Lake Maggiore – What to do and where to stay.

I’m a big fan of the Italian lakes and I’m just back from a visit to Lake Maggiore and have previously visited Lake Garda and Lake Como. Lake Maggiore is in the northern Italian region of Piedmont and I arrived into Stresa, on the west coast of Lake Maggiore, by train from Milan, which took less than an hour. The lake is long and thin with beautiful scenery and views of The Alps. Lake Maggiore straddles both Italy and Switzerland. Other popular places to stay include Pallanza, as well as Locarno on the northern tip of the lake in Switzerland.

How to get to Lake Maggiore

There are frequent flights from the UK to Milan Malpensa or to Bergamo airport. It’s possible to drive using the A8 or travel by train from Milan Central station.

Trains are frequent and easily bookable through the Italian trains website Trenitalia. A one way train journey between Milan and Stresa only costs about 9 Euros per person.

What to do on Lake Maggiore

If you want to visit the main attraction on Lake Maggiore, the Borromean Islands, they are easily accessible by boat from Stresa. The Borromean Islands consist of Isola Bella, Isola Dei Pescatori and Isola Madre.

Isola Bella is the star attraction. On the island you can see an amazing 17th century Baroque palace and elaborate gardens. Construction took 40 years and the palace and gardens are built like a huge ship with stunning views of The Alps in the distance. I really enjoyed ambling around the back streets where you will find little restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Isola dei Pescatori still maintains its traditional way of life. Most people go for day trips but there are two hotels on the island if you want to stay longer. Take a look at the Hotel Belvedere if you are interested in a hotel stay on Isola dei Pescatori.

For amazing views of Lake Maggiore take the cable car to the top of Mount Mottarone. It takes 20 minutes to reach the top and the summit at 1,491 metres above sea level is another 15 minutes walk. The walk is worth it though because you can see 7 lakes – Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta, Lake Mergozzo, Lake Varese, Lake Comabbio, Lake Monate and Lake Biandronno. A return ticket costs 19 Euros for adults and 12 Euros for children.

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore.
Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore.

Where to stay on Lake Maggiore

There are many towns and villages around the shores of Lake Maggiore where there are plenty of places to stay. I stayed in the busiest of the Lake Maggiore towns, Stresa. Stresa offers easy access by boat to the popular tourist attraction of the Borromean Islands and there are plenty of places to stay to suit most budgets.

For those visitors looking for lakeside 5 star luxury then you might want to consider the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees. Lake luxury like this though does not come cheap at £1,700 for two people for a one week stay.

Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées
Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées, Stresa, Lake Maggiore.

As a vistor with a more sensible budget I stayed at the 3 star Hotel du Park. It’s not lakeside, being about a 2 minute walk from the town centre, but it was comfortable and convenient. The hotel is furnished in a 1920’s style although the bedrooms are somewhat more modern! One week at the Hotel du Park for two people costs about £700 based on an October stay.

Hotel du Park
Hotel du Park, Stresa

Where to eat in Stresa

Stresa has a multitude of places to eat. In peak season it can be difficult to find a table in one of the restaurants. We ventured out at around 7.30pm one evening to try and find a restaurant to eat in and it was difficult to find somewhere. We eventually stumbled across a delightful restaurant called Trattoria due Piccioni. The menu was limited but the food was of very good quality. I can highly recommend the risotto!

Trattoria due Piccioni
Trattoria due Piccioni, Stresa, Lake Maggiore

The Italian Lakes – Beauty at its Best

The Italian Lakes are one of the most beautiful parts of Italy and maybe even Europe. I love going to the Italian Lakes because there is a mixture of wonderful scenery, large expanses of water, historic towns and great Italian restaurants.The Italian Lakes occupy the northern part of Italy but, in fact, they also cross into Switzerland and Germany. The Italian Lakes consist of Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. George Clooney has a villa on the shores of Lake Como but he is not the only famous face to be seen in this beautiful area.

Lake Maggiore

Locarno is located at the northern tip of Lake Maggiore and the town is actually in Switzerland. The scenery here is hard to beat and the town itself has a mixture of luxury hotels and excellent restaurants. Locarno is a peaceful town and there is not much to do apart from admire the stunning scenery and dip your feet in the cool water.

There is one trip, however, that you should take when you are in Locarno and that is to take the funicular to Santuario della Madonna del Sasso  which is a church that sits on a clifftop above Locarno. The views of Lake Maggiore from here are unbeatable.If you are driving south out of Locarno you should take the amazing road that follows the Maggia River. Apart from the incredible scenery you will see pretty villages and huge waterfalls.

There are plenty of stopping places where you can get a drink and a snack and breath in the Alpine fresh air. If you want to stop for a walk beside the lake, you should stop at Ascona where there is an excellent waterfront promenade and many cafes.

Lake Como

If you want to explore Lake Como there are plenty of winding roads for you to drive on but you won’t see much if you are the driver as you will need to keep your eyes on the road. The best way to see Lake Como is to take a ferry, and there are plenty of them that chug around the towns and villages on the shores of Lake Como.If you want to see one of the areas most stunning villas then you should stop at Villa Carlotta in Cadenabbia. The villa and the grounds are stunning and a visit here will give you a glimpse of times gone by.

The town of Bellagio is situated on Lake Como and is best accessed by ferry. There are plenty of restaurants along the waterfront but they can be expensive. You can then take the ferry to the village of Varenna where the houses are built into the steep mountain and colourful flowers in summer make it look like a picture postcard.

Lake Garda

Lake Garda is probably the most visited of the Italian Lakes and you have the added attraction of being close to the beautiful city of Verona where you can go shopping in one of the many designer shops or go to the famous Verona outdoor opera.Lake Garda itself is stunning. The town of Riva is situated at the far north end of Lake Garda and small villages and towns are scattered along the Garda coastline. Bardolino is a pretty town with some reasonably priced hotels and plenty of waterfront restaurants and at the south end of Lake Garda is the town of Garda itself with its Medieval walls.

All the towns on Lake Garda are linked by a water bus and I can recommend that you use this as it makes it much easier to get around and at the same time you get to see more of the beautuful area of Lake Garda.Here at Global Holidays we can organise your holiday to the Italian Lakes. We can use any airline including the budget airlines and put together a low priced holiday to the Italian Lakes for you.

Just call us on 0845 299 4450 to speak to one of our friendly sales consultants.

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