25 Things to do around Lake Maggiore

25 things to do around Lake Maggiore


1. The Borromeo Islands. Open end March to end October.
Isola Bella, a splendid and grandiose italianate baroque  palace and garden is one of the most important and best kept examples of its kind to be found in Italy.  The particularly mild  climate to be found round Lake Maggiore has  favoured the growth  of a wide variety of different types of  vegetation, all of which have found their natural habitat in this area. Isola Madre is particularly famous for its  azalea, rhododendron, and camellia blossoms but also for the pergolas of ancient wisteria, for the Cashmere Cyprus, which is more than two hundred years old and is the largest example in Europe, and for the espaliers of citrons and lemons, for the collection of hibiscus and the Ginkgo Biloba. Both have Palaces to be visited. Why not stop off at Isola Pescatori for lunch. All three islands can be visited by boat starting either in Arona or directly from Stresa. Allow a full day so as to enjoy  a cruise on the Lake as well.  www.borromeoturismo.it

2. Lake Maggiore Cruise and return by small gauge railway across the 100 Valleys.
A full day’s excursion across Lake Maggiore up to its northern tip, returning by the anachronistic small gauge railway that makes its way through the stunning scenery of 100 Valleys. Depart from Arona and cruise to the northern end of the Lake. Disembark in Ascona (Switzerland), a charming lakeside town. Return by  small gauge railway which winds its way through spectacularly scenic countryside back to Domodossola. Return to Arona by train or private chauffeur driven car.

3. Orta, the Lake, the town and the Island of San Giulio.
Perhaps the most romantic of the Italian Lakes. Visit this enchanting medieval town built along the shores of the Lake. Wander through  the cobbled streets and then transfer across to the idyllic Island of San Giulio with the nunnery and its small but important Basilica. Orta offers numerous restaurants for lunch.  After lunch wander  amongst the streets of Orta with its innumerable small shops, or to visit the Sacro Monte close by. A truly magical day.

4. Lakes Maggiore, Como and George Clooney’s Villa
Both Lake Maggiore and Lake Como offer a full range of beautiful Villas to visit: Villa Ponti  in Arona,  Villa Faraggina in Meina, Villa Noseda, Villa Fedora a Baveno, Villa Pallavicini in Belgirate, Villa EdenVilla FaraggianaVilla Pasta “La Favorita”,Palazzo BedoneVilla BonomiVilla Faraone. Going further up the Lake take a look at Cannobbio, then back down the other side. For those that like star gazing – take a trip across to Lake Como and from Bellaggio take a boat trip to admire Villa Oleandra in Ledra, bought by George Clooney. You never know, he might even be there!

5. A Bird’s  Eye view of the Lakes
Talk about romantic!  Take a helicopter ride over the Lakes. The lakeside villas, elegant towns, and glacial lakes set among the magnificent alpine peaks of northern Italy are sure to take your breath away. A bird’s eye view over the sumptuous mansions and palaces lining the shores of Lake Maggiore, as well as the Borromeo Islands, Cannero, Ascona, Lugano and its Lake and then back south over Lake Como, landing in the beautiful town of Bellaggio, in the Y of its lower reaches. A breath taking adventure and a photographer’s dream.  The rest of your time will be spent discovering the Lakes from the ground in this region long favoured by European poets and artists for its inherent charm and artistic beauty.


6. The Duomo in Novara
The Basilica of San Gaudenzio, with its impressive domed roof topped by a spire was started in 1577 by Pellegrino Pellegrini, known as Tibaldi. It was finished almost a century later. The cupola, designed by Alessandro Antonelli (1844-88) is said to have been the trial run for the one in Turin. In the Duomo, also designed by Antonelli, there are some fine frescoes and a collection of old master paintings, whilst in the Baptistery there is a selection of frescoes depicting the Apocalipse s(11th century) and Judgement Day (15th Century)
7. The Statue of  San Carlone in Arona
Colosso di San Carlo Borromeo one of the tallest stautes in Europe, known as  “San Carlone”. It is considered to be the  maximum expression of Christian religion. The statue in made of brass, it is 35 metres tall and can be visited inside right up into the head. Not for the faint hearted or the unfit. Carlo Borromeo was born in Arona in 1538. He was made a cardinal at the age of 22 , bishop of Milan 6 years later  and died in 1584, having dedicated his life to helping the poor. The Statue was built by his cousin Federico and finished in 16 98.

