The lakeside town of Cannobio is one of the most attractive towns on the western shores of Lake Maggiore, and is towards the northern end of the lake (in Italy but close to the border with Switzerland).
Italy This Way comment: the harbour area and the lake-front promenade is particularly lovely in Cannobio, with attractively pastel painted houses along the main part of the promenade which is probably the most attractive on Lake Maggiore.
Start your visit on the waterfront in Cannobio, certainly the highlight of your visit to the town.
The long promenade along the lake is divided into three sections, with the harbour and most activity in the middle section. Along the waterfront there is also a wide choice of bars and restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy the views across the lake, as well as large wide steps just left of the harbour which are a popular place to eat an ice cream or enjoy a picnic.
Beyond one end of the harbour you can see the Sanctuary della Pieta, the main church in Cannobio and dating from the first half of the 16th century.
There is an interesting story surrounding the Pieta painting in Cannobio: in the Middle Ages the painting apparently started to miraculously bleed, which coincided with the village being spared from the plague that hit other nearby villages at that time. As a result of this miracle, on the orders of Cardinal Charles Borromeo (who also gave his name to the Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore) the sanctuary was built to hold the painting.
In the old part of the town just behind the promenade the main pleasure is in simply strolling along the narrow cobbled streets taking in the lively atmosphere and window-shopping. It is also here on viale Antonio Giovanna, the main street through the historic centre, that you can find Cannobio tourist office in the Palazzo della Ragione, from 1291, and the medieval Casa Pironi.
Close to here you can see the 13th century Palazzo Parasi, a charming small palace with arcades at the ground level. The palazzo was built in 1291 and for several centuries was the centre of local government. It is also here that you can see the belltower, a roman style tower that is 41 metres high and completed at the beginning of the 13th century (although the spire was only added in the 19th century).
One important monument here in the historic centre of Cannobio is the Collegiate Church of San Vittore, with the current church dating from 1749, although earlier smaller churches stood in the same location. The facade was rebuilt in the 19th century. Inside the church there is a main altar as well as six side altars.
West of here another small church is the Church of Saint-Marta, built in the 16th century. The altar is the main feature inside the church The statue in the small piazza next to the church represents Saint Peter and was erected in 1900.
The popularity of Cannobio is also due to the beach close to the town centre which is among the nicest on Lake Maggiore and has received the Blue Flag for cleanliness, and activities such as sailing, kite-surfing and mountain biking are all available here or elsewhere in the town. This small beach bcomes remarkably busy on a hot summer day!
Attractions close to Cannobio
We recommend you follow the trail (by bike or on foot) that follows an eight kilometre loop inland from the lido along the side of a small river called the Torrente Cannobino and to a small church called Orrido di S. Anna. Your children will enjoy the 'bouncing bridge' (a footbridge that wobbles up and down) about one kilometre along the path! If it is too hot for walking you can drive to the western end of Cannobio and park for free near the church.
Another walk leaves to the south of Cannobio to reach the small medieval village of Carmine Superiore, on the shores of lake Maggiore and with an imposing 14th century church and the ruins of a castle. More ambitious hikers will find numerous trails that continue up into the mountains behind the town - ask at the tourist office for details.
To the north of the town there are several other small villages that you will enjoy visiting such as Cinzago, Ronco, Sant'Agata and Socragno.
Elsewhere around the shores of Lake Maggiore there is a lot to enjoy, including the gardens and villas of the Borromean Islands to the south of Cannobio, and ferries can take you to most of the popular places. See the Lake Maggiore guide for details.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Piedmont guide.