Often overlooked for the glamor of Lago Como, Lago Maggiore is more a sophisticated destination. Surrounded by majestic mountains and adorned with art-deco villas, charming towns, and the azure waters of the lake. Throughout history it has always been a place and source of inspiration for artists, musicians and writers from all over Europe. Here are the places you can't miss!
Activities Water sports
Right next to Villa Orsi is the Hapimag watersports center from where you can hire a pedalo, kayak or stand-up-paddle to head out on the beautiful Lake Maggiore.Website
Restaurants Ristorante Milano
This longstanding lakeside restaurant, under the continuous ownership of a family for generations, offers a delightful dining experience. With a picturesque veranda that provides stunning views of the lake, including its private mooring, guests can enjoy a blend of traditional and contemporary cuisine. The chef-owner has skillfully maintained the restaurant's classic style while introducing a modern twist to exceptional meat and fish dishes, including delectable freshwater fish options. ~ Featured in the Michelin GuideWebsite
For golfers, there are several nice courses in the vicinitiy. Two 9 hole courses in Verbania (23km) and, on cool 1000 meters above sea level in Pian di Sole (26km) with its stunning view over the Lake Maggiore as well as 18 hole courses in Stresa (39km), Ascona (26km) and Losone (24km).Website
Activities Sunday at the market
On Sunday morning Cannobio hosts one of the most beautiful markets of Lake Maggiore, a whirlwind of colours and aromas that transport us into the most authentic Italian summer.
Culture Monastery Santa Caterina del Sasso
Who has ever dared to build a convent on a shaky rock balcony and above all, why?Website
Culture Isola Bella
The name Isola Bella originates from Isabella, the wife of Charles III Borromeo, who transformed this uninhabited rock into a prestigious island. While Isola Madre features an English-style garden, Isola Bella boasts a magnificent Italian garden comprised of ten terraces that beautifully cascade towards an amphitheater. Dominating the landscape is an impressive structure that stands proudly on the lake. Additionally, Isola Bella is home to Palazzo Borromeo, a magnificent Baroque residence with over 20 rooms adorned with marble, stucco, and a collection of Flemish tapestries. ~ lunch at Ristolounge ElveziaWebsite
Activities The Borromean Islands
Just off the shores of Stresa, you'll find the enchanting "Eden of Italy." This captivating region encompasses three picturesque islands: Isola Bella, Isole dei Pescatori, and Isole Madre. Once the residence of the noble Borromeo family, this gulf is a delightful paradise adorned with charming, pastel-colored houses, traditional eateries, and breathtaking vistas of the lake. The islands are so extraordinary that they were described by the French poet Montesquieu as "the most beautiful place in the world, a realm crafted by fairies." All boat tours include the 3 islands and each of the islands is a five-minute boat ride from the other, and it only takes 10 minutes to get back to the mainland
Activities Isola Madre
Horticulturalists shouldn’t miss visiting Isola Madre, home to plants from all over the world. This is the largest island among the archipelago, remains uninhabited and is renowned for its exquisite English garden. This captivating botanical paradise houses a diverse array of floral species from across the globe, while vibrant birds and elegant white peacocks gracefully roam the park's grounds. Surrounding the opulent 16th-century Palazzo Borromeo are lush landscapes adorned with wisteria, magnolias, lemon and cedar trees, alongside an array of exotic flowers that add an enchanting touch to the island's natural beauty.
Restaurants La Piratera
The only restaurant on Isola Madre. La Piratera overlooks the lake in the ancient structure of a 13th century lighthouse. During the 16th century it was converted into a mill to water the garden, including the citrus and olive trees that flourished there.
