Lake Maggiore

Home to Italy’s most beautiful lake islands

Lake Maggiore holidays are all about leisurely strolls and soaking up the lake views. Its northern shores are shared with Switzerland and the snow-capped Alps are a distant backdrop. The Borromean Islands are its centrepiece, including the garden isles of Isola Bella and Isola Madre. They’re easily reached from Stresa, on the west bank. Hemingway once stayed in this regal town, along with a slew of European monarchs. Hotels line the promenade and its centre is filled with family-run restaurants and charming little cafés. The weekly markets are on Friday mornings in Stresa and Monday mornings in Baveno, the slightly quieter lakeside town just up the coast. Look out for the Mottarone stall selling seasonal local produce – if you’re here in August try a punnet of wild blackberries, freshly picked from the slopes of Mount Mottarone. Ever since Napoleon built the Simplon highway from Geneva to Milan, which ran to the shores of Lake Maggiore, it became part of the Grand Tour, a haven for Europeans and British pioneers. Why not join the ranks of notable visitors who’ve spent time on the lake?

Lake Maggiore’s rich and colourful past seems ever present as you explore and enjoy this spectacular lake with shores bordered with lush Mediterranean vegetation, and the backdrop of the Alps in the distance.

Ever since Napoleon built the Simplon highway from Geneva to Milan, which ran to the shores of Lake Maggiore, it became part of the Grand Tour, a haven for Europeans and British pioneers. Seduced by its Mediterranean climate, they built imposing villas and beautiful gardens attracting aristocrats, poets, writers and composers of the time.

It was the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and it is easy to imagine his heroes fleeing from the Italian police in a rowing boat, trying to reach the Swiss border of the lake.

Kings and Queens, writers, poets and composers such as Verdi, Wagner and Rossini have enjoyed the same panoramic views, nearby islands, exquisite botanical gardens, woodlands and tranquility that exist today.

Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake on the south side of the Alps. The west bank is in the Italian region of Piedmont and the right in Lombardy. In the north Lake Maggiore crosses the Swiss border into the canton of Ticino. It is 65 km long and 10 km across at its widest point between Pallanza and Stresa.

In spring and early summer the shores are lined with oleander and the scent of orange blossom pervades. Ever present are the magnificent palm trees and the heavenly scent of verbena. Across from Lake Maggiore lie the Borromean Islands and Isola Bella. The view is spectacular from the magnificent Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees, a former villa now an archetypal Grand Hotel that is opulent yet understated despite its Murano chandeliers and elegant interior. It’s also just a short walk from the centre of Stresa.


Lake Maggiore has a mild, Mediterranean climate year round with temperatures in summer averaging between 22-26oC in July and August. The Lake Maggiore region enjoys 280 days of sun a year, which is 2400 hours of sunshine. In July and August average temperature of water is 20-22oC.

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  • from£530pp

Baveno has been a well-known tourist resort since the early 19th century, reflected by the beautiful villas in the surrounding area. It enjoys lovely views of the Borromean Islands. There is a small harbour, an attractive promenade with lakeside cafés and a profusion of flower...

  • from£495pp

Stylish Stresa is Lake Maggiore’s leading resort. The idyllic Borromean Islands are a short boat ride away and Monte Mottarone, with its superb views, is easily reached by cable car. The lush gardens of Villa Pallavicino and Villa Taranto are well worth a visit.

Stresa Festival (13 July - 8 September)



The XCAT Races (Early July 2019) 

As well as its exquisite beauty, Lago Maggiore is no stranger to Grand Prix's of various sports, the best known being the XCAT boat races. Held in close proximity to the stunning Borromean Islands, this iconic boat race has attracted both local and international attention since its first race in 1903. Known as the Formula One of the water, these boats can reach incredible speeds as they glide through the waters off the shores of Stresa. 


Musical Meditations (August 2019 - various dates) 

Taking place across several spectacular locations including the exquisite Isola Bella and the Santa Caterina, this festival is comprised of 16 classical concerts it is known as The Visions for the art that compliments each piece. A stunning experience for fans of classical orchestra as well as those new to the genre. 


The Locarno International Film Festival (7 - 17 August) 

Lead by president Marco Solari - Grand Officer of the Order of the Star - this eclectic festival has been running for a staggering 74 years. Famed for its groundbreaking cinematic features, the likes of Gus Van Sant, Spike Lee and Milos Forman have all made their debuts here. Recent years have boasted guest appearances and panels from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Edward Norton, Susan Sarandon and Werner Herzog to name but a few. With the chance to watch classic movies as well as premiers across the azure waters of Locarno, this festival is a must for film buffs. 


