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.
Stresa town is the largest resort on Lake Maggiore and you will find a beach with a lido north of the town. From here you can take a cable car up Mottarone Mountain and get a great view of at the top from the famous ski resort of Monte Rosa. From Stresa, you can take a ferry to what is considered to be the top attraction of the Lake - the small Borromeo islands (Isole Borremee). Stresa also plays host to an international music festival in late August/early September making this a good time to visit if you love music.
The Borromeo Islands
Until the 17th Century, Isola Bella (the beautiful island) was not much more than a bare cliff rising up out of the water. But one day, Count Carlo III Borromeo decided to give his wife Isabella her own paradise island as a present. And so this naked cliff was transformed into a lavish cornucopia of Baroque landscape gardens with caves, waterfalls, statues, staircases, columns, elaborate hedgerows and, of course, a flock of strutting peacocks.
The other islands in this little group are Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre. Isola dei Pescatori (the fishermen’s island) has retained some of its original life, and you can still find restaurants and bars here that have not been designed solely with tourists in mind. Isola Madre resembles Isola Bella with fine palaces and grandiose gardens, although not quite as extravagant as those on Isola Bella.
Read more about Lake Maggiore
Baveno is north of Stresa. Queen Victoria took a brief holiday here in 1879, and since then English tourists have swarmed to the town year after year. From Baveno you can visit the little offshoot of Lake Maggiore, Lake Mergozzo, or you can take the trip up Camoscio Mountain past the characteristic pink granite quarry.
The town of Pallanza Verbania is the nicer part of Lake Maggiore’s industrial area. It has the mildest climate of all the lake’s towns, and inspired the Scottish soldier Captain McEachern to create a botanical garden here in the 1930's. The garden is called Villa Taranto and has an impressive selection of no fewer than 20,000 different plant species from all over the world.
A sight worth seeing in Cannobio is the holy chapel Santuario della Pietà, which in 1522 was founded on the site where a picture of the Virgin Mary began, miraculously, to shed tears. But, with its ancient town centre full of small alleys and pastel-coloured lakefront buildings, Cannobio is still one of the most charming towns on Lake Maggiore, and it is easy to get to by boat and bus.
The east coast of Lake Maggiore
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 500 m up a 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.
Lago Maggiore Express
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. 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 cities.
Read more at Lago Maggiore Express (the website is in Italian, English, French and German).
You can use the search machine at the top of the page to see our handpicked selection of apartments and hotels on Lake Maggiore in Piedmont or Lombardy in many great towns such as Stresa, Baveno, Cannobio, Cannero Riviera, Ghiffa, Colmegna and more. Feel free to ask our Italy travel specialists for free advice. You can contact us by email using the contact link at the top of the page, by using the chat box to the left of the page, or call us using the number to the right of the page. We are here to help you get the best out of your holiday.