Restaurants La Piemontese
Situated in the heart of the town, this is a haven of dark wood decor with some serious good cooking; delicious lake fish and game and an excellent cheese board. Closed on MondaysWebsite
Restaurants Il Sole di Ranco
An elegant residence with gardens sloping down to the lake. The charming terrace, where meals are served in summer, offers superb views of the lake, while the cuisine combines the traditional and the modern, including imaginative flavours with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. ~ Featured in the Michelin GuideWebsite
Activities Isola Dei Pescatori
Isola Dei Pescatori, also referred to as Isola Superiore, stands as the sole inhabited island among the archipelago. With a charming village of approximately fifty residents, this island offers a delightful array of trattorias and a bustling market. Preserving its historical charm, the ancient village maintains its original architectural structure, where fish was traditionally dried by the local fishermen. Even today, fishing remains a thriving activity on this picturesque island, making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts. There are 3 restaurants on the island
Villages you can't miss, first on the list: Stresa. Stresa exudes an enchanting ambiance of old-world charm and sophistication. Its picturesque streets, with cobblestones, lead you through a delightful journey of chic boutiques, artisanal shops, and an abundance of local produce. At the heart of the town, the central square serves as a gateway to the captivating boardwalk along the lake. 1. Coffee at Piazza Cadorna 2. Lunch at Ristorante Stornello (outside) 3. Visit Parco Pallavicino 4. End the day with an aperitief at Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees
Aperitivo Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees
While visiting Stresa, end the day for an aperitivo at Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees. This is one of Lake Maggiore’s grandest hotels: a sumptuous affair that impresses with its opulent Italian Liberty-style interiors, priceless antiques and fascinating frescoes. Glittering Murano chandeliers hang in magnificent gilded rooms. The main attraction is a beautiful garden adorned with mosaics, statues, and winding paths that lead to hidden corners embellished with colorful pebbles, marble, and classical sculptures. One highlight is a stunning replica of a marble fountain created by Italian sculptor Vincenzo de' Rossi, showcasing intricate arabesques and mosaic walls. ~ Even if you're not a hotel guest, you can still visit
Activities Parco Pallavicino
In 1956 the Pallavicinos decided to transform their marvellous garden into a wildlife museum, welcoming animals here from every corner of the world to build an exceptional zoo. Pallavicino in fact welcomes animals that could no longer survive in their natural habitat, either because they were born in captivity or because abandonment or an incident has caused them permanent traumas. Don't miss the rose garden with a thousand colours and flower beds with ever new blooming specimens throughout the summer. ~ From here you can also visit the islands.Website
Restaurants The Stornello
It offers quality and professionalism in a pleasant tourist context, this little restaurant is also well frequented by locals. After all, how not to love it since it is open all year round 7 days a week! Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. ~ Featured in the Michelin GuideWebsite
Restaurants Ristolounge Elvezia
Ristolounge Elvezia is located on Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, in a spectacular spot.Website
Villages you can't miss, next on the list: Verbania, the largest town on the lake, maintains its charm without being overcrowded by tourists, even in high season. Just a short distance from the town, you'll discover Villa Taranto and its stunning botanical gardens. (only the gardens are open to the public) ~ Lunch: ristorante Milano
Culture Villa Taranto Gardens
The botanic gardens of Villa Taranto are well worth a visit . The gardens were established 1931-1940 by Neil McEacharn who bought an existing villa and its neighbouring estates, cut down more than 2000 trees and undertook substantial changes to the landscape, including the addition of major water features employing 8km of pipes in order to create his own gardens. He set the name “Villa Taranto” in honour of his ancestor Etienne Jacques Joseph Alexandre MacDonald, named Duke of Taranto by Napoleon.Website
Villages you can't miss, next on the list: Arona. Much like Stresa, this quaint medieval village is lively and filled with weekend flower- farmers’- and vintage- markets. Don't forget to have a look at the bronze statue of Saint Carlo Borromeo. Once a Cardinal of Milan, now the largest statue in the worldWebsite
Culture Rocca di Angera
Rocca di Angera is a historic fortress located in Angera. It is a medieval castle that overlooks Lake Maggiore and offers stunning panoramic views. The fortress has wonderful colours of 14th-century frescos, it houses a museum that displays various collections, as well as the toy and doll museum that houses over 1.000 dolls.Website
Activities Hiking in Laveno-Mombello
Boasting a spectacular view of the lake, a vibrant food scene, and excellent hiking trails. Embark on a scenic hike up Sasso del Ferro mountain, a 5km trail suitable for all hikers. As you walk through the picturesque countryside, you'll pass by magnificent villas and lush gardens. The trail leads to Ristorante Funivia, with breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and the majestic Alps. For those seeking a more relaxed option, a convenient cable car takes you to the restaurant and the summit of Sasso del Ferro (1062m). End your day in Laveno at Cafe Vela.
