Lake Maggiore & Surroundings

The Lake Maggiore is just a few kilometers away from Omegna, easily reachable with a  15/20 minutes drive or using the bus that connects Omegna to Verbania.

 

The Borromean Gulf

 

Islands

The Borromean Gulf is the name given to the arm of Lake Maggiore extending from Verbania to Stresa. It includes the marvellous Borromean Islands as well as the hills behind Verbania.

Art and nature come together in perfection to produce the beauty of the Borromean Gulf. Human interventions over the centuries have intelligently enhanced the landscape, both on the islands and on the shore.

The little towns of Baveno and Stresa are given an atmosphere of luxury and elegance by the many aristocratic mansions in their territory. Romantic and sophisticated, every year these gems of the lake attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. The three Borromean Islands in the heart of the Gulf opposite Stresa are uniquely picturesque and eternally fascinating.

Not far from Stresa is Verbania, the capital of the Verbano Cusio Ossola Province and a lively holiday centre. Outstanding among it 19th century mansions are Villa San Remigio, Villa Giulia and Villa Taranto, whose botanic gardens are among the best known and most visited in Europe.

The hills around Verbania are studded with a wealth of picturesque little villages with splendid views over the Borromean Gulf and the islands. The Val Grande National Park, the largest wilderness area in the Alps, borders on these hills.

Mottarone

 

Mottarone

The mountain of Mottarone (1491 m), which with its gentle, grassy slopes divides Lake Maggiore from Lake Orta, offers one of the most breathtaking views of the lakes and the distant Alps.

The sight is unique: an uninterrupted 360° panorama from the Ligurian Apennines and the Maritime Alps to the Monte Rosa massif, the Monviso and the high peaks of Switzerland, across the Po Plain, and the unequalled spectacle of seven lakes (Orta, Maggiore, Mergozzo, Biandronno, Varese, Monate, Comabbio).

In 1911 the summit was connected to the centre of Stresa via a historic rack railway, which was later replaced by the present cableway, which starts from Carciano near Stresa.

Mottarone offers hiking enthusiasts a myriad of paths of historical and scenic interest, through mature woods of fir, pine, larch, beech and chestnut, across ancient mountain pastures where animals graze and the meadows are full of the scent of herbs and flowers. The mountain is also of geological interest, with several quarries, mostly of white and pink granite.
In winter it is a major ski centre for the Lake Maggiore area, with a variety of runs, excellent restaurant facilities and equipment hire.

Mergozzo

 

Mergozzo

Mergozzo is one of the prettiest lakeside villages in the Lake Maggiore area. Picturesquely situated on the shore of Lake Mergozzo, separated from Lake Maggiore due to the continual flooding of the River Toce, the village is a favourite holiday destination from the spring on.

The stone houses huddle close together, separated only by narrow lanes. The central square of the village is dominated by an ancient elm tree: historical documents attest that the tree was growing in the square as many as 400 years ago. Now completely hollow, it has been given the title of a “monumental tree of Piedmont”.

Mergozzo was inhabited in antiquity, as is illustrated by the extensive collections in the Antiquarium museum, which displays finds from the prehistoric and Bronze ages, as well as old tools that were once used to extract and shape the granite from the quarry of Montorfano and the marble of Candoglia.

A number of walks in the countryside start from Mergozzo, such as the “Sentiero Azzurro” (Blue Trail) to the hamlet of Montorfano along a track beside the lake. Mergozzo’s beaches are very popular with visitors and local people alike, and provide facilities like beach volleyball, a playground for children and a bar.

Don’t miss a taste of Fugascine, the delectable cakes baked only in Mergozzo and available in all the village bakeries.

 The Gardens of Villa Taranto

Villa_Taranto

 

The gardens of Villa Taranto in Verbania, between Intra and Pallanza, are known the world over for their great beauty and the huge number of plant species they contain. The result of a labour of love on the part of the Scottish Captain McEacharn in 1931, the myriad of colours and scents the marvellously landscaped garden offers continues to enchant visitors from March to October.

The gardens are landscaped in what is essentially the English style, though there is no lack of Italian features like statues, fountains, ponds, terraces, waterfalls – in short, all the ornamental elements that add some extra magic to this earthly paradise.

Villa Taranto is one of the most important botanic gardens in the world, with thousands of species of trees and flowers from all over the world, planted harmoniously over an area of around 16 hectares, crossed by 7 km of paths and avenues. It is impossible in a few words to do justice to the wealth of colour, scent, and emotional impact: eucalyptus, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, port wine magnolias, maples, camellias, dahlias, tulips, lotus, heathers, dwarf asters, hydrangeas, dozens of tropical plants (including the giant water lily Victoria Amazonica), rare specimens like Dicksonia antarctica (Tasmanian Tree Fern) and Davidia involucrata (Dove Tree).

From spring to autumn there are always flowers in bloom, with “special events” for certain species which are particularly spectacular in their season: the tulip week is in April, dahlias are at their best between July and October. The garden book festival Editoria & Giardini is an occasion for special events in September.

