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Lake Maggiore is the second largest of Italy’s lakes, spanning more than 40 miles and crossing over the border into Switzerland. Much appreciated by poets Byron and Shelley, the lake is one of the country’s most spectacular destinations, and is home to more than 42 towns and five islands. The mild microclimate made this region a popular hideaway for 19th century aristocrats, whose palatial villas with landscaped gardens still remain.
The town of Stresa is popular for its palm-lined promenades skirting the lake’s shore. The lake’s most famous island, Isola Bella, features the magnificent Palazzo Borromeo, surrounded by gardens that stretch down to the lake. Further south lies Cannero, one of Lake Maggiore’s prettiest towns. The lakefront setting makes it a great place to stroll, and there are even footpaths going up into the hills, so you can explore other villages on foot. If you’re keen to get out and about, try the well-maintained Cittiglio to Laveno Mombello cycle path, or visit the haunting Borromeo Castle.
Thanks to its impressive 41-mile length, Lake Maggiore boasts a diverse array of attractions and activities. At the northern end, the lake stretches into Switzerland, so you can tick off another country during your trip, while the southern end is just an hour’s drive from Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. There’s no need to travel so far, however, what with the spectacular ‘floating’ palace of Isola Bella just a brief boat trip from the lake’s shore, and the beautiful gardens of the Villa Taranto set halfway along the lake’s length. If you’re feeling active, you can hire a bike to explore, or just enjoy a stroll along a promenade in one of Lake Maggiore’s classic resorts (Stresa is one of our favourites).
The closest airport to Lake Maggiore is Milan Malpensa (MXP). Direct flights to Milan are available from Birmingham, Edinburgh, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton and Manchester and take approximately 2 hours.
Lake Maggiore is a summer destination, with the season generally running from April to October. The best time to visit is in the springtime, when the temperature is warm but not too hot and all the wild flowers are out in bloom. May, June and September are ideal months to visit. Temperatures are at their hottest in July and August and this is when the lake is at its busiest.
As well as plenty of fresh fish, delicacies often enjoyed around Lake Maggiore include sweet honey and cured meats such as Ossola Mortadella. Although delicious eaten alone, these are best paired with a selection of well-known local cheeses, namely Bettelmatt and Ossolano d’Alpe.
Those with a sweet tooth should head to Stresa to try the local speciality, margheritines. These flower-shaped lemon biscuits make for a delicious treat.
If you would like to pre-book one of our excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.