Restaurants Come e Casa
A simple, family-run restaurant that takes pride in serving a Slow Food menu. Slow Food is an international movement that promotes the importance of locally sourced, sustainable, and high-quality food. It emphasizes traditional cooking methods, preserving cultural food heritage, and supporting small-scale farmers and producers. Slow Food encourages mindful eating, taking time to savor meals, and fostering a deeper connection to the food we consume and the environment it comes from.Website
Restaurants Lunch at Ristorante Funivia
Embark on a scenic hike up Sasso del Ferro mountain, a 5km trail suitable for all hikers. A journey that takes you through the picturesque countryside, passed magnificent villas and lush gardens. The trail leads to Ristorante Funivia, where you can indulge in breathtaking views of Lake Maggiore and the majestic Alps. For those seeking a more relaxed option, a convenient cable car takes you to the restaurant and the summit of Sasso del Ferro (1062m).Website
Aperitivo Cafe Vela
Either begin your day in at Cafe Velo with coffee and croissants, or end you day here, after a long day hike. An ice-cold Aperol Spritz while overlooking the lake, you deserve it!
Activities Agrumi di Cannero festival
A large festival dedicated to citrus fruits in the streets of the Cannero Riviera, a very pretty village on the Piedmontese shore of Lake Maggiore. Thanks to its enviable position, in a natural inlet that protects it from the cold winter winds, this small lake town enjoys a very mild climate that has favored the development of lush Mediterranean vegetation: rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias flourish. Olive trees, palms and, of course, citrus fruits proliferate! ~ March
Culture Orta di San Giulio
A medieval town with a lovely island right in the middle of the lake. It is home to a monastery and the Basilica di San Giulio, built in the 9th century. A favourite place for romantic souls, the village is a maze of picturesque streets and narrow cobbled lanes. The little squares, reminiscent of the campielli of Venice. the annual Ortissima, an art exhibition with permanent displays in Palazzo Pinotti Umbertini as well as temporary installations at sites throughout the village streets. And don’t miss Orta in fiore, a Flower Show-Market held in spring in Piazza della Motta, which becomes awash with the colours of local and exotic species of flowers
Culture Jazz Festival
JazzAscona is the only big european festival, offering a full immersion into New Orleans’ music, culture and cuisine. Some 200 concerts take place during 10 days, non-stop from midday to late at night. All concerts are freeWebsite
Culture Eat Fugascine in Mergozzo
Don’t miss a taste of Fugascine, the delectable cakes baked only in Mergozzo and available in all the village bakeries. Mergozzo at Lake Mergozzo is a hidden gem and offers a picturesque old town as well as a handful of innovative restaurants. The Villas of Pallanza just around the corner are also worth visiting.
Restaurants Slowfood App
The best kept secret for finding delicious food where ever you are in Italy.... download the Slowfood App. "Osterie 2023" The app is in Italian but it is very easy to use, pick your location and it will indicate all the slow-food restaurants around. The restaurants range from chic places to simple fattorias and everything in between. Slow Food is an international movement that promotes the importance of locally sourced, sustainable, and high-quality food. It emphasizes traditional cooking methods, preserving cultural food heritage, and supporting small-scale farmers and producers. Slow Food encourages mindful eating, taking time to savor meals, and fostering a deeper connection to the food we consume and the environment it comes from.
Restaurant Delfino on Isola Bella could be described as The rebirth of a "Little ancient world". Visitors to Isola Bella can treat themselves here to have a break for breakfast, lunch, aperitif or dinner in the spaces of the charming terrace overlooking Lake Maggiore.Website
Culture Palazzo Borromeo
Embark on a captivating journey through art and history as you explore the more than 20 rooms of the remarkable Palazzo Borromeo. At the center of this grand palace lies the Galleria Berthier, a magnificent mosaic of artistic brilliance boasting over 130 paintings. Within its walls, you will discover a breathtaking collection of masterpieces alongside a tradition commonly found in noble collections of the time - an assortment of meticulously crafted copies paying homage to the great masters of the past, including luminaries such as Raphael, Correggio, Titian, and Guido Reni.Website