Straddling Piedmont, Lombardy and Ticino, Lake Maggiore seduces travellers with its mild climate, the exuberance of its flora and the romantic enchantment of its small archipelago. With an area of 212 km2, it is the second largest Italian lake by extension after Lake Garda. Its coastline stretches for about 170 km and its average depth is 175 m. The visit remains just as pleasant by car as by public transport (bus and train) and by boat, the latter allowing you to capture some exceptional views of the coasts. A region with two souls, Lake Maggiore is divided between the undeniable attraction of its western Piedmontese shore and the more discreet Lombardy coast to the east.

Its banks were the cradle of the prehistoric civilization of Golasecca. Inhabited by the Romans and prey to barbarian invasions, the area remained under the control of several noble families until 1439, when it became the stronghold of the Borromeo family, who remained the owners until 1713. Under the rule of the Austrians, it was not until 1743 that the west bank joined the kingdom of Savoy. It will then follow the fate of the rest of the Kingdom of Italy.

It was towards the end of the 19th century that Lake Maggiore was consecrated as an international resort, leading to the construction of luxury hotels and superb villas. The Mediterranean climate and flora give the many gardens a distinctly exotic air. Gardens, villas and other palaces are the main attraction of the peaceful villages along the banks of the river. Stresa in particular offers a breathtaking view of the Borromean Islands, a green setting housing the sumptuous Borromeo Palace. Don't forget the water sports, the mountain and its walks, as well as the shopping that the beautiful shops invite you to do.

Finally in one boat trip we reach the Italian part of Switzerland: change of scenery but no setting. In Locarno, cheese fondues, art and culture, beautiful walks and the film festival in August are on the programme. But beware: in Swiss francs this time!

Transport

By car: From Milan to reach the Piedmontese shore by car highway A8-A26, exit for Castelletto Ticino (for Arona) Stresa, Baveno and Gravellona Toce (for Verbania Pallanza). For the Lombardy shore, motorway A8 direction Varese, exit Azzate Buguggiate, continue on SP1 until Laveno.

Train. Arona, Stresa, Baveno and Verbania are served by the Milan-Domodossola line from the central station (www.trenitalia.it). To reach Laveno and the eastern shore, take the train from Cadorna station, via the Ferrovie Nord Milano lines (www.trenord.it).

Boat. The boat remains the simplest and most picturesque way to reach the lake's localities. From April to September, regular daily flights to all the main towns and the Borromean Islands. Ferry for vehicles between Laveno and Verbania Intra, about 8 € for car with passenger (www.navlaghi.it).

Bus. Some bus lines connect the Piedmontese municipalities (Verbania-Stresa-Arona line through www.comazzibus.com); however the train is still faster and its runs more frequent. The bus can be a good solution to reach Lake Orta from Verbania (line Stresa - Gignese-Orta by www.safduemila.com). The Alibus shuttle bus connects Milan Malpensa airport to Verbania-Stresa-Arona, only on reservation 24 hours in advance, tel. +39 0323 552 172, [email protected]

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