Previously known as “meut rond” (meaning «mountain of the rounded peak») it became a prestigious destination for the European aristocracy at the time of the Belle Époque and attracted artists such as the famous Toscanini, who would sojourn in its upper reaches enjoying the healthy air and the sublime beauty of the scenery.
Today Mottarone is still synonymous with relaxing walks over trails lined with broom bushes, where you are likely to glimpse foxes, squirrels and the odd hare.
We head in that direction from La Darbia on Autumn days not only to look for mushrooms and chestnuts, but also for the pleasure of pausing at the occasional chalet or lodge to sample a genuine Alpine snack. There is a wonderful bar-restaurant called Alp, in a sort of square not so far from the top of the mountain, where you can taste local specialities like polenta with chunks of venison or the renowned «Mottarone toma», a local, full-flavoured cheese allowed to mature following traditional techniques used in the little historic, alpine settlements.
The restaurant Villa Pizzini, located in a recently refurbished hunting establishment dating back to the late eighteen hundreds with a delightful view of the lake, offers excellent Piedmontese cuisine : the place is small, cosy and intimate so it is well worth taking the time in this tranquil atmosphere to sample some of the delicious dishes like their fresh pasta with wild porcini mushrooms, their bacalao (dry salted cod) or their cream of pumpkin and chestnut.
There is a skilift for times of snow in winter, which enables skiers to descend the long slopes through the woods, catching sight every now and then of the spectacular scenery. The eye glides over the the crown of the Alps with a comprehensive 360 degree view, ranging from the Alpi Marittime to Monte Rosa, over the Padana Plains and seven lakes: Orta, Maggiore, Mergozzo, Varese, Monate, Comabbio, Biandronno. On bright days in fine weather, the triangular peak of Monviso is clearly visible.
Bilberries are among the excellent products the mountains provide us with; this delicate fruit makes a delicious jam. There are also different Alpine herbs, which are used to make the Mottarone Amaro liqueur, a classic distilled spirit first produced by Fermo Morniroli in 1948 and still used at present in local pastries, for example, in the production of chocolates.
However, the biggest surprise about Mottarone, is to be found at the top and is known as Alpyland; it consists of a highly popular amusements park suitable for all members of the family. The main attraction is the Alpine Coaster, a bobsleigh with an adjustable speed option for a dowhill run on rails, which may be used both in winter and summer. Two seater bobsleighs have an easy to use brake system, which the passengers can activate either to accelerate or reduce speed along the 1200 metre-long run.
If you would enjoy a pleasant, panoramic experience, the journey to the summit of Mount Mottarone can be done by means of the cable car which departs from Lido di Carciano in Stresa, directly from the shores of Lake Maggiore, stopping along the way at the Alpinia Botanical Gardens if desired.
In short, a day spent on Mottarone far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in close contact with nature is likely to leave you with a priceless sensation of freedom.
In the woods our lungs inhale to maximum capacity and we recharge ourselves with positive energy.
We should not forget these words by Goethe…
“Mountains are mute masters and make silent disciples”