Me And Maggiore

It started years ago, more than twenty for sure, my obsession with the idea of spending quality time alone on Lake Maggiore.  It was the first place I set foot on Italian soil and it was love at first sight.  Cliché?  Maybe, so?

We were in Switzerland, me and my then boyfriend, now husband.  He was having a great time, me, not so much.  I was being polite, pretending I was enjoying my first attempt at ski-ing, but nothing could be further from the truth.  To say it didn’t come naturally would be a serious understatement.  I hated it.  I hated the snow.  I hated the cold.  I hated the mountains.  The only thing that kept me sane was the cheese fondue – thank God for cheese fondue.

He suggested a day trip over the Simplon Pass, couple of hours drive to Italy.  I almost bit his hand off for the chance, YES!  All the while trying not to look too keen, trying not to give my real feelings away, that I’d been wrongly convicted of some terrible crime and had been sent to Siberia for a week of hard snowy labour to pay for my mistake and he’d just given me the key to the gulag and my freedom.

So, off we drove, to Lago Maggiore, two hours away and a different world.  The open water, the smiling people, warm sun – I could have cried.

Ever since that first visit in the mid 1990’s I’ve harboured a fantasy of hiring a little place and just being there.  On my own.  But, me being me, I always had a reason not to do it, mostly revolving around a common theme ‘that’s what other people do,’  ‘better people,’ ‘people who work harder, achieve more,’  that kind of stuff.  And I’m sure I’d have carried on that way if it hadn’t been for starting to write my first novel, oh, and Donald Trump.

The novel, well, another thing that had been rattling around in my head for years, another thing I told myself it was what other people do, but, after completing – to my massive surprise – and self publishing my own cook book, Love Food, Live Healthy,  I started to wonder if I shouldn’t start that other book.  The one I really wanted to write.  The one I’d been skirting around with all kinds of excuses.  Starting other businesses in order to skim the idea of writing, but not actually do it, because, well, you know, that’s what other people do, clever people, ‘WRITERS’.  That little cook book, and the death of my mother, which gave me the freedom to write honestly, made me open a blank document on my PC on a sunny August afternoon and start tapping away.

My writing was a mess, nothing more than a brain dump, but I felt great, I’d got it all out there.  Then the real work had to start.  Re-writing, Editing.  First, I took some courses, they made me realise how much work I had to do, but I’ve never been more excited to get stuck into something in my entire existence.  I got to it.  In amongst life and work I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, oh yeah, and I read, and read, and read.  At some point life got in the way, and I needed space, I needed lake space.  Only one problem though, people like me didn’t just bugger off on their own, leaving work and everything else behind to go and fanny about with a book they had no chance of getting published, to go to Italy and swan about like some spoilt useless princess!  No, I’m not that kind of person.  I told myself if the book EVER got published, then I’d be allowed to go to the lake.  When I was a proper writer and had earned it.  But then came Trump.

When he got into office, I thought ‘That’s it, end of the world, it’s official.  He’s going to get us all blown up.’  I don’t consider myself dramatic of nature, but, that man brought it out in me.  It also made me realise that one day, yes, it will all be over and publishing deal or not, I still wanted to swan about on Lago Maggiore, so if I was going to do it, what was stopping me?  Yeah, you guessed it, me.

After that it  was easy, I found the perfect retreat, perfect location, perfect owners, perfect, perfect, perfect.  I had a perfect month last year and got lots done on my book.  And so, of course to book again this year was a no-brainer.

When I went I had lots of plans to work on recipes too, learn lots of Peimonte classics, but I didn’t.  You see, the ingredients are just so good, you don’t need to do anything other than go to the market, buy vegetables, salads, fruit, cheese, meat and bread and you are set – oh, and I can’t do without my white anchovies


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