Things to do around Lake Maggiore

Emilio Alessandro Manzotti – Roomorama blog

City Guides: Around Lake Maggiore

Emilio grew up around the Lake Maggiore area. He is founder of Book Tribu, a community of writers, illustrators and readers. Emilio is also a writer himself, and has published a novel, Arrow. We ask him to tell us more about Lake Maggiore, and things to see around the lake.

What kind of traveller are you?

I travelled a lot for business, working for both Italian and multi-national companies. I visited many European capitals for work, and would devote a few hours in the evenings on my business trips, to get to know traits more typical of the city.

I like to follow a path of exploration, seeking out all forms of art in the city, and enjoy the local specialties. I also love to meet the local people to exchange experiences and open my eyes to different views of the world.

What are some of your must-do's when you travel?

First of all, to be in good company! I have a wonderful daughter who is 10 years old, whom I have carried around the world; I have a beautiful extended family; and now, with my girlfriend and our two boys, we travel for both culture and fun.

I always plan a clear route and itinerary. I like to follow a cultural path, and at the same time make time for rest and entertainment in order to make the journey not only beautiful, but also rejuvenating.

Finally, I also must try local restaurants and always try to relax and enjoy the city in the early hours of the evening.

What are your 5 travel essentials?

  • Sun!
  • A backpack on my shoulders that contains a sweater, for when night falls, and a raincoat if it rains.
  • iPhone at hand, to take photographs: I like to build memories of my children!
  • Map: I prefer to have one of those good old maps with wrinkles, using the iPhone only when I am forced to, behind the wheel of a car!
  • A lightweight and pocket-sized book, for moments of relaxation. I've always loved learning new things and books have been a wonderful tool to stimulate my reflection, and also the taste for adventure... what is a better form of travel than the journey to somewhere unknown?

I've listed 5, but I also definitely need a notebook, for when I feel the absolute need to write.

If there was one celebrity vacation home you would like to live in for a week, Whose would it be, and why?

This is a difficult question. As a dream holiday home, I'd like to have one made of stone and wood, on a cliff, surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation, with a swimming pool, not far from the village and a small private cove that has a beach. And of course, since I am dreaming, it would also be lovely to have a holiday chalet in the mountains, near ski slopes, with a warm fireplace and large windows with views of the mountain tops.

Too trivial? Then a loft in the heart of London, in Soho, would be perfect!

Back to reality, then I have to say that I like my house, a small house in the Apennines of Reggio Emilia - surrounded by hills, visited by friends who come to read, write and rest!

You grew up near Lake Maggiore. What is Lake Maggiore famous for?

The Lake Maggiore is an enchanting place, surrounded by the Alps bordering Switzerland, with banks of different morphology of the territory and culture, belonging to two Italian regions: Piedmont and Lombardy.

Worth visiting are the Borromeo Islands: Isola Madre, Isola Bella, and Isola Pescatori. As a child, I often went to the botanical gardens of Isola Madre and found few jetty out of sight of tourists, I mounted quickly my fishing rod to catch perch, the most valuable fish from the lake.

What is there to do around Lake Maggiore?


There are several castles in the area - I recommend the Castles of Cannero.

Visit some beautiful villas around the lake - do not miss Villa Pallavicino and Villa Taranto.

There are some lovely botanical gardens on Isola Madre and Isola Bella.

Isola Madre Gardens Isola Bella Gardens

Pictured above: Isola Madre Gardens (credit: Isole Borromeo), Isola Bella Gardens and Teatro Massimo (credit: Isole Borromeo)

There are plenty of nature reserves and protected areas - locals often go on a trip to the Sacred Mount of the Holy Trinity of Ghiffa.

The Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo, over Arona and near Stresa, a town with beautiful hotels and a lakeside that is perfect for a romantic walk.

And finally ... Mottarone, for those who love to ski, but also Macugnaga, the pearl of Monte Rosa!

Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo Mottarone Macugnaga

Pictured above: Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo (credit: Atlas Obscura), Mottarone (credit: Lago Maggiore Guide), Macugnaga (credit: macugnaga-monterosa)

What would a typical day be like for you in your hometown?

I enjoy biking to explore the banks of the lake looking for some place to fish for perch, or trace the streams - San Giovanni and San Bernardino - hoping to catch some trout for sale in the restaurants for tourists.

In the afternoons, sunbathing by swimming pools overlooking the lake, and finally evening, strolling along the lake with friends.

For travelers visiting for a few days, I would suggest stopping at Intra and spend the morning to tour the lake by boat. Make a stop at Isola Madre to walk the the botanical gardens, then take the same ferry to Isola Pescatori for lunch.

In the afternoon, take the ferry to Stresa and end the day with a walk along the lakeside of Pallanza.

Isola Madre – Roomorama blog Pallanza – Roomorama blog

What are the most beautiful places to see around Lake Maggiore?

I lived in Intra and I had friends in nearby Pallanza. These are the two places where I grew up and of which are closest to my heart. Of course, they are, objectively speaking, very beautiful towns, so I highly recommend passing through for a day at least. From Intra, you can catch the ferry and cross the lake to the Lombard side of Lake Maggiore. From there, you can easily drive to Switzerland, or visit other towns on the Lombard side of the lake.

If at all possible, I would suggest that you experience the lake perhaps with a bike, and move from Intra in the direction of Switzerland to reach the Castello di Cannero. Or, from Pallanza, along the Lake Mergozzo. Or climb to Intra towards Saltino and its beautiful waterfall.

In all these locations, you cycle between creeks, patches of fragrant shrubs (especially in spring), lake fronts with flowering camellias, and restaurants and bars with their typical Italian flair.

Lake Maggiore – Roomorama blog Lake Maggiore – Roomorama blog

Can you recommend some towns or cities to stop and stay for a night?

My recommendation would be to take the route from Milan towards Locarno (Switzerland), through the town of Stresa, Pallanza, and Intra.

Could you recommend some of your favorite places to eat and drink around Lake Maggiore?

There are beautiful places on the lake where you can taste the specialties of the area. Follow the advice of locals, and even if the lake fish is very different from that of the sea we are used to, I suggest you try some recipes and be surprised by what you discover.

What activities can someone visiting do there?

As you can see above all tourism, including food and wine, but for athletes there are lots of possibilities: mountain biking, canoeing, windsurfing, fishing and skiing during the winter.

Stylish places to stay near Lake Maggiore

This studio apartment in Luino is ideal for a couple seeking a quiet retreat from the hustle-bustle of city life.

Short term rentals in Lake Maggiore – Roomorama Weekly rentals in Lake Maggiore – Roomorama Holiday rentals in Lake Maggiore – Roomorama

Visiting Lake Maggiore? Check out more places to stay on Roomorama.