Italian dishes, but honestly, we ate little else but pizza while there, with a pomodoro-mozzarella salad on the side.

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The hotel is well worth a stay. We really enjoyed our stay and will definitely stay there again if we find ourselves in the same area. And the pizza, the pizza itself is worth a stay!
We really enjoyed our few nights at Albergo Ristorante Stampa. Travelling with two blonde, blue-eyed, charming little children outside of season might have resulted in extra care and attention from the staff. We did have some difficulties communicating as their strongest language, by far, was Italian. We would also like more information about the surrounding and examples of what to do with children without having to travel too far by car. Being Scandinavians we are used to a proper breakfast, whereas the white bread served in Italy seem almost like cakes to us, the hotel did not stray from the Italian tradition at breakfast.

The hotel at Booking.com: Albergo Ristorante Stampa

The hotel’s own website: Hotel Stampa

 

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Italy – or thereabout

IMG_2244It was a dull and cloudy day the day we arrived in Lörrach. The train stopped just outside a Milka factory (chocolate producer – among the largest in Europe) so that at least brought a hint of purple to the grey morning. We got on the road and took off south. We had a small break in Emmetten before continuing towards Italy.

Husband asked whether we going through one of the longest tunnels in Switzerland that day. I had no idea, but we hadn’t travelled more than a few more minutes before traffic slowed down to narrow the two lanes down to one and allow plenty of space between each vehicle. Suddenly we were inside the 17km long Gotthard tunnel, indeed the longest tunnel in Switzerland.

IMG_3801The Gotthard pass and tunnel really functioned as a border between Southern and Northern Europe. The weather cleared, the temperature rose and signs were all of a sudden in Italian. Houses looked more Italian, the number of Ferraris on the road increased. Driving without a map, trusting Garmin to take us where we wanted to go, we found ourselves a little confused: had we entered Italy, or were we in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. Our plan was to have a proper break in Switzerland, but that was now too late. So we decided to instead have our first break in Italy and enjoy the summer’s very first Italian gelato. We stopped in Bellinzona.

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Bellinzona was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. There was a castle smack down in the middle of the town with town walls stretching out on both sides of the castles dividing the town. The castle had wine ranks growing along the outer wall, like all castles should have. And it was sunny, the grass was green, we were surrounded by huge mountains and the town itself was old, charismatic and charming. I loved it. It screamed: welcome to Italy. Except, it didn’t!

We found our gelato. I had limone, Son had cioccolato. Daughter tasted her very first and loved it! We ordered in Italian, payed with euros, thanked them in Italian, and talked over and over about finally having reached Italy: except, we hadn’t!

 

We went to buy a postcard. I had received a few coins after paying for the gelato with a note and took them out of my pocket to see if I had enough for the postcard and a stamp. That’s when I noticed. The coins weren’t cents, they were centesimi, or Rappen, the denomination of the Swiss franc! And that’s when I noticed the red flags with the white crosses. A few minutes earlier they had been banners waving overhead, along with plenty other banners, now they were Swiss flags. God we felt stupid! I announced to the children (or, well the child who understood anything of it) that we weren’t in Italy yet, we were still in Switzerland. Then we laughed. Walked hand in hand through the gorgeous streets of the Swiss town of Bellinzona. Then we left, and drove towards Italy.

Stretching our legs

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One of the better reasons for driving on holiday? The clock was ticking towards lunchtime. So we simply exited the motorway and found a small village. Driving up a steep road with an astonishing view over the Lake of Lucerne in Switzerland. We found a small gathering of houses, a small shop and a few hotels – the town of Emmetten.

The mountain air was crisp and clear. There were a few drops of rain in the air. Surrounded by green grass, green trees, mountain peaks and wooden houses, we were far from home. People were friendly. Hotels were still closed, but we found a few bites in the small shop. Got to stretch our feet at a place we’ll probably never see again. And to remember: we sent ourselves a postcard.

Travelling by car

IMG_3756I have spent many summer on the ‘autobahn’ in Germany, the ‘autostrada’ in Italy and the motorways of countries connecting these two countries to Norway. I was about a year old on my first roadtrip – with a caravan to the Netherlands. When I was three we drove to Spain in an old VW caravelle t3. At five I went to Italy for the first time, then again at seven, and since I’ve been at least ten times.

IMG_3891It’s all about the habit, I assume. But I do love driving to my summer holiday destination. I get to see more, experience more, and I get a sense of how far away I am from home. Life’s more than airports and duty free shops. And the languages change, you can’t go from Norwegian to Italian in a few hours, you have to go through at least Danish and German before reaching the latin languages.

I have tried my best having Husband adopt my preferences for travelling, and he’s been tolerant! We drove to Italy for our honeymoon in 2008. Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy going south, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway on the way north. I loved it, and I think he really learned to like it.

IMG_3751Last year we went to Italy by plane. We rented a car to travel a bit and with that a car seat for Son, then three. After waiting in the heat for a car, then hoping for a good seat for Son, (about which a flirty Scot get my hopes up only to crush them to pieces) I was left with a seat that I would never trust his life with in Norway. Here I was left with no choice on roads on which people drive much faster and more aggressively than I’ve ever witnessed in Norway. Going back this year with two children I wanted a good car, safe seats, and I wanted to drive through Europe to reach my destination. I managed to convince Husband. Now he says he’d like to do it again.

IMG_2256I think my children might be able to get used to this type of travelling as well. Son already is, Daughter not so much. Give me a few more years and they won’t have it any other way.