Like the other northern Italian lakes, Lake Maggiore’s credentials as a tourist destination go back a long way. The early twentieth century saw a spate of illustrious visitors enjoying themselves in luxurious lakeside villas and verdant gardens.
The most popular Lake Maggiore resorts are on the western shores of the lake. Stresa is a lovely town with beautiful villas and gardens (some open to the public), a good climate and lake views. From the town a cablecar takes you up Monte Mottarone, where from a height of over 4,000 ft you can enjoy views of the Alps and the other lakes.
If you spend time at Lake Maggiore, you will soon become familiar with the name of the Borromeo family, who still own the islands named after them. Their most celebrated scion, St Charles Borromeo, was born in the castle in Arona, at the southern end of the west shore. A gigantic statue in the town celebrates San Carlo; if you climb up inside the hollow structure, you can admire the view through the Saint’s eyes.
The Borromean Islands are unmissable Lake Maggiore tourist attractions. There are three open to the public, containing beautiful gardens, small settlements and restaurants.