The Chestnut Tree

Easy to Moderate | Approx 2½ hrs (return by bus)

This pleasant walk takes you through the hamlet of Passera behind Stresa. Starting at the Via Manzoni in Stresa you will walk along relatively easy paths through the forest and on to the small villages of Passera, Brisino, Falchetto and Belgirate. Passing historical churches, villages and walking through a forest of chestnut trees. A charming walk exploring the outer edges of Stresa and Lake Maggiore.

Please note: Walks are available on a first come first served basis and also subject to weather conditions. Please register with your Rep on arrival.





PRE-BOOKABLE - All excursions are available from 13 May 20 unless otherwise stated

Three Lakes Tour £51, Tuesday, full day

A chance to see three of the most beautiful lakes in two countries. In Lugano, enjoy a stroll along the palm and cypress tree lined promenade which gives the city a truly Mediterranean feel and admire the marvelous Last Supper painting in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. In Lake Como we will pass by the most famous resorts, with their splendid villas including George Clooney's and stop at Tremezzo where you can visit Villa Carlotta, with its unique collection of art and fabulous gardens. Finally we will visit Como, a city steeped in history where you can admire the 14th century cathedral or hunt out some bargains in the vast array of silk shops.

Milan £49, Friday, full day

One of the most stylish cities in the world, Milan is the Italian fashion capital. Make the most of your visit in the company of our local guide with a visit to the elegant Vittorio Emanuele Galleries and the Sforza Castle. Then free time to visit La Scala Opera or some of the famous boutiques. 

Macugnaga £39, Saturday, half day (runs mid June to mid Sept)

In just 90 minutes we go from 260m above sea level in Stresa to the foot of the second highest mountain in the Alps - Monte Rosa (over 4600m). Enjoy the contrast between the mild Mediterranean climate and flora of Lake Maggiore and the fresh Alpine climate with its meadows and fir trees. You can take a stroll through the picturesque Macugnaga village, a ski resort in the winter which still preserves the quaint houses of the ancient Walser people; or take a chair lift/cable car up higher for some spectacular panoramic views. (Cable car ticket approx €12)

Ascona and Cannobio £37, Thursday, half day

A photographer's dream, this half day excursion combines the best of two countries. The elegant and charming Swiss town of Ascona is home to an attractive lakeside promenade, interesting boutiques, this contrasts with the sleepy Italian village of Cannobio - a picture postcard setting that is a favourite with local artists. 

Wine Tour £39, Sunday, half day

Where would Italy be without its renowned pasta and wine? Wherever you go in Italy you shouldn't miss the chance to taste some of the local produce. With this trip we'll take you through beautiful countryside to reach the wine cellars of Ricetto. Your host will guide you through the cellars and describe the art of wine production in the area. You'll have the chance to enjoy some Piedmont wines and tasty local snacks, the best of these wines - Ghemme - is said to be unique and only produced here.

Excursion Package from £102

Pre-book our excursion bundle which includes Macugnaga, Ascona and Cannobio as well as the Wine Tour and receive a free one day boat ticket to Baveno or Stresa and the Borromean Islands (valid for arrivals 15 Jun - 15 Sep). 


BOOK LOCALLY Prices are shown for guidance only, excursions available from 13 May 20.

Zermatt and Matterhorn £76, full day

Over the Simplon pass, Zermatt is one of the most iconic Swiss villages. Surrounded by twelve peaks over 4000m in height including the world famous Matterhorn - the most photographed mountain in Europe due to its striking shape. Stunning scenery all around, this is a journey into a mountain paradise. 

Island Tour £28, half day

A visit to the islands and gardens which are synonymous would Lake Maggiore. Why not take the time to find out about the history behind these beautiful places? We will take you on a private boat to visit Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori with commentary on the history of the islands as well as the splendid villas on Stresa's shore and their illustrious visitors over the centuries. 


**Please note that we act at all times as a selling agent for the suppliers. All excursions require minimum numbers to run and are subject to change. Some excursions may not be available to pre-book in low season but may be available to book locally subject to numbers. Prices will be confirmed at the time of booking. See terms & conditions.** 

Transfer time: approx. 1 hour by coach.

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