Despite its name – the ‘Greater Lake’ – Lago Maggiore is not the largest lake in Italy. It is, however, one of the best known. Dividing its shores between Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland, it is steeped in history and a distinctively Italian sort of glamour. The Province of Verbania, on the Piedmont shore, offers splendid views of the Borromean Islands, whose regal allure offers a hint of the precious treasures they hold in store. Verbania also offers some of the region’s finest gardens, from the world famous, such as those at Villa Taranto, to more local secrets, like the Alpinia Botanical Garden halfway between Stresa and the Mottarone. Both can be reached by bar, bicycle or cable car.
The mountain known as the Mottarone towers above Stresa, dividing Lake Maggiore from Lake Orta. It offers spectacular views over the two lakes, plus some great skiing. Looking out towards the island that shares its name, Orta San Giulio on the shores of Lake Orta is one of Italy’s most picturesque historic towns. The island of San Giulio is home to a beautiful basilica, which preserves the physical remains of St Julius of Novara. The pre-Alpine lakes of Orta and Maggiore also make the perfect base from which to make the journey up to Macugnaga, at the feet of the Monte Rosa massif.
Nearby is the Val Grande National Park , the most extensive area of wild terrain in the Alps. An earthly paradise, which offers countless routes for trekking expeditions in the warmer months, it can also be explored in winter, but snow shoes are a must. A small community of the Germanic Walser people live among the area’s sparse, scattered settlements, and the local cuisine is based on a variety of unique cured meats and cheeses that are best washed down with fine, red ‘Ghemme’ wine.
Take a tour of the splendid Borromean Islands
Visit the Borromeo Palace on the Isola Bella
Visit the village of Crodo, birthplace of Campari’s famous ‘Crodino’ aperitif, and spend some time relaxing at the spas in Premia
Stroll among the exotic plants in the botanical gardens of Villa Taranto in Pallanza
Make a pilgrimage to the Sacro Monte di Ghiffa, the Sacro Monte di San Francesco in Orta San Giulio, and the Sacro Monte Calvario at Domodossola
Enjoy a daytrip to Lake Orta to visit the Romanesque Basilica di San Giulio
Take a romantic walk through the enchanting historic town of Orta San Giulio
Head to the ski slopes on the Mottarone, the mountain that separates Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore
Enjoy splendid views of Lake Maggiore from the Borromeo Castle in Angera
Admire the Monte Rosa massif from Macugnaga, and discover pristine mountain lakes such as the Lago delle Fate – the ‘Lake of the Fairies’