Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Home cooking and heart-stopping views on Italy's most famous lake

Picture this: You jet across tranquil lake water to reach the secluded Isola dei Pescatori, the smallest of three islands on Lake Maggiore in Italy’s north. Here the Cinque family welcome us into their historic home for a special Be My Guest experience with some of the best views in the region.

You’ve reached Villa Toscanini, a historic home set on a small, romantic island in the middle of an Italian lake. This inspiring house was once the hideaway of great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini. He was one of the most influential musicians of the 19th century, and your meal here overlooking Lake Maggiore might inspire something in you too.

We caught up with one of the owners, Ricardo Cinque, to hear more about their Be My Guest experience at Villa Toscanini, which you can join on our Northern Italy Including Cinque Terre trip.

Why did you become a Be My Guest host?

“I became a Be My Guest host because I used to see the bus of Trafalgar, and I thought it would be great to work with you – and now we do. And I love your guests! It has been three years now that we have been hosting this experience for Trafalgar,” says Ricardo.

What three words would you use to describe the experience? 

“Family, welcome and hospitality.” 

What do you think surprises guests most when they visit you?

“The guests are very surprised when they come to this beautiful lcoation. There is my father Fabio, behind the bar, my uncle Stephane in the kitchen and my other uncle Massimiliano too. They are very busy cooking today!”

How has working with Trafalgar transformed Vila Toscanini?

“Well, Trafalgar helped us a lot. In the beginning we used to work just at lunchtime, and with Trafalgar we started to open at night too. So that’s new for us.”

What has surprised you most about welcoming Trafalgar guests into your home?

“I love to tell our stories to our guests. For me it’s very important to tell our history and we’re happy to have to have them here.”

Tell us more about the history of the house

“The house is more than 100 years old. It’s been in our family for around 40 years,” says Ricardo.

“This is the main suite now, but it was a living room before. And the bathroom was the kitchen of the house. And this is a private garden, with a pear tree.

“This view is so beautiful. You can see the famous palace of Borromeo. Some days of the year the prince is still there, and you know because they put the flag up to the roof. “

What’s your favorite time of the year?

“Springtime for the weather. Yes, I love the spring flowers and the weather. It’s usually beautiful, like today is a sunny day and for me it’s not too hot, not too cold.” 

What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve ever learned from a Trafalgar guest?

“Oh, I remember a guest that was Italian-Canadian. He asked me three times to make him risotto alla Milanese because he remembered his grandmother cooking this dish. So I made him risotto alla Milanese and it felt very special because I touched the memories of a guest.”

If you could host anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would you want to host?

“Arturo Toscanini. He’s been a guest of my family and he stayed here, but I would like to know him personally myself too,” says Ricardo.

Then he took us up to the second room, which used to be a library. This is where Toscanini would write his songs, and there is a private studio for Toscanini over there with a little balcony.

What is your favorite moment of the Be My Guest experience?

“I love to tell our guests our history. So when everybody sits down at the table, we explain our history and story to everyone and I’m very happy.” 

What meal do you love cooking most for the guests?

“Risotto for sure,” says Ricardo with a laugh.

What country around the world have you felt most welcomed in?

“Colombia. I traveled to Colombia and South America and I feel very comfortable there because the people are very friendly. My brother lived there too!”

Where is next on your bucket list?

“Probably I would like to go to Istanbul for the history, because I’m a fan of history. I really love it.”

What is your favorite cuisine to eat?

“Italian for sure. Probably pasta is my favorite. My uncle is the best cook in our family, for sure.”

What is something people don’t know about you?

“I used to live in London for two years. I went to London to improve my English and to improve my experience at work. And after London, I moved in the winter season to Miami in the United States.”

Have you met the Cinque family during our Be My Guest experience? You can join them on our Northern Italy Including Cinque Terre trip.

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