Lake Maggiore is one of the popular 'Lombardy lakes' of northern Italy. The 65+ kilometre long lake runs north through the Lombardy and Piedmont region and across the border to Locarno in Switzerland.
The lake nestles in a valley surrounded forested slopes and mountains whcih make it very scenic - and a very popular summer destination with visitors.
The western coast of the lake is the most popular, and includes the main town on the lake at Stresa (in Piedmont region), and access to the lake islands.
Stresa is an elegant town on the western banks of Lake Maggiore, with lots of attractive gardens and fine villas (several of them now luxurious looking hotels) to admire, and a pretty promenade along the waterfront.
The cable car from behind Stresa can carry you up Monte Mottarone (1491m) for spectacular views across the lakes and mountains.
Numerous other small towns are found around the coast of the lake, many worth a promenade and an explore. As well as those in Italy - we particularly recommend Verbania and Cannabio although many others have their own charm - you can visit Lucarno (on the lake in Switzerland).
The most popular of the lake islands is part of the Isole Borromee group of islands just off from Stresa and is is the island of Isola Bella, with the grand baroque style villa and gardens of 17th century Palazzo Borromeo, and a very picturesque small village with narrow cobbled streets winding between ancient houses that are found on the island.
Note: a substantial part of the palace was constructed more recently, but using the same baroque - neoclassical techniques.
The opulently decorated interior of the palace and its many artworks and tapestries comes as quite a contrast after passing through the streets of the village! The 'cave rooms' below the palace are also fascinating, with relatively modest rooms decorated with various sea themes.
The baroque style gardens of the palace are also particularly impressive, running in terraces down to the sea and featuring many statues, water features and impressive plant arrangements. This is a very picturesque island and a visit to explore its harbour and old village center is highly recommended and a highlight of a visit to Lake Maggiore.
A couple of the smaller islands can also be visited, including Isola Madre with its botanical gardens and 18th century villa, and Isol dei Pescatori, with a small traditional village occupying almost the entire small island.