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.