Lake Maggiore is a popular holiday destination known for its stunning scenery, nature and charming little lakeside towns. The lake is surrounded by the beautiful foothills of the Alps, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. With a length of 66 km and a width of up to 10 km, it is the second largest lake in Italy and is fed by the Ticino from the Alps. At the southern end of Lake Maggiore, the canal (Naviglio) connects Lake Maggiore with Milan. Lake Maggiore is a wonderful holiday destination for nature lovers. It is a popular weekend getaway destination. We recommend midweek days when it is not crowded on the lake shore and Borromean Islands.
Lake Maggiore is a perfect travel destination for both a relaxing short break and an active holiday.
Best Places to Visit at the Maggiore Lake
Some of the must-see places on Lake Maggiore are Locarno and Ascona on Swiss territory and the picturesque towns of Verbania, Stresa, Baveno and Arona on the Piedmont side of the Italian territory.
The northern part of the lake is in Swiss territory, while the larger part forms the border between the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont.
There is a lot to do during your Lake Maggiore holiday, including boating, hiking and visiting the pretty towns.
A special highlight are the Borromean Islands with their beautiful gardens and parks, such as the botanical garden on Isola Bella. Boats depart regularly from the main towns to the three Borromean Islands: Isola Madre, Isola Bella and Isola dei Peascatori.
Take a ride up Monte Mottarone by cable car from Stresa and enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Stresa, fashionable resort on Lake Maggiore
In addition to visiting the beautiful islands, visitors can also enjoy the charming old town of Stresa with its narrow streets and cozy restaurants. Stresa has always been a popular holiday destination with its imposing hotels on the lakeshore, from which you can enjoy a wonderful view over the Borromean Gulf with its islands. The town is surrounded by lush greenery and offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. For those interested in history, a visit to the San Carlone church, with its impressive dome, is a must. The church is located on a hill overlooking the town and offers a breathtaking view of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains.
Definitely recommended: A boat trip to the Borromean Islands Isola Bella, with its 17th century palace and the large garden, Isola dei Pescatori (fishing island) and the largest, Isola Madre, also these with wonderful gardens. Music festivals often take place in the summer months.
The unique landscape captivated poets and painters from an early age. Names like Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens made the place famous worldwide.
Baveno is characterized by the Lago Maggiore with a mild sea climate, in which palm trees thrive. From the boat dock you can take the motorboat to Isola die Pescatori in a few minutes and on to Isola Bella. Another route leads to Isola Madre and Verbania.
Noteworthy in Baveno are the octagonal baptistery and the Saints Gervaso and Protaso convent, a 12th-century building. It was restored in the 17th century in a way that only the facade, including a fresco and the Romanesque bell tower remained intact in their original beauty.
In addition, there are several parks and gardens in Baveno that are worth a visit, including the Botanical Gardens of Villa Lageder, which features a large collection of exotic and indigenous plants. The town also offers various sporting and leisure activities, including tennis, golf, and water sports, making it an ideal holiday destination for families and sports enthusiasts.
For those interested in art and history, Baveno is home to several museums, including the Modern Art Museum, which showcases works by local artists, as well as a museum dedicated to the history of the Borromean Gulf and Lake Maggiore.
For those seeking a more relaxed experience, Baveno offers many opportunities for leisurely strolls along the lake promenade, or for sitting in one of the many cafes and restaurants that offer scenic views over the lake and its surroundings.
Verbania is the provincial capital of the Piedmont part of Lake Maggiore. The two districts of Pallanza and Intra as well as Suna and Fondotoce were combined to form Verbania. Verbania is known for its blossoms of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, which thrive particularly well here. The numerous gardens and villas in Verbania are an attraction for visitors.
In Verbania, you can also visit the Botanical Garden of Villa Taranto, which houses more than 20,000 species of plants from around the world. The Garden is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe and is a must-visit for all nature lovers.
For history lovers, the Church of St. Vittore, with its frescoes from the 15th century, is worth a visit. Another highlight is the sanctuary of Santa Maria degli Angeli, located on a hill above the city, from which you have a wonderful view over Lake Maggiore.
The old town of Verbania with its narrow alleys, characteristic arcades and traditional architecture, is also worth a visit. Here you can enjoy a pleasant stroll and discover the local culture.
