Cannobio is the most northern Italian town on the western bank of the lake, just a few kilometers from the Border with Switzerland.
It is one of the stops on the route of the public boats that go from Locarno to Arona and back.
Far more picturesque and quiet than its Swiss neighbours Locarno and Ascona (which are in fact considerably bigger towns) Cannobio can be a very good place for a holiday. Here one can easily combine the attractions of the lake with those of the mountains, because from Cannobio departs a road that goes up into the mountains, soon reaching the wilderness of the Parco Nazionale della Valgrande, with hiking paths and beautiful views.
The most appropriate adjective to describe this small island is "unique". Picturesque villages with a waterfront can be found in many other places, the same can be said about stately mansions in the baroque style and formal gardens, but finding them all together on a tiny island is not common at all. Add the fact that there is a very scenic landscape all around, and you will understand how the Isola Bella earned its fame and why I call it unique.
I have posted more information in my Isola Bella page, because it is a location with its own page on VT.
I have a special liking for this village, in the northern part of the lake. In fact I have already spent three springtime holidays there, and I have dedicated to Cannero Riviera a detailed page on VT.
There are visitors and vacationers here, but not much of mass-tourism: the road and the parking places are not suitable for many tourist buses, the hotels are not big and there are no congress centres.
Fondest memory: I have chosen Cannero for my springtime breaks because of its very relaxing atmosphere and its amazing beauty. Almost everything that one considers typical of Lago Maggiore can be found there: palms, flowers, villas, a panoramic promenade, old houses and narrow alleys, and cats playing the role of the legitimate owners of all this.
Among the towns on the banks of Lago Maggiore Stresa is the most famous. This is because it was chosen in the 19th century as a holiday resort by the richest families of Milan, and foreigners soon followed their example. This explain the number of villas nestling in the green of the mountain, and the luxurious hotels on the lake-front.
A stroll along the promenade of Stresa, with its beautiful view of the Borrromee islands, is considered a must for all those who visit the lake.
If you want to learn more about this town you will find tips and pictures in my Stresa page.
The name I have written in the title is the one always used by people when they refer to this island of the Borromee trio, but its official name is Isola Superiore. It is important to know this for a very practical reason: Isola Superiore is the name used in the timetable of the boats that operate the public service on the lake, so those who don't know this may get the impression that the public service does not carry passenger to the Isola dei Pescatori.
On this small island, situated close to Isola Bella, you will find a picturesque village and an exceptional concentration of restaurants. Unlike the other Borromee islands, there are no museums, palaces or botanical gardens, so there is no fee to pay.
Of the three Isole Borromee, this is the one I like best. It can be honestly described as a paradise for the senses: the beauty of its park, rich in flowers and exotic plants, is matched by the beauty of its birds and by the sweet smells. In fact the flowers and plants have been selected also for their fragrance. You will find more tips and pictures of the Isola Madre in the "Things To Do" section.
Fondest memory: Walking at leisure in the park of the Isola Madre you are always sure that wherever you turn your eyes you will meet beauty of some sort.
Baveno is one of the towns that enjoy the most beautiful view of the Isole Borromee. I know people who have been there for business meetings and small conventions, and they all told me that it is hard to think about work when you are surrounded by so much beauty.
I read in a biography of Winston Churchill that Baveno is where he and his wife, Clementine, spent their honeymoon.
Together with Stresa, this is where one could choose to stay, to have a room with a view.
I'm thinking for a while to find A favorite thing but its difficult. The lake is beautiful all over, you can take a car and go around and stop anywhere it seems nice - you will feel the need to stop all the time.
Stressa / Baveno area is a beautiful place, with a lot of spots where you can have a coffee beside the bank, relax and enjoy watching the boats passing by to visit the islands.
Lago Maggiore is a touristy place BUT It seemed something like "wealthier" (the buildings, the restaurants, the green bank, even the people) than the more preffered Como or Lugano lakes nearby.
Favorite thing: On a late Saturday afternoon we were caught in a storm in Angera. We were at the cape where the navigazione dock is, and suddenly the sky went black, the lead coloured lake with the gloomy skies made an intense contrast to the bright green lawn, boats and sea gulls... the wind howled, and there was nobody around... it was spooky but extremely beautiful and exciting, one of the most memorable moments on the lake...
What to say about Isola Bella, too many expectations might produce the huge disappoitment, that is what happened to me. Half of the island is turned into the park which is the kingdom of the ungracefulness. There is too much of this and that in the park and instead of being green oasis and place for relax, it looks like an cartoon.
Another half is taken by the Palazzo Borromeo which is of very huge proportions, in my opinion, unappropriate for such a small island.
Favorite thing: Isola dei Pescatori (the Fishermen's Island) is my favourite place on Lago Maggiore, it reminds me alot to Burano. The island is so small that you can walk it, side to side, in less then ten minutes. You wont find any square inside the place, and that is what surprised me the most when strolling around. The "main" street of the place is narrow, full of small shops and restaurants, and very very pitoresque. It was unique experience sitting out on the stone-banch in front of an house and chatting with the locals. I had to taste their grappa which is very strong. After spending couple of hours here in the company of very friendly locals, who btw offered me to stay for free during the night, I knew I'll be back here again.
I wasn't impressed much by the look of Stresa found it totally unattractive for my travelling interests. There is only one historical sight in the town which is worth of note. What "impressed" me alot were the prices in cafe-bars and for ice-cream, almost 50% higher then those on Lago di Garda.
Stresa is an combination of luxury type hotel resorts and beautiful villas situated up on the hills. The main attractions of the place are the Borromeo Islands which, in my opinion, belongs more to the whole lake then to the Stresa only.
The huge medieval complex of the castle Angera is situated is situated on the opposite shore of the lake.
Fondest memory: The best time to visit, both Arona and Angera, is in September, when famous sports event called the Crossing of the Lake is taking place. It is one kilometre non competitive challenge, worth of seeing.
Arona is, besides Isola dei Pescatori, the only place on Lago Maggiore which I like. It has an rather small and well preserved medieval structure, which is partly disfigured by the contemporary architecture.
Fondest memory: The area around Piazza del Popolo, up to Piazza San Graziano is in particularly beautiful. Northern part of this area is closed by Piazza de Filippi up to Via San Carlo.
Favorite thing: It is amazing what a great variety of vegetation you can find at Maggiore. From tropical to alpine flora, from palms and bamboo to pines and oaks. In the autumn there is the biggest parade of colours, that look really impressive on the blue water background, the colour fair is at its best in the low tourist season, don't miss!