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foto of Els

Art may not be the first thing my ‘Dear child,’ wrote aristocratic writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her daughter in 1747, ‘I am now in a place the most beautifully romantic I ever saw in my life.’

She was talking about Lake Iseo (the Lady had bought a half-ruined palazzo in Lovere, acquired a dairy and then set about introducing locals to what she called ‘the science of butter-making’).

We all know that Italy is famous for it’s art and artists have been fascinated by the Lake. This year it was Christo who chose it as the ultimate location for his Floating Piers. But already 500 years ago no other than Leonardo da Vinci visited the lake and was captivated by mount Trentapassi (1248 m high, located between Marone and Pisogne). It is believed that the mountain features on both the Mona Lisa and the Annunciation, even on several other of his paintings.

Art may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about spending time at the lakes. But with Bergamo, Milan, Brescia and Verona so nearby, there are countless opportunities for visiting historical locations, museums and churches etc;

So what is it that I enjoy most when I am at the Lake? It already starts with the drive from Orio al Serio airport. The road to our apartment takes us via Lago Endine, a very quiet and peaceful lake next to Lake Iseo. Then it leads uphill where we suddenly come face to face with the magnificent Trentapassi, “our mountain”.  We then turn right to our local supermarket where the people are always friendly, even though our Italian is limited.

Our apartment feels like home to the whole family. The views are magical and on the first evening we head straight to our favorite pizzeria. Where the tasty big pizza’s cost around 6 euro and the freshly made gnocchi with either cheese or shrimps is just delicious. The wine list spoils you for choice and if we don’t drink the whole bottle, we take it with us and enjoy the rest on our terrace. Before returning home we stop for a huge ice cream at the local gelateria.

There really are many great restaurants around the lake and I often still cannot believe how reasonable the prices are.

Another must on our agenda is clothes shopping at Franciacorta outlet, between Iseo and Brescia. It is here that I get my fix for affordable Italian fashion. And if I cannot find what I am looking for there, I will try the boutiques in Iseo, Sarnico or Lovere!

But what makes the lakes truly attractive is their nature, and how to enjoy that. Hikers will find many paths to wander. Cyclists have long discovered the challenging beauty of the winding roads around the lakes. In Franciacorta you will find besides high quality wine, a wonderful 18-holes golf course. And last but not least, get a different perspective from the water and rent a (sail)boat. Even skiing in winter is an option: not many people know that within 45 minutes you can be on skis in the resorts of Montecampione or Castione della Presolana.

Life in Italy, endless things to enjoy. But right now, I wish I was there just for a cappuccino and a brioche!

Elisa Di Solto – 5th October 2016

me and mollyWell what can I say about this one, we have gone full circle with the craze for purchasing property in Spain in the 90’s and up till 2007 it was the hip thing to do, right up until the enormous crash bang and wallop, back down to earth, with the property crisis that hit in 2007/2008. Spain was left devastated with many properties left to the banks due to unpaid mortgages and bankrupt developers were lining up to return their hard earned cash to the bank and start again.

But today there is light Spain has tidied up their act, they have reinforced new laws that protect the buyer from rogue developers and agents, and due to the low property prices are seeing the good old tourists flock back to purchase the many bargains available on the market. Properties can be had from as little as € 40.000,00 upwards, many old properties are being restored and refurbished and the developers have returned to build an array of affordable modern properties on the available land with spectacular horizons.

Its official Spain is on the up and up with record sales of +12% in 2015 and tourism rocketed to over 74 million this year alone.

From Majorca to Minorca, Almeria to Alicante, Valencia and the Costa del Sol there are flights galore every day from all over Europe which facilitate the arrivals of the tourist, add to that the 320 days guaranteed annual sunshine and the allegria, sangria and paella, and you have a recipe for success.

Spain is great for those who don’t have to learn the Spanish language because there are enormous expat communities offering a home to home life style and plenty of retired pensioners from all over Europe soaking up the good life from October to March and renting their lovely homes from April to September so they can afford their great life style in the winter months.

Spain is a great family destination because it caters for the tourist as well as the golf player and the sun worshipers. There is something for everyone in this great country so what are you waiting for go and explore and report back!!!

Madeleine Morgan – 30th September 2016

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