The Queen of Lake Maggiore, Stresa, has been a holiday resort for more than 100 years and boasts Liberty style buildings, a lakeside beach and a cable car up Mount Mottarone for amazing views over the Borromeo islands. It is a resort of culture and visitors shouldn’t miss Villa Ducale: dating from the late 18th century, the villa was once owned by Italian philosopher Antonio Rosmini-Serbati and now houses the International Centre for Rosminian Studies. Villa dell’ Orta, built in 1900, was commissioned by the painter Liberto dell' Orto and designed by Boffi, and the large grounds around Villa Pallavicino, just outside Stresa, are now the site of a zoological park.
Located on the west shore of Lake Maggiore is the gorgeous lakeside town of Baveno. With its magnificent views and fantastic parkland surroundings, Baveno is perfect for things to do in Lake Maggiore which centre on relaxing and enjoying the stunning scenery of the Italian Lakes.
There are three islands that make up Lake Maggiore’s Borromeo Islands. With each island boasting its own unique qualities, island trips are one of the best things to do in Lake Maggiore to help discover the area. On Isola Bella there’s a Baroque palace with paintings by great masters plus beautiful terraced gardens. Isola Madre, the largest, is a thickly wooded haven with gardens of exotic plants and flowers where white peacocks and pheasants roam freely, and Isola dei Pescatori with its simple rustic houses and narrow streets boasts excellent fish restaurants. Shimmering in the centre of Lake Orta, the mystical Isla San Giulio makes for a great day trip and visitors will delight in the narrow street that circles the island, and the church with its ancient frescoes: the oldest dating back to 1421.
Although Rome is obviously the capital, Milan prides itself on being Italy’s economic, cultural and design capital. For those still looking for things to do in Lake Maggiore, Milan is easy to access from the Lakes. It is fashionable and sophisticated, and boasts prestigious museums, excellent restaurants and cafés, elegant boutique lined avenues, bustling markets and a magnificent Gothic cathedral. The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is a jewel of Renaissance architecture and houses Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and, of course, there’s the revered La Scala with a museum that traces the fascinating history of opera including memorabilia of composers Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti.