A lake with a thousand faces: portraits of Lake Maggiore

Isola Bella

“It is the most voluptuous place I have ever seen in the world. Nature enchants with a thousand unknown seductions and one feels in a state of rare sensuality and refinement “.

Gustave Flaubert thus commented, bewitched by the beauty of Lake Maggiore. To fully understand the French writer’s thinking, it is necessary to set sail for a fascinating boat tour. Arona is the starting point in the Novara area: why not join us?

Stories of rocks, villas and castles across the lake

In a matter of minutes, we have already arrived at the first stopping point. And we even changed regions. The narrowest point of the Maggiore separates Arona from Angera, a town in Lombardy, where we can walk up to the Rocca Borromea to admire the medieval castle and the Piedmontese shore in all its splendour.

Walls of the Rocca of Angera

Remaining on Lombardy soil, Navigazione Lago Maggiore proposes a stop at Ranco, the town with the largest number of erratic boulders – particularly large blocks of rock also called “witches boulders”, residues of the glacial eras – on the Lombardy side of the lake. Ispra follows with its charming villas: you can visit the romantic garden of Villa Castelli, the current seat of the Town Hall.

And now an unmissable stop: Santa Caterina del Sasso. The hermitage, a place of rare beauty overlooking the blue waters, can be reached by climbing some eighty steps or via a lift, carved directly into the rock and an engineering marvel.

We then stop in Porto Valtravaglia, a town known for its spectacular trekking trails: an honorable mention for the Alpe di San Michele trail.

Going up the coast by ferry we come to Luino, an elegant town with colourful ancient buildings and stately Art Nouveau villas, and immediately after Maccagno, famous for its climbing wall, excellent for an exciting climb with a view.

SANTA CATERINA DEL SASSO

Tradition has it that the Hermitage was founded in 1170 by Alberto Besozzi, a wealthy local merchant who, having escaped a storm whilst crossing the lake, decided to retire to that stretch of coast and lead the life of a hermit. The current monastic complex was built between the 13th and 14th centuries, with the construction of the two churches dedicated to Santa Maria Nova and San Nicolao.

Poetic waves

Our ferry boat also accompanies us as we set out on our journey of discovery through the provinces of Novara and the VCO.

The aforementioned Arona is the provincial centre for lake nightlife: a wide variety of bars and restaurants, suitable for all age groups, alternate along the lakefront and through the historic center.

In the summer this area becomes a pedestrian thoroughfare, a pleasant stroll for families and a safe area for children to have fun.

The town of Meina borders on Arona, where stone busts, arabesques, parks and fountains enrich the beauty of the 19th century neoclassical buildings overlooking the lake. Last stop in the province of Novara is Lesa, chosen by none other than Alessandro Manzoni for several holiday seasons. Today, here you can enjoy an ice cream, a pizza or even some gourmet dishes whilst sitting facing the lake.

Ports of call in the Verbano

The next stop Belgirate, in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, is a characteristic medieval village: you will be bowled over by the view from the churchyard in front of the small Gothic church of Santa Maria, as well as by the baroque details inside the church.

You’ve almost certainly heard of Stresa. Elegant villas, luxurious gardens, but above all – La Bella, la Madre and la Pescatori – the Borromean Islands.

“In my opinion, the most enchanting place in the world,” Montesquieu judged. We are certain that you won’t find it hard to understand why.

If now you feel like a quiet stroll, the panoramic walks along the Baveno lakefront and the magic that is Verbania are highly recommended. From here gaze across to the the small, enchanting and romantic island of San Giovanni.

Passing the small, intimate towns of Ghiffa and Oggebbio, we reach a real gem: Cannero Riviera with its bright colours, its narrow streets and stately homes.

One must not forget the Castles of Cannero. They rise from the waters on islets right in front of Cannero and the picturesque Cannobio, a town as romantic as it is fashionable and where numerous festivals are organized in the summer.

THE BORROMEAN ISLANDS

The archipelago consists of Isola Madre, Isola Bella, Isolino di San Giovanni, Isola dei Pescatori and Scoglio della Malghera.
In 2019 The New York Times ranked the Borromean Islands among the ten most fascinating places in the world.

Isola Bella

Boundless beauty

The ferry takes us beyond the Italian border. Our lake tour can go as far as touching the Swiss shores: Brissago with its two islands and the beautiful town of Ascona. The last stop is historical Locarno, a peaceful, tranquil and relaxing town.

It’s time to return to the province of Novara. Once in Arona, we thank the ferry for having escorted us along this varied and incredible itinerary. Further trips will take us to different scenarios to enjoy as much as we shall have enjoyed our lake excursion.



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