Grocery Stores and Broken Columns–Lake Maggiore area

Tuesday, June 24th–2008

Dave’s off to his conference today, so after a slow start, I decide to wander around the little towns around Lake Maggiore–well, inland of the lake. I head for another lake: Lago di Monte, a short drive from Ranco, where our hotel is. First stop is the grocery store.

I had a conversation with Michelle, who is part of the family that runs out little hotel (12 rooms only–they began with the restaurant 100+ years ago and only added the hotel in 2004) about gnocchi (pronounced nyah-ki, not nyo-ki). Their restaurant only does them on Fridays and sometimes on Sunday, but the Sunday we arrived they “hadn’t had time in the kitchen to prepare.” After talking for a moment about this particular little potato dumpling she said “Gnocchi are your passion, yes?”

Yes. But only good gnocchi. And here’s a picture of all kinds of pasta, especially gnocchi, all lined up for some Italian to take home and cook up. We head to Trader Joe’s for ours.

I feel like a spy, or a voyeur, taking pictures but it’s all so different. Milks and butter, above.

Yogurts. Yogurt is a big, serious business here, if the facings (a grocery store term, meaning how many linear “faces” or spaces a product has on a shelf) are any indication. Dave’s been a yogurt fan for many years and any trip to the grocers invariably means a carton or two of yogurt in our shopping basket. It’s fun to try the different kinds.

I buy a bottle of water, a bag of chips, a loaf of bread and a container of Bel Paese cheese.

I drive to Cadrezzate, and try to find my way to their lake. It’s like a treasure hunt, always, in finding cities and towns and directions. Sometimes you win the prize, sometimes you lose. This church, at the center of town shows the interesting blend of renovation–needed to keep the church operational for the local parish–and the attempt to preserve some history. I wouldn’t necessarily call this successful.

I drove around the back, parked the car and gazed at the lake through a chain link fence while eating my lunch.

The chips have a surprise! Just like our old Cracker Jacks.

A little tiny monster man. He’s about a half-inch tall. Another kind of chip, Wacko’s, has as their prize a charm for the cellphone. I like this game. I can only imagine the pestering that Italian parents get from their children to buy bags of chips. Collect all 15 tiny monster men!

Still trying to find that elusive access to their lakefront, I wander into a cemetery–their gate was next to the gate for the park and I took a wrong turn. I like cemeteries, though, and it is interesting how different this one was from what I’m used to in the United States.

The broken column is a theme, perhaps a life not yet finished? I saw several of these.

The mother’s name on the right-hand picture is close to the children’s grandmother’s name: Benedetto. Perhaps their families are linked somehow? A gravesite seems to be a marble slab, sometimes engraved with the family name, that has a bit of statuary (sometimes a grand bit), an eternal light, an urn, and a vase for flowers. All these can vary.

A bronze rendition of Da Vinci’s Last Supper on this one.

I thought it was interesting that Enrico was noted as having died in the U.S.A. So far away and unable to be brought home to the family plot in this tiny town?

A double-wide gravesite, with a variation of the Christus statue.

Angel beside the broken column. Way over to the side, away from me, a man was pouring water all over the grave he was visiting–rinsing it off–and was removing dead flowers from the vase and replacing them with fresh ones. Some flowers are fresh, some are artificial. I was surprised at how many flowers were freshly laid.

If you are really important and have lots of money, you can have a little house for your relatives. No green grass, though.

I wound my way to another town: Besozzo. It rolls off your tongue nicely, in a sit-on-the-porch-swing kind of way. Besozzo.

Slightly lost, as usual, I look for the Center signs. Some guy was behind me on a motorbike, too close. I turn right to let him go left. He follows me. I go up a little hill and turn right again. He’s still with me. I turn right again and then again and not until I turn into a school parking lot does he turn left–into some institute building. Now to retrace my steps back down.

From below I notice this lighthouse-looking thing and work to find my way up to where it is, driving through several pedestrian only sections (no one was there–pedestrian only means for the visitors–lots of locals drive in the pedestrian only sections, I’ve noticed) by mistake until I see the signs for parking.

It’s in the school parking lot I had originally turned into while trying to evade the motorscooter.

I park, walk around several neighborhoods but can only look at this memorial (for World War I?), not go in. It’s behind a large yellow building, and I wonder what that building is.

Yes, it’s the school. I drive around to the back of the school and there’s the lighthouse memorial.

I’m done driving in cutesy little Italian towns from the moment and head to Gavirate–where Carrefours is located. This is sort of their version of Target crossed with Wal-Mart.

I’m enamoured with their pasta.

Disney Racketeers, er–Marketeers, have garnered product placement in Italy in the form of pasta.
Trader Joe’s stocks this brand.
Our local grocers carry this brand.
But check out these shapes! Snails, rectangular shapes–I want them all.

The Meduse–in the shape of a small pumpkin, or as Dave points out–a jellyfish, went home with me as a souvenir. It may be crumbles by the time we get it there. I also bought the extruded rectangular shape in the previous photo.

And the good news is that I made it back to our little hotel without getting lost at all. This stand of trees is about 5 minutes from the lakeside. Near the lake are towns, away from the lake, farmland. Lake Maggiore has lots of flatland with medium-tall mountains surrounding it.

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