Magical Lake Maggiore holidays 2019
If you’re looking for a European lake holiday in 2019, Lake Maggiore is the perfect destination. Lake Maggiore has a privileged position between Italy and Switzerland and is famous for its beautiful palm-lined promenades, classic villas and the stunning archipelago of the Borromean Islands. The towns of Baveno and Stresa are located on the west shore of the lake, in the tranquil Borromean Bay, looking out over the islands.
Stresa is comprised of three central piazzas with cobbled pedestrianised streets that wind around the town, a great selection of shops and cafes and a popular weekly market. In contrast, Baveno has a more laid-back ambience and is 2 kilometres from Stresa. Baveno also has its fair share of restaurants and cafes, as well as a little lido outside of the village that is open late during the summer months. For a relaxing day out, head to the quaint hamlet of Meina 13 kilometres to the south of Stresa. There are some truly magical experiences to be had in this area, including spotting white peacocks in the gardens of the palace at Isola Bella, enjoying a multi-sensory experience throughout the historic Luigi Guffanti cheese caves and listening to live jazz at the Verbanella restaurant.
Top resorts in Lake Maggiore
Most popular hotels in Lake Maggiore
Stresa, Lake Maggiore
At a glance
- Time Zone: GMT +
- Average flight time: 2h 10m
When to go
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Lake Maggiore extends for about 65 kilometres, stretching into the beautiful Ticino region in Switzerland. The name ‘maggiore’ in fact means major, belying the fact that it is actually the second largest of the northern lakes in Italy. Many of the top attractions in the area are located on the western shore, on the Borromean Islands. Nature lovers will enjoy the diversity of flora and fauna in Lake Maggiore, including a wide variety of subtropical species including olives, pomegranates and figs, in addition to some truly spectacular plants and flowers.
Boats regularly depart from Lake Maggiore and travel around the three local islands, stopping at Isola Bella, which has picturesque terraces and a stunning palace. Most visitors find the most impressive part of the palace to be the gardens, which have row upon row of orange trees and magnolias, sago palms and carob trees, and incredible white peacocks. Another popular attraction is the Villa Taranto, constructed following the Second World War by a former Scottish army officer and botanist who curated a collection of plants from around the world. Another landmark is the San Carlone statue, which serves up a double purpose as a monument to the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, as well as being a great photographic spot.
As it straddles two nations renowned for their excellent food and drink, it’s not exactly surprising that Lake Maggiore has some of the best food and drink in the region. Similar to many places in Italy, Lake Maggiore prides itself on the quality of its food produce and ingredients. The most iconic of these are the local cheeses, including the delicious ossolano d’alpe and bettelmatt. One of the most popular local dishes is authentic cheese eaten with top quality honey, which is also produced in the area. Other fine produce of the area includes their specially-cured meats, such as mortadella of the Ossola, violini di capra, which is cured goat’s leg, and raw ham. These mouth-watering fine meats are ideally complemented by the local wines, which include rich reds with a full body like ghemme docg and the popular nebbiolo, hailing from the Novara hills. For a taste experience you’ll never forget sample prunent and neuv bruschett from the valleys in Ossola, and the Angera area wines. Those with a sweet tooth will delight in the diverse range of local biscuits and cakes, like margheritine of Stresa and fugascine of Mergozzo.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Lake Maggiore for families with children. While it doesn’t get the same buzz as its famous cousin Lake Como, Lake Maggiore has plenty of magical attractions that will have the kids smiling for weeks after you return from your holidays. There are many trains and boats here, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery at a leisurely pace. If you’re looking for a good place to stay with children on your Lake Maggiore holiday, Stresa is an ideal choice. From here, you can hop on a boat trip to visit the islands Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella. If your family aren’t a fan of boat rides, spend a day at the Villa Pallavicino in Stresa enjoying its spectacular gardens and lake views. Those who don’t mind heights may wish to opt for the cable car that goes up from Laveno-Mombello to around 3600 feet high, giving you some amazing views. If you have older children or are an active family who enjoy something more physically active, head to the Adventure Park at Baveno, which has trampolines, a suspension wall, cycling route and climbing walls.
Action & Adventure
As may be expected from a lake holiday; Lake Maggiore’s active things to do revolve around the spectacular body of water more than anywhere else. There are an increasing number of water sports to enjoy here including kite-surfing and water skiing, as well as sailing and of course, swimming. If you’re looking for one of the best places in Lake Maggiore to enjoy water-sports activities, try Maccagno, which has a sailing school offering courses at all levels of ability. If you already know your way around a boat, you can rent boats at Cerro di Laverno for a half, full day or a few days, or even just a few hours. One of the fastest-growing activities here is scuba diving, owing to the clear waters around Lake Maggiore. On the other side of the lake the lido at Cannobio has a sandy and wide beach with offshore waters that are ideal for water skiing, windsurfing and sailing.
Thanks to the mild climate you can swim in Lake Maggiore year-round. If you prefer warm waters and balmy weather, schedule your holiday for the summer months and you can take a dip in the pleasant waters whenever you like. The lake is lined with beaches that are all well-maintained and beautiful, as well as plenty of public swimming pools. On the northern side of the lake in Ticino, you have to pay for entrance to most of the beaches, but this just further guarantees their quality and cleanliness. Beaches around the lake include Laveno, Luino, Maccagno and Cannero. Most of the beaches around the public swimming areas of the lake are shingle beaches, and they vary in coarseness of the sand, with many having smooth gravel. The beaches overall are clean and well-maintained, with the north of the lake having the most pristine waters of all. In the waters off Lake Maggiore, the waters are outstandingly clear and clean, making them the ideal setting for diving.
While the Lake is shared between both Italy and Switzerland, the nightlife here is based more in Italian culture. The best nightclubs in the area include La Rocca in Arona, Ghiffa’s La Selva and Gravellona Toce’s Sandokan. During the summer period there is a fiesta, which includes the Lago Maggiore Jazz Festival, one of the most popular events in the resort. When this festival comes to town the parks, lake-front and town squares become temporary stages for musicians of a highly diverse range of musical backgrounds including jazz, blues, gospel and Latin-American. This free festival has a laid-back, cultured feel, but there are plenty of alternatives for a more vibrant nightlife experience if that’s your cup of tea. There are a wide range of bars, clubs and pubs in Lake Maggiore, with a range of music including pop classics, dance and Euro disco.
Lake Maggiore is one of the most manicured of the Italian Lakes, with a very proper feel and ambience that’s ideal for celebrating special anniversaries, enjoying time out with your loved one or even popping the question. Boat rides are a very romantic and leisurely way to spend time with your loved one, giving you space and time to enjoy the spectacular views of the lakes and verdant scenery at your own pace. There are plenty of steamers that make their way across the lakes, calling in at tourist spots including the best gastro-hotels, gorgeous lakeside villas and picturesque castles. For the ultimate romantic experience in the Lake Maggiore area, take a trip to Isola Madre’s botanical gardens.
The twin jewels in the crown of Lake Maggiore’s culture are art and nature. There are several museums here celebrating the culture and history of Lake Maggiore, as well as the beautiful natural scenery. You can have a fascinating cultural experience at the Landscape Museum in Verbania Pallanza, which was established to honour the incredible beauty of Lake Maggiore, has a huge collection of artistic delights including sculptures, paintings and archaeological discoveries. At the centre of Lake Maggiore’s history is Isola Bella, part of the chain of the Borromean Islands which is famed for its beauty and mystical past. The gardens here have attracted plenty of iconic characters throughout history, including Napoleon Bonaparte and his beloved wife Josephine.