8. The Eremo of Santa Caterina
The stunning position of the Eremo of Santa Caterina makes the trip worthwhile. This monastic complex of three buildings dating back to the XIII-XIV, suspended between heaven and lake and set on a rocky outcrop 76 mts above the waterlevel. Legend narrates that a rich merchant Alberto dei Besozzi, after having escaped from drowning whilst crossing the Lake, passed the rest of his life as a hermit , and in the early 13th had the monastery built and dedicated to Santa Caterina of Alessandria. Recently restored, visits, normally possible only by boat or from a steep staircase from above, will be considerably easier as access by  lift has been inaugurated this year. www.provincia.va.it/santacaterina9. The Sacred Mounts in Piemonte:Sacred Mounts are examples of the use of figurative arts for evangelizing mankind: a particular form of visual catechism and 5 of the 9 Sacred Mounts that are part of the Unesco World Heritage are in Northern Piedmont.: Domodossola, Oropa, Ghiffa; Orta,Varallo, 2 are in westPiedmont; Crea and Belmonte and two  in Lombardy; Varese and Ossuccio on Lake Como. www.sacrimoni.net

9. Sacro Monte Calvario in Domodossola, a complex that includes the medieval Castle of Mattarella, the Convent of the Rosmini Monks, the Oratory of the Madonna delle Grazie, the  Sanctuary of the Cross and 15 chapels that together form the Via Crucis;.; Sacro Monte in Ghiffa a spectacular panoramic balcony of 200 hectares overlooking Lake Maggiore; Sacro Monte above Orta 21 chapels dating from end 16th to 18th centurya with some very fine frescoes; The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Boden, situated at  475 mabove sealevel outside Ornavasso; The Church of San Gaudenzio in Baceno has recently been declared a national monument and towers over the Orrido at Silogno;  The Sanctuary at Re which owes its importance to the affresco of the Madonna that ran with blood in 1494; the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso which overlooks Lake Orta: The Sacro Monte at Varallo contains a basilica and about 45 chapels, dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries.; The Sacro Monte di Oropa, The statue of the Black Madonna, brought to the Sanctuary in the 4th century, is kept in the church and is an important pilgrimage centre, whilst the 19 chapels represent the life of the Virgin Mary.

10. The Sindone in Turin
The recently restored Sindone,  or Holy Shroud,  fortunately undamaged by the fire that destroyed part of the chapel where it is kept in the Turin Cathedral, has once again been put on show, until 23 May 2010. The Sindone is  the shroud that many believe is the one in which  Jesus Christ was  wrapped after having been taken down from the Cross and which bears visible signs of his martyred body.
It is absolutely necessary to reserve a viewing space www.sindone.org Many hotels are sold out and weekend spaces are no longer available, but it is possible to find accommodation outside Turin for a visit during the week.  Try www.castellodalpozzo.com . Why not combine this with a visit to the  Last Supper in Milan? www.cenacolovinciano.org


11. Golf
Lake Maggiore is the land of “Greens with magnificent vistas”  The Lake is surrounded by mountains, nestled  in verdant scenery and dotted with picturesque villages. In this enchanted setting  architects of international fame have created the many golf courses that make Lake Maggiore a modern day golfer’s paradise. You can play overlooking the Borromean Islands or beneath the imposing Monte Rosa mountain range.  Well above sea level, the links here are endlessly green,  spread wide above the shimmering lake on a scenic plateau. Great views of the neighbouring cities only add to the pleasure of playing.  You can play a different course each day for a week. Try Isles Borromees,  Alpino, Castel Conturbia, Bogogno, Le Robinie just over the border in Lombardy and Varese, one of the oldest courses, or Le Betulle in Biella, recently named as  one of the best European courses. Best Time: February to December  Download the brochure in English http://www.federgolfpiemonte.com

12. Water Sports on and around the Lake
Lake Maggiore offers several warm-weather activities.  The waters of the Lake make a perfect place for
water skiing, sailing, swimming, and windsurfing. There are a number of boat clubs (Intra, Pallanza, Omegna, Pettenasco) and a Regatta Club in Belgirate. Wakeboarding at Lesa.  During the summer windsurfing and catamarans are popular at the Cannobio Lido in upper reaches of Lake Maggiore. Canoeing and kayaking have become much more popular in the narrow valleys at the end of the Lake especially in the fast water zones. Scuba diving clubs are now becoming more popular and as Lake Maggiore is up to 300m deep, there is always the chance of bumping into that monster of the deep. It is also possible to hire a boat and sail off across the Lake, or enjoy a sunset cruise. For fun try the cross Lake swim, together with 800 other participants, on the last weekend of August.

