Things to do in Lake Maggiore

Things to do in  Lake Maggiore

Mother Nature’s masterpiece

Straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland, Lake Maggiore is the second largest northern Italian lake, but it captures first place in scenery and style. Ringed by picturesque towns like Stresa and Verbania that serve as ideal locations to experience the local cuisine—as well as jumping-off spots for the lake's gem-like Borromean Islands, handsome villas and their lavish botanical gardens, and vineyard-covered hills—the lake offers leisurely paced sightseeing, languid lunches, and an overall genteel style of holidaying that harks back to the Grand Tour.

Top 3 attractions in Lake Maggiore

Isola Bella

The Italian name of Isola Bella contains both a truth and a misnomer: though worthy of being called beautiful, this tiny rocky outcrop along Sicily’s coast near Taormina is not actually an island. Located off the Lido Mazzaro beach on the Mediterranean Sea, Isola Bella is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand that is often covered with water at high tide. The picturesque point was gifted to Taormina in 1806 by the King of Sicily and later purchased by the Scottish Lady Florence Trevelyan—her villa still sits on the highest point—until being taken over by the region of Sicily and made a nature reserve in 1990.More

Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo (Sancarlone)

The towering bronze figure of San Carlo Borromeo near the town of Arona on Lake Maggiore is impossible to miss. Second in size only to New York’s Statue of Liberty, the hollow statue has steep stairs and ladders inside leading up to its head, where visitors can peer out over the surrounding landscape.More

Lake Orta (Lago di Orta)

The northern Italian lakes are popular destinations, beloved for their placid waters and mountain scenery. Among these, however, sleepy Lake Orta (Lago di Orta) is one of the least well known. Overshadowed by its famous neighbor, Lake Maggiore, and slightly farther from Milan, Lake Orta attracts visitors who want to get away from it all.More

Top activities in Lake Maggiore

Stresa: 1-Day 3 Borromean Islands Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Tour
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Cesarine: Small group Pasta and Tiramisu class in Lake Maggiore
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All about Lake Maggiore

When to visit

Though summer peak tourist season, savvy travelers know to visit Lake Maggiore in the fall, when the surrounding hills glow golden and orange. In early fall the weather is perfect for hiking, cycling, and touring the villas and gardens on the Borromean Islands, but the water is still warm from the summer sun. The main event of the year is the Stresa Festival, which takes place from July to September and features dozens of classical music performances held in churches and villas around the lake.

Getting around

Trains from Milan and Basel run direct to the town of Stresa, the lake’s main tourist town and transportation hub. From here, you can explore virtually all the lakeside towns as well as the Borromean Islands by ferry or taxi boat. Rail enthusiasts can hop on the scenic Vigezzina–Centovalli line, which skirts the northern tip of the lake near the Swiss city of Locarno. There are also bikes and e-bikes available, but you won’t be able to cycle around this 40-mile- (65-km-) long lake in one day.

Traveler tips

Stresa is sometimes packed with Milanese escaping the city for the weekend. If you want a break from the crowds, hop the ferry to Laveno-Mombello, which is situated on the opposite shore. Hike the 3-mile (5-km) trail up the slopes of Sasso del Ferro Mountain for spellbinding views of the lake the Alpine peaks beyond. You can refuel at the top with lunch at Ristorante Funivia, a casual eatery with a spectacular terrace, then either hike back or take the cable car down the hill.

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People Also Ask

Is Lake Maggiore worth a visit?

Often overlooked in favor of the big-name lakes of Como and Garda, Lake Maggiore is certainly worth a visit. Shimmying down through the Lombardy and Piedmont regions of Italy from Switzerland, the lake provides beaches for swimming, mountain vistas, and historic villages—without too many tourist crowds.

What is the prettiest part of Lake Maggiore?

The Borromean Islands with their palaces and gardens flaunt themselves majestically, enticing visitors across the water from Stresa. For beauty minus the in-your-face grandeur, continue east where many of Lake Maggiore’s pretty towns and shingle beaches beckon and the Santa Caterina del Sasso Monastery clings to the cliffs.

What is Lake Maggiore known for?

The meaning of maggiore is “major,” and Lake Maggiore is major enough, having the title of Italy’s second-largest lake. While certainly on the tourist trail, the lake seems more popular with Italians who know its uncrowded beaches, traditional lake towns, and peaceful charms well.

Which is nicer, Lake Como or Lake Maggiore?

Like Lake Como, Lake Maggiore is known for its belle-epoque beauty, yet its lake towns—Stresa, in particular—hark back more to days of old-school decadence with their grand hotels and boulevards. If you want the Italian lakes’ elegance minus the higher prices and international crowds, you’ll probably say Lake Maggiore is nicer.

Do you need a car in Lake Maggiore?

Yes. If you want to explore, a car gives you more freedom. In the summer, ferries link up the main towns, but you would miss out on visiting the smaller villages and beaches that give the lake its charm. Also keep in mind that taxis and ride-hailing apps don’t really exist around here.

Can I swim in Lake Maggiore?

Yes, in the summer you can swim in Lake Maggiore, but be mindful to stay safe and swim close to shore. Look for spiaggia comunale signs for public beaches where entry is free, or for fancier signs indicating a “lido” or “beach club” for private beaches with restrooms, showers, sun loungers, and food.

Frequently Asked Questions
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