Lake Maggiore is a lake basin of north eastern Piedmont which borders with Lombardy and Swiss, it is the second largest among Italian  lakes after Lake Garda.

It extends for 65 Km and its maximum width is of 4,5 Km.

Figura 18: Lake Maggiore: view

Lake Maggiore’s water receiving basin is very extensive including the valleys of the Ticino and the Toce  rivers, besides that of the Maggia torrent ; moreover, it receives  even the waters of Lake Lugano through the Stresa stream, of  Lake Varese through the Bardello stream and of the Lake Mergozzo.

The only affluent is the Ticino river.

Famous for its colours and its scents Lake Maggiore offers the visitor a scenario whose beauty can be enjoyed in a new and different ways according to the season: most of all the famous islands of the Borromeo Gulf ( Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, Isola Madre, the isles of  San Giovanni and Malghera).

The three main islands may be reached by means of an efficient public navigation service.


Arona is one of  the gateways of the lake. It is a modern-looking town and an important railways junction between Central Europe and Padania. It has a shipyard for the navigation on the lake, and is a centre of commerce and industry as well as of tourism. It is important historically, too. The port is enclosed between  two big towers which frame the fortress of Angera and the boats in it  are one characteristic of  lake Maggiore. These boats, called SCAVE are short and wide, with a sail in the middle and they are not out of place among  the modern motor-boats sleek dinghies which crowd the lake like a schoal of fish.


This fortress was the nest  of iron and stone where Carlo Borromeo was born. There were also many convents, such as the Benedictines, which is now a college. In 1604 a manuscript of the “Imitation of Christ” was discovered. Now it is known as the “Arona Code”; it is perhaps the most famous book next to the Old and New Testament. The visitor should observe the solid and well-planned structure of Arona, that is the octagonal pillars and pointed arches of the Palace of Justice of the Visconti. Another thing to notice is the steeple of the Collegiate church in superimposed styles from Romanesque, with its miniature overhanging arches to the Baroque spire. Inside the church there is a polyptych of the holy family by Gaudenzio Ferrari.


In the tourist records of Stresa many crowned heads are to be found: the King of Wurttemberg, the King and Queen of England; artists, philosophers such as Rosmini. Since 1862 the masterpiece has been the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees which is even today the best hotel in Piedmont. It was built on a suitable site called “vine of the shore” to the east of the kiosk or seraglio. Contemporarily with it the Post Office was opened on one side of the building. The hotel was originally intended to be more like a house for the tourist, its organisation offered services, comfort and privacy. Nowadays prevails the idea of a townhotel, a kind of machine-for-hospitality.

At Villa Pallavicino the local cultivation was substituted by  that of other exotic plants, which mysteriously but perfectly adjusted themselves to the local climate. Villa Pallavicino at Stresa, the Borromee Isles, Villa Taranto at Pallanza show how plants from northern and tropical regions can coexist in the Verbanese atmosphere, which in a wider way, reminds us of the prodigy of the microclimates on the slopes of the Alps.



Lake Orta lies to the west of Lake Maggiore. The whole area around Lake Orta can boast good, hotels and camp sites; there are also exellent restaurants, sports club, and beaches. There is a pubblic navigational service on the Lake. In summer the boats also offer evening cruises on the Lake between Orta, the Isle of San Giulio, Pella and Pettenasco. Overlooking the centre of Orta stands Sacro Monte, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi , patron saint  of  Italy.

19 – The Isle of San Giulio

The Isle of San Giulio rises in the centre  of the Lake.

A road leads up from the crossroads  at Orta  amid chestnut groves  to Miasino, a quiet summer  resort.

Next comes Armeno , a lovely summer  holiday resort in a sunny panoramical position . From Armeno there is  a road going down towards  Stresa  and Baveno on  Lake Maggiore , and one up to Mottarone , the highest mountain between the two lakes that in winter is a ski resort.

Ameno is another summer  resort , dominated by  the large park  and gardens of Villa  Monte Oro.

Farther along the shore of the Lake , past the crossroads at Orta , is Pettenasco , a popular holiday  resort  with water sports amenities , hotels  and camp sites , art exibitions and   cultural  events are held at Casa  Medievale.

Proceeding  north, towards the  Ossola  valley, a road leads to Casale   Corte  Cerro  , and then  down to Gravellona Toce , an important industrial centre.

The Quarna and Valstrona  valleys can be reached from Omegna..

Well   worn paths lead from every  locality in Valstrona  for excursions  to pastures and peaks  rising above 2000 metres which offer a wide panorama of the last wall of  Monte Rosa , the Swiss Alps, Ossola the hills  and the plains.

Orta San Giulio

It has a very pleasant climate, made mild by the presence of the lake. The most important buildings of the town are the Palazzo della Comunità of the 16th century, and the parish church, of the 15th century. At a little more than a kilometre away there is the interesting Holy Hill (Sacro Monte) a wooded hill with a religious complex made up of around twenty chapels dedicated to Saint Francesco, put up between the 16th and the 18th centuries and decorated with frescoes and sculptures. The square of the town has a breezy perspective towards the lake, which appears to be its magic continuation up to the scenery of San Giulio. Between the lake and the town there is a perfect union of silence.