PWk: Prod, Tlk: GS2, Datacash: Live
Holidays in Stresa take you to one of the prettiest locations in the Italian Lakes, with the elegant town perched on the western shore of Lake Maggiore where soaring mountains form a photogenic backdrop.
Stresa has been here for at least a thousand years and the town is peppered with historic buildings, from medieval churches to Renaissance villas. Its cobbled streets are full of pavement cafés and boutique shops, while the surrounding area is renowned for its opulent lakeside palaces and ornamental gardens.
The town is a handy hopping-on point for many ferries and boat trips which sail up and down Lake Maggiore, offering a relaxing way to enjoy the scenery and visit the other towns and villages around this 65km-long lake. For panoramic views of Lake Maggiore and the mountain peaks beyond, Stresa’s cable car climbs from the lakeside to the top of Mount Mottarone, taking you nearly 1,300 metres above the town.
Stresa is a sedate place, especially in the evenings, when compared to some of the larger and busier resorts around Lake Maggiore. It’s ideal for enjoying lakeside strolls, relaxing pre-dinner aperitivos and a generally slower pace of life.
This area is nirvana for horticulturists, with several famous gardens nearby including the Alpine gardens at 800 metres above sea level – you can stop off to visit them when the Mount Mottarone cable car reaches its mid-way point. And then there are the Borromean Islands, often described as “the jewels of Lake Maggiore”. Regular boat services run back and forth between Stresa and the three main islands, where you’ll find enchanting ornamental gardens on Isola Madre and Isola Bella, while Isola dei Pescatori is home to an idyllic little village where you can eat at one of several restaurants overlooking the lake.
For music lovers the Stresa Festival runs from mid July to early September, when you can enjoy live classical and jazz performances at several venues around town, as well as some concerts that are held on the Borromean Islands.
Stresa’s lakefront promenade is lined with palm trees and splendid old hotels, which make for a delightful evening stroll. The palatial Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees is famous as a one-time favourite of the American writer Ernest Hemingway, who used it as a setting in his novel A Farewell To Arms. Nowadays it’s considered the most exclusive hotel on Lake Maggiore, but even if you’re not staying here you can eat in the opulent, high-class restaurant or treat yourself to a little pampering in the hotel spa.
The streets behind the promenade in Stresa offer a fantastic range of bars, trattorias and restaurants – more than enough for you to eat in a different place on every day of your holiday.
The area around Lake Maggiore produces a bewildering variety of cured meats and unusual cheeses, which seem to vary from one valley to the next. A typical cold platter might feature slices of mortadella and violini di capra, with local cheeses like Bettelmatt and Ossolano d’Alpe, all served with a pot of mountain honey from the surrounding hills.
There are some incredibly palatable wines from the region around Stresa, and getting to know them is an excellent way of immersing yourself in the culture. The full bodied red Ghemme seems to be the most highly regarded among locals, but don’t turn your nose up at the Barbera, Croatina and Vespolina, which all have their own distinctive charms.
For visitors with a sweet tooth, Stresa specialises in light and crumbly little lemon biscuits called margheritines. They come in many different shapes and patterns, and you’ll find them in shops and eateries all over town, each offering its own recipe which has been passed down through the generations.
To pre-book one of our specially selected excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.