Leonardo Bongiorno, son of Mike, tells us all about Lake Maggiore, where his family owns a beautiful villa: a guide of the area full of restaurants, hotels and shops he likes and he usually goes to, for a trip faraway from touristic routes
WHAT TO VISIT AND WHAT TO DO
Villa Pallavicino Botanic Park (Via Sempione Sud, 8, 38838 Stresa (VB), tel. 0323 31533)
Stresa is a graceful town lying on the lake’s bank that you absolutely need to visit, and what you really cannot miss is the botanic park of Villa Pallavicino, extended on more than 20 hectares, that hosts a zoological garden with more than 40 species of exotic animals. The villa is not visitable inside but from its terrace you can admire a great panorama on the lake.
There are 3 Borromeo islands, the ‘Isola Madre’, the ‘Isola dei Pescatori’ and the ‘Isola Bella’. The best way to admire them in all their splendor is to hire a boat at the Stresa pier and have a ride around them. The ‘Isola Madre’ has only a palace and a church and it’s not open every day, so you might admire it just from the lake. Contrariwise you shall have a walk on the ‘isola dei Pescatori’ and have lunch in one of the many restaurants (we suggest Hotel Verbano). But what you cannot miss is the ‘Isola Bella’ where the stunning palace and the fairy gardens are definitely a must. Such a beautiful thing, even in Italy, is not easy to find.
The small Lake d’Orta, with the St. Julius island in its center, could be a valid excursion from Lake Maggiore. Orta San Giulio, Omegna and many other characteristic villages constellate its banks. This lake is considered Europe’s cleanest one and there are many beach facilities all around it.
San Carlo Borromeo Statue (Piazzale San Carlo, 28041 Arona (NO))
Built in the ‘600 in honor of St. Carlo Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, it has been for centuries the highest statue in the world. Nowadays, it’s the second highest after the Liberty Statue of New York. The colosso is linked to the center of Arona (that you must see) by an electric and very panoramic little train.
Santa Caterina Hermitage (Via Santa Caterina, 13, 21038 Leggiuno (VA), Italia)
Ecclesiastical hermitage perched on the rock of the Lombardy shore of the lake. You can visit the hermitage together with the Borromeo islands because it’s also reachable by boat. The place gives a sensational peace and the time seems to have stopped to when it was inhabited by monks and it was off to the public. It’s better to go during weekdays because it’s less crowded and the less people there are, the more you can get the true essence of the monastery.
Cannobio is a pleasant village located few kilometers away from the Switzerland border. Walking through its narrow streets you can find beautiful medieval palaces, and a couple of beautiful churches. While getting here you have to stop to admire the Cannero castle, a half submerged castle that is one of the most panoramic spots in the entire area. Have lunch at the Grottino Scurone, where you can taste good typical food and you can buy genuine local products.