13. Trekking
Hundreds of miles of paths snake through the alpine scenery that surround Lake Maggiore. Treks suitable for all levels of fitness, with well equipped rest stops  enroute. In the area known as “Terra dei Laghi” enclosed between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, numerous  paths make their way along the hill tops and promontories, offering the trekker magnificent vistas spread out below. Add to this the possibility of exploring the fascinating centuries old culture of the Walser in the Anzasca Valley and the geological wonder of the Orridi in the Antigorio Valley and you have all the ingredients for a fascinating few days walking through some of the most beautiful scenery that Europe has to offer.

14. Extreme Sports
Kayaking, canyoning, rafting; Slide over chutes in the water on breakneck currents, run over rocky gorges just above the torrents, throw yourself at the rapids; you can experience these exhilarating emotions in Valle Stura, Valle Susa, Valsesia, and the Ossola valleys. n Piemonte, the sport is practiced mostly in the Valle Stura, Valle di Susa, Valsesia and the Ossola valleys. You must be accompanied by a qualified Alpine guide. http://www.atlvalsesiavercelli.it http://www.raftingitalia.it http://www.atlvalsesiavercelli.it. Try the thrill of throwing yourself out of an airplane, parachuting at Casale Monferrato, or hanggliding. Or try the ultimate thrill:  bungee jumping on the dam of the Verzasca, a river that enters the lake near Locarno: the jump is higher than 220 meters!. 

15. Wellness & Spas
Bognanco has beena a Spa since the late 1800,s, offering inhalation therapy, carbonic baths and hydropic therapy. Recently the Instituto Fisioterapico Bognanco 2000 was built, which offers  massotherapy, hot-wet alkaline inhalations, balneotherapy, hydromassage and saunas. Opening time: from 30th May to 30th September  http://www.termebognanco.it. Or try a Wellness weekend package with  saltwater tub, relaxing massage, stress management and purifying infusions for a complete body rest. http://www.castellodalpozzo.com/wellness


16. Parks and Wilderness Areas
Around and above the Lake there is a wide variety of wilderness areas, natural Parks and spectacular mountain reserves.
Val Grande:  once inhabited solely by shepherds, today  represents one of the most wild and uncontaminated areas in Italy; Park Alpe Veglia and Alpe Devero: in the Ossola mountains, between 1700 and 3500 metres, offer spectacular views of majestic mountains, green pastures, and typical mountain lakes Park of the Valle del Ticino an effluent of Lake Maggiore, the Park is the natural habitat of a wide range of birds, reptiles and flora; Parco dei Lagoni in Oleggio Castello has an interesting selection of aquatic flora as well as remains from the Neolithic period testifying to the existence of a civilization  from the 5th century B.C.. Fondotoc Reserve: at the mouth of the river Toce, it is  characterised by the lake dwellings extending through swamps and cane thickets, a habitat for unusual species of aquatic fauna in a thick and varied flora. Over 130 species of birds choose this area to set their nests and reproduce; Bosco Tenso Oasis: 22 hectares on the banks of the Toce river at Premosello Chiovenda, a protected area where nature offers a variety of bush plants where birds, foxes, squirrels and deer live.

17. Gardens
The particularly mild  climate to be found round Lake Maggiore has  favoured the growth  of a wide variety of different types of  vegetation, all of which have found their natural habitat in this area. Isola Madre is particularly famous for its azalea, rhododendron, and camellia blossoms but also for the pergolas of ancient wisteria, and for the Cashmere Cyprus, which is more than two hundred years old and is the largest example in Europe. The gardens of Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella, are a splendid and grandiose italianate baroque, one of the most important and best kept examples of its kind to be found in Italy,  Villa Taranto, an authentic Garden of Eden, is one of the most important botanical gardens in the world, harbouring thousands of plants and flowers from all over, harmoniously spread over 30 acres.  Villa Pallavicino in Belgirate,  a magnificent terrace of roses, magnolia and rhodedenron which creates a colourful backdrop to the zoological garden created by the Marquis Pallavicini in the 1950’s. Villa San Remigio in Verbania, on the Castagnola Promontory, a judicious mixture of architecture and nature.

