Lake Maggiore is the second biggest lake in Italy and it straddles the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. If you drive into Italy from Switzerland, then Lake Maggiore is one of the first sights that you will see.
The east coast
Maccagno lies on the northern part of the lake, and is one of the least commercialised places in the area. It is a pretty town and you can go for long walks in the mountains from here. You can, for example, take a trip to the town of Curiglia, and if you carry on up a 500 m long mule track you get to the remote village of Monteviasco. No other roads lead this way and it is only recently that you have been able to access it by cable car.
A little south of Maccagno lies Luino, which is definitely worth a visit on Wednesdays, when you can go shopping at Lake Maggiore’s largest market. In the historic centre, you can also find good wine and food shops.
Laveno has a lot of strange things to offer. The main industry in the town is ceramics, and there is a ceramics museum with strange and wonderful artefacts, including a toilet bowl with its interior decorated with pastoral scenes! And stranger still, at Christmas time you can also see the underwater nativity scene. From Laveno, you can take the cable car to Sasso del Ferro, from where there is a wonderful view of the Alps.
Read more about Lake Maggiore
Isola Bella (the beautiful island) was little more than a rock that rose above the water until the 17th Century. But then came the day when Count Carlo III Borromeo decided to give his wife Isabella paradise island. He turned it into a lavish cornucopia of baroque gardens, architecture with caves, waterfalls, statues, stairs, columns, elaborately trimmed hedges and of course beautiful vain peacocks.
The other islands in the small group of islands are Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre. Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen's Island) has retained some of its original life, and you can even find restaurants and bars that not only caters to tourists. Isola Madre is similar to Isola Bella with fine palaces in the middle of magnificent gardens, but are less extravagant in its decoration.
Baveno is situated just north of Stresa. Queen Victoria holidayed here for a short period in 1879 and thereby laid the foundation for the large number of British charter tourists each year flock to the city. From Baveno you can visit the small offshoot of Lake Maggiore, Mergozzo lake, or you can take the trip up the Camoscio mountain past the characteristic pink granite quarry.
The town of Verbania is the nicer part of the Maggiore Lake area. It has the mildest climate, which inspired the Scottish soldier Captain McEachern in 1930 to build a botanical garden here. The garden is called Villa Taranto and has an impressive collection of no fewer than 20,000 different plant species collected from around the world.
Cannobio's main attraction is the holy chapel Santuario della Pietà, which in 1522 was built where a Madonna image miraculously began to shed tears. In addition, the quaint old town centre is full of narrow streets and it's pastel-coloured coastal facade makes Cannobio one of the most evocative towns of Lake Maggiore, and it is easy to get here by boat and bus.
Lake Maggiore offers its visitors an unusual experience with the Lago Maggiore Express, which is a unique opportunity to experience the lake and the mountains behind - in both Italy and Switzerland. The tour will feature Centovalli , Valle Vigezzo and Val d"Ossola and visits the evocative medieval cities like Domodossola, Stresa, Cannero Riviera, Cannobio and Locarno (Switzerland). You can get on anywhere on the route, carried by boat on Lake Maggiore and train on land. It is possible to order lunch along the way. Tickets can be purchased for one or two days from the train company and tourist offices in the respective towns.
Read more at Lago Maggiore Express (the website is in Italian, English, French and German).
Search through our handpicked selection of vacation rental apartments and hotels on Lake Maggiore in Lombardy or Piedmont in many great towns such as Stresa, Baveno, Cannobio, Cannero Riviera, Ghiffa, Colmegna and more. Feel free to ask our Italy travel specialists for advice on the best places to stay to suit your needs, we are here to make your holiday in Italy everything you dream of and more.