Top 10 things to see and do on Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is the second largest of the Italian Lakes. Measuring approximately 40 miles in length, it sits in Italy but also has a foot in Switzerland and stretches from Arona in the South to Locarno in the North. It’s shores are divided between the two Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont and the Swiss canton of Ticino. Whilst it may be quieter than it’s Italian neighbours Lake Como and Lake Garda with less tourists flocking to its shores, it offers just as much to see and do, making it the perfect holiday destination whatever your age.

Lido at Locarno

Whilst this is not the only lido on Lake Maggiore’s shores, it’s definitely the biggest and arguably the best. As well as enjoying direct access to the lake, the lido boasts four outdoor swimming pools including a children’s pool, heated spa pool and Olympic sized swimming pool whilst inside there are an additional three pools and waterslides. Not only that but there is also a diving pool as well as volleyball courts and table tennis. An on site cafe provides refreshments throughout the day but visitors are also welcome to bring in their own picnic. For those who prefer a quieter pace of life or even more indulgence, then sitting adjacent to the lido is the Termali Salini and Spa. Opened in 2014, this has a set of salt water baths set across a number of levels allowing guests to move from one to the other. A range of spa treatments are also available.

The weekly market in Luino

Luino is a bustling town on the Eastern shores of Lake Maggiore. It’s also host to the largest weekly market in Europe. Held every Wednesday throughout the year, bargain seekers can find everything from chic Italian handbags to stunning leather shoes, food, toys and souvenirs. Visitors travel from as far away as Germany and Austria to browse it’s stalls.

Bucket lifts at Laveno

These certainly aren’t for the faint hearted. As the name would suggest, the ‘Funivia del Lago Maggiore’  are literally bucket shaped compartments offering standing room only. For those who have a fear of heights, we would definitely recommend opting for one of the enclosed buckets however, for those more fearless, you have the option of an open top bucket to ride in. Whilst standing in a bucket does provide a certain ‘fear factor’ the ride is pretty sedate in pace and takes around 15 minutes to take you to an altitude of 1100 metres and to the top of Sasso del Ferro. Here the views are spectacular and you can sit and relax in the cafe with a drink whilst you absorb the astonishing scene before you. If you are lucky you will also be able to sit and watch the hang gliders who are commonly seen here.

Borromean Islands

No trip to Lake Maggiore would be complete without a trip to the Borromean Islands, a trio of islands sitting just off the shore close to Stresa. Comprised of 3 main islands – Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori – the first two are home to a spectacular palace and gardens (famous for it’s white peacocks) whilst the latter is the only inhabited of the islands and is home to many fisherman. Not surprisingly, as a result, the fish restaurants on the island are superb. All can be reached in just a few minutes by boat from Stresa.

Watersports in Cannobio

Cannobio is a stunning lakeside town on the Western shores of the lake. Like most of the lakeside towns, it has it’s own weekly market held every Sunday during the Summer months. This has a great food section as well as the usual selection of stalls selling anything from clothing to leather goods. Cannobio also has a picturesque lakefront promenade and plenty of small boutiques and shops to explore along it’s narrow cobbled streets. However, it’s also a great place to enjoy the many watersports on offer on the lake. The beach is one of the few sandy beaches on the lake and the watersports centre offers anything from sailing to kayaking.

Skiing at Mottarone

Whilst I am sure skiing isn’t the first thing that springs to mind for anyone planning a trip to the lake, for those visiting during the Winter months, there are a number of opportunities to ski, whether at the Mottarone above Stresa, at Passo Forcora to the East of the lake or at Cardada above Locarno at it’s Northernmost tip.  The Mottarone offers one of the larger resorts with 21 runs sat across a 25km area (10 blue runs, 8 red runs and 3 black runs). There is also a longer 2.5km more technical run known as the Alpe Courts which starts at the top of the Mottarone and finishes at a scenic spot where, on a clear day, you will be able to view all seven of the lakes. For beginners or those looking to improve their skiing technique, there is also a ski school.

Visit the gardens at Villa Taranto

A great time to visit the gardens at Villa Taranto in Verbania is in the Spring during the ‘Feast of the Tulips’. Visit at this time and you have a one in five chance of being rewarded with a complimentary plant cultivated in the gardens. The gardens were originally the creation of Scotsman, Captain Neil McEacharn who bought the estate with the intentions of creating a ‘reminder of home’ in this corner of Italy. Open from April until October each year, the gardens are immaculately presented throughout the year and well worth exploring.

Take a boat out on the water

The easiest way to explore the lake is by boat. The public boat network is extremely efficient and easy to use, with boats regularly criss-crossing the lake. However, there is nothing better than taking to the water yourself. With plenty of opportunities to hire a boat without the need for a license, there is no excuse not to take to the water during your stay!

Cannero Riviera

Known as the Riviera of the North, Cannero is a sleepy but charming stop off point on Lake Maggiore. Enjoy a promenade along the lakefront past a host of restaurants to the beach area where you can relax on the shore or even hire a pedalo to make your way around the islands of the Castles of Cannero which sit just off the shoreline. Or if you are a keen walker, head on foot along the many paths that lead from the town up the hillside where you will come across numerous other tiny villages and hamlets. The town has two main events during the year, both reflective of the mild sheltered climate that the town enjoys – the Camellia Festival and the Citrus Fruit Festival – both held every Spring.

Climb the statue of at Arona

The bronze statue of San Carlo Borromeo in Arona is hard to miss, standing as it is at a height of 23.4 metres and sat on a granite pedestal measuring 11.7 metres in height. Built in the 17th century, it was originally planned as a network of chapels dedicated to the saint but nowadays, visitors can access the interior to climb the many stairs and ladders inside and enjoy the view through the statue’s eyes and ears. Whilst here, don’t miss the opportunity to head into Arona’s town centre. It’s a very pretty lakeside town, well worth a visit.

Jo Mackay is Director of Bookings For You.

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