18. Camelias and Azealeas
In the spring the entire Lake becomes an ongoing flower show,  with numerous open days, garden shows, exhibitions of a wide variety of camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons. For the keen gardener it is possible to visit a series of nurseries where a large selection of the over 200 varieties of camellias are available for sale. The International Spring Show takes place at the end of March whilst the Winter show is in December. From autumn to late spring, azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, maples, roses  come into bloom with their infinite shades of colour and variations of shape. The local nurserymen have created a trademark to protect the “Typical Flowers of Lake Maggiore”, which guarantees the prime quality of the plants produced. Recently the flower-producing area of the provinces of Verbania, Novara and Biella has been given the appellation of “Lake Maggiore Flower District” http://www.lagomaggiorefiori.it/directory.pdf

19. Walzer
Macugnaga in the  Anzasca Valley. This mountain village is a perfect example of the Walser culture. The Walsers, of Germanic origin, settled in the Valley almost 10 centuries ago. Take the chairlift to the Belvedere at 1200mts, the start of your short Trek to the Glacier, or visit the Walser Museum .
From 30 May to 2 June join in the Treasure Hunt . All that is needed is for the contestants to be fit.!!

20. Mountains and Snow

Winter skiing in the area is extremely varied. Choose from the different localities Mottarone, Macugnaga, the Val Formazza, the Piana of the Val Vigezzo, the Alpe Ciamporino in San Domenico, the Lusentino above Domodossola. All within an hour’s drive from the Lake and all offering  excellent lifts and a wide variety of pistes . For the lover of off piste skiing there are demanding treks which offer some of the most spectacular scenery of the surrounding Alps. And for something completely different join a cross country raid on snowshoes. www.neveazzurra.it


21. Wining and Dining
Lake Maggiore and its hinterland is a feast for good food lovers. Gastronomic delights, either linked to traditional local produce or beautifully presented creations by renown Chefs are to be found  in every corner of the territory. You can choose from over 200 restaurants that are  included in all the major guide books as well as a wealth of small country inns, food faires and local food festivals . Wine growing areas include those of the Canton Ticino just over the border in Switzerland, as well as vineyards in Gattinara, the Novara hills, and the Ossola Valley. Piemonte is also well known for its beef, the Lake offers a range of fresh water fish and the hinterland produces salamis, excellent cheeses, biscuits and a range of desserts. There is something for everyone and we would like to offer you a small selection to titillate your taste buds. http://www.castellodalpozzo.com

22. Music
Lago Maggiore offers an artist’s palette of musical entertainment. The Jazz Festival, now in its 8th year;  the Stresa Spring Festival in May, Musical Meditations,  8 appointments at the beginning of August held in some of the most suggestive locations such as Santa Caterina and Isola Bella followed by Visions, 16 concerts at the  end of August/ September, held at Isola Bella and Stresa.  www.stresafestival.eu

23. Museums and Art Galleries
Villa Ponti in Arona always hosts an interesting art exhibition. From June 1st to November the Gallery hosts an exhibition entitled Marilyn Monroe, Art and Beauty. 100 pictures ranging from Andy Warhol to Mimmo Rotella as well as a collection of  personal objects will be on show. http://www.arona.net/artecultura.htm
Orta will be hosting the 3rd edition of Ortissima  with an ehibition of Piemontese and Lombard artists from April through to October.
There are also a selection of small but out of the ordinary museums: try visiting the ChimneySweep Museum at Santa Maria Maggiore; the Museum of the Art of Hat Making in Ghiffa; the Transport Museum in Ranco or the Umbrella Museum at Gignese. And not to be missed: the Doll’s Museum in the Rocca in Angera. All of them offer an interesting view of  a world that used to be.

24. Shopping
Have yourself a Shopping Spree. A combination of the luxury shops in Milan, capital of the fashion world, where in the fashion quadrangle at its  centre you will find the best of italian designers, Armani, Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Alberta Ferretti, Missoni, Prada and the Outlets around Lake Maggiore, where the fun lies in finding that perfect  dress, knocked down 70%.  The outlets  span from the high tec design of Alessi to the magnificent cashmere Made in Italy of Colombo and Loro Piana, or sunglasses from the Luxottica group.  Bargains from world famous  labels such as Burberry, Louis Vuitton or Reebock are also to be found. So don’t stop, Shop ‘til you Drop. Enjoy the luxury of spending less.  http://www.vicolungooutlets.com

25. Festivals and Events
All round the Lake there are a host of events, festivals, historical revocations, throughout the year and especially during the Summer. To name but a few of the more well known: the Firework Festival starting in Val Formazza 24th July and finishing in Omegna  29th August;  the Long Night in Arona mid August;
Every weekend there are also street antique and bric-a-brac markets  and most of the main towns have a weekly food market which are always worth visiting.

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