In Verbania, there are also many lakeside promenades and parks, making it an ideal place to relax and enjoy the lake scenery.
Arona has a typical medieval character, although its origins date back to around 1500 BC. Evidence of Gallic and Roman rule can be admired in the Arona Museum.
Due to its exposed location and the port on Lake Maggiore, it developed into a rich trading city. The archbishops of Milan, the Torriani, Visconti and Carlo Borromeo families, ruled on the castle, the Rocca di Arona, to whom a 35 m high statue was dedicated after his canonization.
The statue is the tallest in Italy and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. Another notable attraction is the Arona Cathedral, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, with its intricate stone carvings and stained glass windows. In addition, the city is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens, such as the Parco d’Avena, which is perfect for picnicking and admiring the views. Arona also has a bustling town center with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to explore and enjoy the local culture.
The Borromean Islands
The three small islands Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori (Isola Superiore) and Isola Madre in the Borromean Gulf are a gem of nature and beauty. In the Middle Ages they were a fortification and a religious center. In the Baroque era, the islands got their typical appearance from the Borromeo family, whose name they bear.
A round trip by boat to the islands with their blooming gardens, attractive palaces and the poetic fishermen’s houses of Isola di Pescatori is one of the attractions of Lake Maggiore.
- Isola Bella is the most famous of the three and is home to the magnificent 17th-century palace of the Borromeo family, which is surrounded by a stunning baroque garden with exotic plants and flowers. The palace and its frescoed halls are open to visitors, who can admire the magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures and furniture.
- Isola dei Pescatori, or Fisherman’s Island, is a charming fishing village that has maintained its traditional atmosphere. Narrow streets, colorful houses, and a small harbor with fishing boats offer a glimpse into the past and a peaceful place to relax. There are also several restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy the local cuisine.
- Isola Madre is known for its botanical garden, which features a rich collection of exotic plants and flowers. In the center of the island is a palace that was built by the Borromeo family in the 16th century and is surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens. The palace is open to visitors, who can admire the precious furniture, paintings, and frescoes.
The area around Stresa with the Mottarone (1491 m) is a wonderful destination for all seasons. After a short ride on the cable car, you are in the middle of the Alps. In a few minutes you move from the Mediterranean lake landscape to the subalpine area.
To the west of Lake Maggiore, the area rises steeply via Stresa. A cable car takes visitors to Monte Mottarone. In summer you can enjoy wonderful mountain hikes with wonderful views, while in winter the lifts on the downhill slopes are put into operation.
The summit of Monte Mottarone offers panoramic views of the entire Lake Maggiore region and the surrounding mountains, making it a popular tourist destination. From the top, visitors can see the breathtaking view of seven lakes and the peaks of the Alps. On a clear day, it is even possible to see the Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn.
In addition to the scenic views, Monte Mottarone also offers a range of activities for visitors, including hiking, mountain biking, and paragliding. There is also a scenic path around the summit, which is particularly popular among nature enthusiasts. A visit to Monte Mottarone is a great way to escape the crowds and experience the beauty of the natural world.
What To Do at Lago Maggiore?
Lago Maggiore offers many activities and attractions for visitors. Here are some popular things to do at Lago Maggiore:
- Visit the Borromean Islands – Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola dei Pescatori, which are known for their beautiful palaces and gardens.
- Explore the lakeside towns – Stresa, Baveno, and Verbania, which are famous for their picturesque promenades and charming streets cafes.
- Take a boat tour of the lake – This is a great way to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the picturesque villages along the shore.
- Visit the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso – This is a beautifully preserved medieval monastery located on a cliff overlooking the lake.
- Go trekking in the mountains – The mountains surrounding Lago Maggiore offer great opportunities for hiking and trekking.
- Visit the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto – This beautiful garden is home to an impressive collection of exotic plants from around the world.
- Enjoy water sports – Lago Maggiore is a popular destination for water sports, including swimming, windsurfing, and sailing.
- Visit the Sacred Mountain of the Rosary – This is a pilgrimage site that is home to several beautiful chapels and a panoramic terrace with views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
- Take a cable car ride to Mottarone – From the summit of Mottarone, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the lake, the Alps, and the Po Valley.