 Lower Lake & Arona

 

lower_lake

The last part of the Piedmont shore of Lake Maggiore goes from Belgirate to Castelletto Ticino, and possesses a variety of places of artistic and cultural interest.

The little Romanesque church of Santa Maria in Belgirate is a fine example. In a dominating position above the town, it dates from the 12th century. Massino Visconti boasts the sanctuary of San Salvatore, at the end of a 4 km-long scenic road on a hillside of birch and beech woods.

The lakeside road (State road 33) is lined with a succession of mansion houses set in luxuriant parkland. Examples are Villa Correnti, built towards the end of the 19th century by Cesare Correnti, a senator of what was then the Kingdom of Italy, and the 19th century Villa Faraggiana in Meina, a Neoclassical building surrounded by extensive grounds.

Towards the end of the lake is Arona, the principal seat of the Borromeo family, which for centuries exerted a strong influence on the lake area. The giant statue of Cardinal San Carlo Borromeo, a Colossus 23.40 metres high, stands above the town. You can climb up inside to see a breathtaking view of the Lombard and Piedmontese shores of the lake through the apertures in the statue’s robes and through the Saint’s eyes.

The last town on the Piedmontese shore is Castelletto Ticino, where you can see the Torriani-Visconti Castle, a medieval fortress which belonged to the signoria of the Torriani and the Visconti families and which still has its massive square keep.

 Upper Lake

 

Cannero

The upper Lake Maggiore area covers the northern part of the lake from Cannobio, the last town before the Swiss border, to Ghiffa, just outside Verbania. From their setting between green hillsides and blue waters, the four main places in this area, Cannobio, Cannero, Oggebbio and Ghiffa, enjoy spectacular views of the Swiss, the Lombard, and the Piedmontese shores of the Lake.

In true Italian style, each community has its own history and traditions. Ghiffa has a Hat Museum and the Sacro Monte of the Holy Trinity, a Baroque complex of chapels in a superb position above the lake. Cannero Riviera, on the road to Switzerland, boasts a marvellous view of the Malpaga castles, the so-called “Castles of Cannero”, picturesque ruins occupying two little islands near the shore.

Here nature and art come together in perfect harmony. The lakeside road (State road 34) is lined with mansion houses and their gardens, while perched in the hills above, the little villages keep their age-old character and traditions.

Farther towards the Swiss border, from Cannobio a road twists and turns up the Cannobina Valley, which extends for 11,000 hectares from the lake shore. The valley’s landscape is varied and full of fascination: from the bare slopes of Monte Limidario, at 2,189 metres the highest point in the valley, to the sheer cliffs and deep, green waters of the Orrido or Gorge of Sant’Anna at Traffiume not far from Cannobio.

 The lombard shore

 

monastero

The city of Varese and the small towns on the western shore of Lake Maggiore belong to the region of Lombardy.

Varese is built on seven hills and is surrounded by the historic “castellanze”, which were fortified districts set outside the historic centre, once self-governing and today an integral part of the city.

A lively, busy town, Varese abounds in historical and cultural attractions, such as the ancient Castle of Masnago and the 17th century Villa Mirabello. It is also famous for its many gardens and green spaces, winning it the appellation of “garden city”. Set in the Regional Nature Park “Il Parco dei Fiori”, Varese offers a wealth of walks and trails for jogging, cycling and walking for all tastes.

The Lombard shore of Lake Maggiore is fringed with the little towns of Sesto Calende, Angera, Santa Caterina del Sasso, Laveno, Luino and Maccagno, each with attractive natural or architectural features typical of lakeside communities.

Outstanding among the historical treasures of the Lombard shore of Lake Maggiore are the Rocca di Angera, a superbly conserved medieval castle in a dominating position, and the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, a fine monastery complex dating from the 14th century, perched on a cliff above the lake.

 Rocca di Angera

 

angera

The Rocca di Angera is one of the few fortified medieval buildings still preserved in its entirety.

Perched on a limestone outcrop high above Lake Maggiore, the Castle was from the Middle Ages an important strategic point both for military reasons and for trade.

Initially the property of the Archbishop’s Revenue, the Castle was purchased by the Visconti family in 1384. When the sovereignty (the “Signoria”) of the Viscontis came to an end in 1449, the Community of the Ambrosian Republic decided to sell the Rocca to the duke’s treasurer Vitaliano Borromeo. It belongs to the Borromeo family to this day.

The Castle has an architectural style dating from the 12th and 14th centuries, and includes 5 bodies built at different periods.

Outstanding among the rooms in the Rocca is the beautiful Hall of Justice with a cycle of frescoes painted in the 12th century by the anonymous “Master of Angera” and depicting events from the life of the archbishop Ottone Visconti.

The Rocca di Angera is also home to a stunning collection of period dolls, an exhibition including dolls, toys, books, dolls’ house furniture, and board games from the 18th century to today that will surprise and delight visitors.

Open from 20 March to 17 October from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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