This second largest lake in Italy is partly in Switzerland. The river Ticino is the most famous river of the many who fill the lake with (melt) water from the Alps and also ensures that the water leaves the lake and then empties into the Po.
Lago Maggiore, also called Lago Verbania, is a fjord-like lake created by a glacier. It is quite large, 66km long and has an area of 212km2.
It is situated on the south side of the Alps, flanked in the west by the Piedmont region and in the east by Lombardy. The area has mild winters and pleasant temperatures in the summer.
Besides Swiss cities like Locarno, the Italian Luino, Sesto Calende, Verbania and Arona are worthwhile to visit.
In the lake there are several islands, the Borromean islands, of which Isola Bella is the tourist attraction. From Stresa you can see the islands well and from there in season boats depart regularly to these islands.
Tourism started here early on. In the 19th century, many Englishmen already built their summer residences and laid out gardens. The traces of that are still visible.
If you want to drive from the north side to the south side, it is advisable to take the travel time well, because sometimes it can be quite meandering and the roads can not be labeled wide everywhere, in fact they can be quite narrow. We drove from Switzerland as much as possible along the lake on the eastern side to our reserved apartment. It was a beautiful ride. Parking space along the route for a break (read: enjoy the view) spot was not for the taking.
We stayed in the village of Ranco on the southeastern shore of the big lake. From the bedroom we could catch a glimpse of the water level, because the village lies a bit against a mountain and therefore has height differences. Ranco is a village with about 1,000 inhabitants and is relatively quiet. For more fun we went to Angera where the castle Rocca di Angera is the eye-catcher. On the promenade we had the first pizza of our trip while enjoying the view of Arona. The lake here is fairly narrow.
In the meantime we had become curious about Arona. After half an hour of driving we parked the car at one of the free parking places. We had a wonderful walk and got to know it as a cute place. It has an old core with a shopping street covered with colorful umbrellas and an attractive waterfront where, surprisingly, you can admire Angera with the Rocca.
We loved Stresa and Pallanza. Lively, cozy places with beautiful buildings and views. Here you can really see that the happy few used to take their trips here.
On the east side we visited Luino. This town is right on the shores of the lake and there happened to be a market that day. There are plenty of markets around. Every day you can visit markets in several places. Often the cars of the market vendors are equipped with gigantic fold-out party tent-like screens, so that you do not get sunstroke during shopping. Luino has an attractive pedestrian promenade and the ice creams taste great, just like in the other towns.
Varese is a few kilometers east of the lake. The city was smaller than we thought in advance. We were informed at the tourist office in the center. With the map in our hand we made a nice walk along shopping streets, squares and villas. On the way we had a nice lunch. Normally we skip lunch when we travel, we take a hearty breakfast and we eat our main meal late in the afternoon, but you can not get away with it. The restaurants here close after lunch and do not open for dinner before half past seven in the evening. We have adjusted and now have lunch around two o’clock as the main meal of the day, after a brief breakfast. In the evening we ate a salad and/or bread in the apartment. Lovers of fast food companies are not well catered for in this region; an Italian likes extensive and attentive dining.
A place slightly north of Ranco is called Ispra. It is not quite interesting, were it not for the largest Joint Research Center of the European Commission to be located on the site of the former Euratom research center.
We also visited the lakes Lago Mergozzo and Lago d’Orta. These are a lot smaller, but quieter and no less picturesque.
We have enjoyed and got a good impression of this environment. Of course we had too limited time, because we would like to have taken the cable car from Stresa to the top of the Mottarone (1.491 meters). Perhaps we can combine that on one of our future trips with other parts of Italy, because for example Rome, Venice, Florence, the other big lakes, Milan and Tuscany are certainly on our todo-list!