Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore, or Lake Verbano, the second largest lake in Italy, is a long expanse of water nestling right against the mountains of Lombardy and Piedmont 194 metres above sea level and stretching into Alpine Switzerland. It gathers 11 islets of different sizes, the five Borromean islands, the two islands of Brissago, the three so-called Cannero Castles and the small islet of Partegora.

Lake Maggiore offers visitors breathtaking natural settings, crystal-clear waters, gently sloping shores dotted with camellias, azaleas and verbena  vegetation, unspoilt protected oases, a mild climate all year round and impressive mountaintops.  Furthermore, it boasts high-quality tourist services and facilities, prestigious monuments, elegant villas surrounded by lush gardens and absorbing cultural events which make it a privileged holiday destination for both Italian and foreign visitors.

Tourists flocking to Lake Maggiore will be spoilt for choice; it gathers plenty of racetracks, fascinating trekking paths across Park Lagoni in Mercurago, the famous city of Arona in the province of Novara, which is famous all over the world for its ceramic production, and impressive remains which bear witness to past historical vicissitudes, such as the imposing Fortress of Arona, which was erected by the Lombards before the year 1000. Further up the western coast of the lake is Stresa, which hosts the botanical and zoological garden of the Park of Villa Pallavicino. The Borromean islands, at the centre of the lake near Stresa, are small jewels of natural beauty augmented by artificial grottoes, architectural follies and landscaped parks. Isola Bella and Isola Madre are dominated by impressive palaces commissioned by the Borromeo family and surrounded by splendid gardens of landscaped terraces, fountains, peacocks and statues. The lively street market which is held in the picturesque village of Isola dei Pescatori attracts large numbers of tourists looking for curious handicrafts and original souvenirs.

Behind Stresa, a cable car ride away, rises Mount Mottarone, a snow-capped peak offering spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. During summer, it gives guests the possibility to go trekking and cycling, while in winter it offers them the opportunity to go skiing along its well-equipped slopes. It hosts the splendid Alpinia Botanical Garden and the curious Museum of the Umbrella. The top of Mount Mottarone offers sweeping views of the Lake and the nearby Ossola Valley, the latter being carpeted with green pastures, lush pinewood forests and scented flowers. Ossola Valley is home to the National Park of Val Grande, which is populated by rare species of animals and plants.

The lake becomes quieter towards the Swiss border, but continues to be lined with attractive villas. Villa Taranto, on the outskirts of Verbania, houses one of the best exotic botanical collections. The area surrounding Cannero gathers the compelling beach of Lido Cannero and the impressive remains of the so-called Cannero Castles, ancient 15th-century ruins which give the surrounding area utmost profusion.

Not to be missed in the province of Varese, just in the heart of the Lombard stretch, is the Fortress of Angera, a well-preserved 12th-century fortification which is now the seat of the Museum of the Doll, which contains an outstanding collection of toys and dolls realized from the XVIII century up to the present days. Further north, in the direction of Leggiuno, is the Retreat of St. Caterina del Sasso, an impressive convent dating back to the XIII century which gazes across the countryside. Not to be missed are its sumptuous interiors, which are scattered with precious works of art, and the opening concert of the summer season, which is regularly held in this fascinating location.

Gourmets will have the possibility to enjoy excellent local restaurants, which serve tasty fish specialities based on perch and earthy dishes based on Alpine cheeses, the famous ham of Val Vigezzo, mushrooms and chestnut dumplings.

Apart from trekking, cycling and horse riding, tourists flocking to Lake Maggiore will have the possibility to perform further amazing activities, such as golf, Alpine skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing through ski poles. Not to be missed are water sports, such as swimming, sailing, diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing, canoeing and rowing.