Useful phone numbers
The most common European emergency number 112 (following Directive 2002/22/EC: Universal Service Directive) and also standard on GSM mobile phones. 112 is used in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom in addition to their other emergency numbers.
Here are some useful phone numbers that you might need while in Italy:
State Police: 113
Forest Service: 1515
Guardia di Finanza (Customs/Financial Police): 117
Coast guard: 1530
It takes a village to move a tree
While I was sitting on the promenade, just enjoying being where I was and basking in all the Italian-ness of it all, I watched a giantic moving effort. A crew was attempting to load this palm tree onto a barge to drag over to one of the Borremeo Islands. In true Italian fashion, it required the "consultation" and "advice" of many of the locals.
Visiting Isola Madre
Most people seem to expect that you visit Isola Bella first, then Peschatori and finally Madre, but the middle one is really only a lunch stop and of the other two Madre opens earlier.
It is to there we go on the 8.35 boat. This has a few people on it, most of whom disembark at the first stop, Bella. Even the boatman seems surprised at our not alighting and kindly comes to check that we have understood the announcement. We sit at the front of the boat and this type has three sets of seats at the bow, like the Venetian vaporetto that plies the Grand Canal.
The Lake is calm and the lakeside towns are touched by the sun. We have soon passed and then left behind Peschatori and Bavena, a small town on the lake side. Madre rises green out of the water before us though little detail can be seen of it. The Palazzo appears an ochre coloured, plain, if large, house.
Our rep. had spoken of being able to purchase a combined ticket for the two islands but this, it seems, is available no longer. They issue a fine map with the tickets that not only shows you the walk you do around it (it is 8 acres and we spend a happy couple of hours plus here).
Isola dei Pescatori
Is it my destiny or what, everywhere I go there is a wedding ceremony in the local church!?
There is a small but delightful church (chiesetta) on the island dedicated to San Vittore. It has an ancient Romanesque apse dedicated to the martyr San Gandolfo.
Visiting Isola Bella Palace
The entry to the garden is only via the palace - even though they seem to be opposite ends of the small island! Thus a rapid walk left from the boat landing takes you to this huge place. Rooms are vast. One has an ornate throne; others are vast public audience rooms. I find them unremarkable.
It is when the stairs lead you down to the lower floor that you are faced with the astonishing sight of room after room where floors, walls and ceilings are totally faced with sea pebbles in patterns. The background is totally uniform coloured grey pebbles. The whole thing must have taken months if not years of man-hours.
One or two such rooms might be amusingly impressive but the sheer number becomes oppressive and it is with a sense of relief one climbs the circling stair to the public rooms again. Pausing at the top of these stairs I look up only to see the spiral continues upwards beyond the barrier that bars the public but, as the public do not climb it, it has been left in its original state - without hand\ guard rail. One is suddenly aware of the depth and darkness of the stairwell, especially when one thinks of pre-electrically lit days!