Driving through the valleys that spread out from Lake Maggiore is, for me, one of life’s great thrills. It’s just so darn charming and breathtaking, a feast for the eyes. Today we would explore the Valle Maggia and and the valley it leads to, the Val Bovona.

Once you turn into the Val Bovona, things get really interesting. You’re deep into the heart of a valley and the Alps are on the other side, playing peek-a-boo with their snow-capped summits. There are more picturesque little stone villages that don’t quite feel real, and I don’t tire of it one bit.

Our destination is the end of the line in the town of San Carlo, and there we find a cable car that will take us way, way up. Ascending above 1,000 meters of altitude, the ride up to Robiei is an event in itself, offering impressive views of the U-shaped Basodino Glacier. The view seems straight up, as if you were standing at a nearly upright wall filled with deep crevices, magnificent waterfalls spilling over the surface. And then the snow caps appear all around you. Sigh … The Alps: there’s nothing quite like the majesty of being in their presence.

Once our feet hit the ground at Robiei, we headed left, facing the glacier, walking through a tunnel, until one of the area’s gorgeous lakes appeared. Lakes in the Alpine peaks? It just got even better!

Today, we got a late start due to a leisurely morning, and soon it was time to run back to the cable car to catch the last one going down for the night. This was not a place we were prepared to get stranded. We made it. On the cable car down, staring out at the beauty, I caught my love’s eye and we both had that smile of disbelief on our faces. Are we really here? And isn’t it so exquisitely beautiful?

Returning down the Val Bovona, we could now — with no cable car to catch — take our time and explore the area, stopping to take photos and fill our water bottles from the town fountain with fresh, clean mountain water. It felt like a little reward for having taken the time to explore the area. (Well, the real reward was the visual feast, but the water was nice, too.)

We stopped at the town of Forglio. Is this place real? Set at the base of a majestic waterfall, this charming village twists and turns up a stone path, affording more views of the surrounding brilliance.

Upon returning back to the lake, instead of heading back to Locarno, we headed to neighboring Ascona, a fairy tale town of twisting cobbled streets and brightly painted buildings that spill into Lake Maggiore. Here we had dinner, basking in the glory of a truly remarkable day that seemed more out of a dream. To top all that off, my dinner of shrimp risotto almost made me fall off my chair. Deep, deep gratitude for all of the sensory pleasures of this day!