Less celebrated and less ‘posh’ than his brother Como, Lago Maggiore with its undiscovered beauty offers a lot and is an ideal escape from hot streets of Milano during summer weekends. Second largest Italian lake after Lago di Garda stretches from Piedmont to Lombardy and its northern tip reaches all the way to Switzerland.
Only one hour drive from Milano and you can step in the peace of countryside surrounded by sparkling lake water with impressive mountains at the back. ‘Must see’ list is really long but let’s start with few great spots that are definitely not to be missed for any first timer in Lago Maggiore.
Photo Credit © Ursula Di Chito
Isola Bella, Isola Pescatori and Isola Madre are three breathtaking islands between Stresa and Verbania. Isola Bella is known for its magnificent baroque palace surrounded by beautiful gardens with amazing views. Dreamy walks in this island make you forget all your troubles. Isola Pescatori is known as fishermen island and you can also stop by here for relaxing lunch and enjoy lake fish accompanied by good wines. Isola Madre is an oasis of greenery, flowers, birds singing contests and splendid views. You can visit all of them in one day but don’t rush as you would spoil the experience.
EREMO DI SANTA CATERINA DEL SASSO
Photo Credit © Foto archivio Provincia di Varese
Stunning old monastery that was built in 14th century sits high on the cliffs and offers spiritually romantic vibe and beautiful views over the waters of Lago Maggiore and Borromean Bay. You can admire its beauty from the boat or visit it from mainland and enjoy panoramic views. Life here is free from all busy happenings and hustle. Monks are still living in monastery nowadays, and they continue their everyday life alongside tourists whom respectfully follow rules of the place. If you are in search of peaceful walk or discovery of art & history this place has it all.
FUNIVIA DEL LAGO MAGGIORE
Photo Credit © funivialagomaggiore.it
Take a funicular from Laveno Mobello, prepare your camera and enjoy slow ride up to the top of Sasso del Ferro (1 100 m). For those afraid of heights closed cabin is probably better option than open one which at times can be a bit too shaky. On sunny day you can see far beyond Lago Maggiore and having this beauty at your feet is simply fascinating. If you prefer to hike up, bear in mind it is very steep and be ready to sweat. However, reaching the top is rewarding not only because of the views but also because of its panoramic restaurant and bar where you can enjoy lunch, dinner or refreshing drink. Don’t miss their DJ evenings when chilled summer beats accompany evening aperitivo.
ROCCA BORROMEO DI ANGERA
Another gem which belongs to Borromeo family is this breathtaking medieval castle proudly sitting on the hilltop and watching over Angera and Lago Maggiore. Inside the castle you can find The Doll and Toy Museum, Borromeo’s family unique collection of toys which is the largest in Europe. After your visit you can digest its beauty in the peace of outside cafe and take a walk in its gardens surrounded by vineyards which are producing local wine called Ronchi Varesini. Panoramic terrace overlooking Lago Maggiore has some stunning views not to be missed.
COLOSSO DI SAN CARLO BORROMEO
Photo Credit © Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milano
You can spot this massive bronze statue from far away as it is nearly 35 meters high. It represents Charles Borromeo, former archbishop of Milan and was built in the 1600s. Standing right above the town of Arona to which he is giving his blessing. Once you decide to climb it, be ready to feel a little bit dizzy or claustrophobic but views from the top are worth it. Inside there is a staircase to the top with about 60 steps and then a ladder to reach to St. Charles’ head. There are windows all along the body of the Saint through which you can catch some amazing views. Well, when will you have a chance to observe the lake from inside the body of the Saint?