For generations of overland travellers, weary of journeying over the Alps, LAKE MAGGIORE (Lago Maggiore) has been a first taste of Italy: the sight of limpid blue waters, green hills and exotic vegetation is evidence of arrival in the warm south. With palms and oleanders lining the lakeside promenades and a peaceful, serene air, Maggiore – at 66km, Italy’s longest lake – may not be somewhere for thrill-seekers, but it is seductively relaxing.

The majority of tourists head for the western shore, from where the sumptuous gardens and villas of the Borromean islands are within easy reach. The area retains much of its charm: the genteel old resort of Stresa is still a convenient base, linked by high-speed train to Milan (1hr) and by bus and boat to all points around the lake. Across the bay, pretty Verbania is also well connected by train, bus and ferry, while further north, enchanting Cannobio – the last stop before Switzerland – is popular with families and a good place from which to explore Maggiore’s hilly hinterland. The highlight of Maggiore’s eastern shore is Santa Caterina del Sasso, a tiny monastery hewn out of the rock face, although there’s also good hiking into the hills behind the more northern villages. Note that in winter (Nov–Easter) many hotels around the lake close down and attractions may be shut.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Italy features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Where to find the best beaches in Italy

Where to find the best beaches in Italy

From secluded coves to lively seafronts, there are plenty of places to sun worship in Italy. But with an increasing number of hotels charging for access to the …

20 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook