Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy, snaking a path from the Alps to the Mediterranean plains on the southern shore. It’s so big, in fact, that it pops its head over the Swiss border. These shifting landscapes are ideal for walkers, as footpaths range from the sculpted palazzo gardens of the Borromean Islands to rugged wilderness areas. The varying micro-climates also produce delicious ingredients – lemons, olives and alpine cheeses. Baveno and Stresa on the north-westerly shore make great bases for a summer holiday; with excellent ferry and train links to the rest of Lake Maggiore and Switzerland.
Walking holidays in Lake Maggiore: A range of rambles
Walking in Lake Maggiore ranges from strolling along flower-lined promenades in the summer to heading off on adventurous mountain routes. The walk from Stresa to Passera is a superb introduction, weaving wanderers through forests and the villages of Brisino, Falchetto and Belgirate. Fondotoce Nature Reserve, meanwhile, offers 5km of hiking and cycling paths through lakeside marshes with mountain views.
Got a head for heights? Set your sights on Mottarone (1,491m). The Chestnut Route (Sentiero dei Castagni) also starts from Stresa, where cobbled footpaths climb to a viewpoint from which you can see seven Italian and Swiss lakes on a clear day. Or there’s always the trails of Val Grande National Park – Italy’s biggest wilderness area.
Stay west: Stresa and Baveno
Most summer holidays to Lake Maggiore are based in the towns of Stresa and Baveno, on the westerly Gulf of Borromeo. As the locale suggests, they’re brilliantly poised for trips to the Borromean Islands opposite them. And although the towns are neighbours, they offer two very different ways of life. Baveno is the quiet one, ideal for a leisurely passeggiata along the promenade peppered with cafés, villas and gardens. Stresa is the popular one – and has been for centuries, with writers and royalty staying in its grand hotels and villas.
Exploring the Borromean Islands
The Borromean Islands are a cluster of tiny isles at the centre of Lake Maggiore and a popular sight to see in the summer. Boats glide to the gardens and summer palaces of Isola Bella and Isola Madre. Isola dei Pescatori is the only permanently inhabited island, with a population of barely 25 villagers. Some still make their living from fishing, sharing their catch with the clutch of waterside restaurants frequented by day-trippers. To get to the Borromean Islands, hop on a ferry from Stresa or Baveno.
From Lake Maggiore to Milan and the mountains
Getting around Lake Maggiore is half the pleasure. Ferries, trains and buses usher hikers between lakefront towns and villages all summer long. Day trips include wine tasting in the vineyards of Piedmont and exploring peaceful Lake Orta, which is tucked away amongst the forested foothills just west. And Milan is an hour’s drive south. The marble quarries north of Lake Maggiore provided the building blocks for the architectural extravaganza that is Milan Cathedral. For more in the way of natural wonders, hop north over the border to Switzerland to marvel at some of the highest mountains in the Alps.
Why book a summer holiday in Lake Maggiore with Inghams?
At Inghams, we do walking holidays differently. With no fixed itinerary, you have more time in your destination and the freedom to walk as much or as little as you like.
Plus, we've included two optional guided walks every week in Baveno and Stresa. Join a professional mountain guide and really get to know the area.
With over 85 years of outdoor travel experience, our holiday packages to Lake Maggiore include flights, transfers, and accommodation, so you can relax and leave the small details to us. Our experts can help you choose the best holiday for you, and our team in resort can give you the inside scoop on how to spend your time away with us.