A day trip to the cradle of beauty: Lake Maggiore


I took another day off and went back to the Lake District of Northern Piedmont. But this time I went to Lake Maggiore. If Lake Orta is the most romantic lake, the word I can use to better describe Lake Maggiore is: beautiful.

Driving from Turin to lake Maggiore is very easy. I took the highway A4 to Milan and then turned left, after 40 minutes, on the highway A26 direction Gravellona Toce. I drove another 30 minutes and got to the lower section of the Lake, where the River Ticino runs out of it. The highway runs high over the lake, on the mountains, thus the view over it is beautiful even when you still have to actually get there.

I got out of the highway in Stresa and parked my car. That is where my day at the lake started.

Lake Maggiore is the second biggest lake of Italy, with a surface of 212 km2 , a maximum depth of 372 meters (1220 feet) and an extension of 65 km (40 miles) from Arona, in Italy, to Locarno in Switzerland. Most of the lake is in Italy and just a small portion enters the Swiss territory.

Halfway from Arona to Locarno, the Lake creates a wide inlet overlooked by the most beautiful cities and villages as Stresa, Baveno and Verbania, but most of all, it is home to 3 islands that one cannot describe otherwise than the land of magnificent beauty: Isola Madre (Mother Island), Isola Pescatori (Fishermen Island) and Isola Bella (The Beautiful Island).

Scenic view over the Isola Bella – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

I paid the fee for a boat ride to the islands and boarded in late morning.

The first stop was at Isola Madre. I didn’t get off here as I didn’t have enough time to properly explore them all, however there were people on the boat getting off here, thus the captain made a stop to drop them off. Tthe island is the biggest on the lake, covered by a very beautiful romantic garden and home to one of the Palaces of the Princes Borromeo. Italy does not recognize anymore the Noble Titles, however if your family was used to carry one, you can keep using it even if it doesn’t provide you any privilege of any sort, except that you might have inherited some important work of art or some palaces, such as the Borromeo Family.

Docking at Isola Madre – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo
The Palace on Isola Madre – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

After dropping off some passengers at Isola Madre the boat sailed towards the very unique Fishermen Island, where I got off.

Fishermen Island is small, pretty much all covered by an amazing antique low Alps village where you can still feel the life of the people who lived here on fishing centuries ago. The Village is made of just 2 very narrow alleys paved with lake stones, small inlets for the boats and a set of old Osterias, nowadays converted into restaurants for the many visitors that comes to the lake all year round, from every continent. Despite being assaulted every year by millions of visitors, the island keeps its integrity and didn’t compromise its natural and architectural beauty.

Fishermen Island – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

I took a nice stroll along the alleys and saw several souvenir shops and some others selling local stuff, mostly local products such as cheese, pasta and sauces. Then I sat outside at a nice cafè, overlooking the cities of Stresa and Baveno, ordered a glass of wine and a sandwich and simply enjoyed the view for a while.

A small garden on Fishermen Island. Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo
View of isola Madre and Fishermen Island. Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

After a light lunch I boarded the boat again to Isola Bella. It really is a very short ride, just 5 minutes. The boat docked right in front of the most amazing building on the lake: the Borromeo Palace.

The Borromeo Palace on Isola Bella – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

The palace is one of the residences of the former Princes Borromeo, and still belongs to the family, who decided to transform it into a museum. The price is quite high but the visit it really worth the price. I had been here before and visited the Palace so I decided to skip it. But you don’t do it if you go or you also will skip the astonishing terrace garden that made poets and writer madly fall in love with the place. The Garden is what makes the Island so famous and to be honest with you, I do also believe it is the most beautiful garden on the planet.

The Terrace Garden on Isola Bella – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

A big portion of the Island is covered by the Palace and its Garden, thus the village is very small, but there are some nice streets and some steps to move from one level to the next.

View over the Terrace Garden from the boat – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo
The Village on Isola Bella – Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

You might have understood there might be not so much to do here except enjoying the quiet, the view and relax before one of the most beautiful sceneries you can imagine. So just do it: relax

I had to leave before sunset this time as I had a meeting in Turin in the evening, thus I boarded the boat again and went back to Stresa, took one final picture of Isola Bella and then moved back to the car.

Before entering the highway, I decided to make a short detour to the village of Campino, located halfway to the top of the mount overlooking the lake. The view from above is simply astonishing: the lake appears before your eyes in all it might and beauty. Just enjoy it.

Scenic view over Lake Maggiore. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

All pictures in this post were taken by Gabriele Merlo, amateur photographer winner of the January 2020 competition of the London Photo Festival.

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