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Lake Maggiore – Mediterranean Atmosphere in Northern Italy

Impressive cliffs, delicate islands, the beautiful peaks of the Alps and idyllic beaches are significant features of Lake Maggiore. The region around the Upper Italian lake is particularly known for its great range of leisure activities but culture does not go short either as you also find luxurious villas and palaces as well as historical churches and monasteries.

View of Lake Maggiore

Geography - The second greatest Italian lake

Lake Maggiore (Italian: Lago Maggiore) is a lake in the north of Italy, which lies in the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy (80,1 %) as well as in the Swiss Canton of Ticino (19,9 %). With an area of 212.5 km², 372 metres of depth, 66 kilometres of length and 10 kilometres of width, Lake Maggiore is the country's second largest lake after Lake Garda. It extends from the Po Valley to the southern Alps and emerged during the melting of the ice age glaciers. Its drainage area amounts to 6,386 km² (3,326 km² of Switzerland, 3,060 of km² Italy). Due to its geographical position at the edge of the Alps, the lake is well-shielded from the cold wind coming from the north. This is also the reason why the lake's surroundings are mostly dominated by sub-Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm summers.

Lake Maggiore at dusk

Nature - Impressive cliffs and five small islands

Lake Maggiore's shores are dominated by high cliffs and native nature in the north-east, while beautiful villas and trim gardens characterise the environment further west. One of the lakes most important tributaries is the river Ticino. It issues into Lake Maggiore near Magadino in the north before it leaves the lake again near Villagi in the south. Other significant rivers which issue into Lake Maggiore are the Maggia and the Toce, which is 76 kilometres long. The inland water is also characterised by several islands with the Borromean Islands (named after their former owner, the Borromeo family) as the best-known example. Five islands - Isola Bella, Isola die Pescatori, Isola La Malghera, Isola San Giovanni, Isola Madre - decorate the lake's surface at its widest point between the towns of Stresa and Verbania. The biggest one among them is Isola Madre with a size of about eight hectares, which accommodates a botanic garden. While the second biggest island Isola Bella, which holds a magnificent palace (Palazzo Borromeo) and a garden, is one of the region's main tourist attractions, Isola dei Pescatori (also called Isola Superiore, populated since the 14th century) has remained simple and authentic.

Popular island at Lake Maggiore

Culture - Villas, fishermen's villages, palaces and monasteries

Around and on Lake Maggiore, you see small fishermen's villages, rural houses, magnificent villas as well as many worthwhile towns and places. One of them is the town of Verbania, which is the greatest town at the lake and fascinates with luxurious villas like Villa Taranto, Villa Giulia or Villa San Remigio. The spa town of Stresa also accommodates beautiful villas as well as two palaces (Palazzo Borromeo Isola Bella, Palazzo Borromeo Isola Madre) on the Borromean Islands, which are decorated with artworks, furniture, statues and mouldings. The castle Castelli di Cannero (the former retreat of the Mazzarditi family) was built on two small islands and you can still see its ruins from the lakeside. Other popular tourist attractions are the copper statue of Charles Borromeo in Arona, the chapels of the Sacred Mountain of Ghiffa (Sacro Monte di Ghiffa), which belong to the Sacri Monti and are therefore part of the World Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO, as well as the stone-cut monastery Santa Caterina del Sasso.

Rock-cut monastery

Experience - Gorgonzola, risotto and ham

The hearty cuisine at Lake Maggiore uses local ingredients and impresses with its simplicity and nativeness. Types of cheese such as Gorgonzola, goat's cheese and the Alpine cheese Bettelmatt, different kinds of risotto prepared with rice from the Piedmont plain, ham, honey from Novara or the Ossola Valley as well as fish and wine are characteristic of the region. Visitors can buy culinary products, for example as souvenirs for friends and family, on the internationally known Luino Market. It takes place every Wednesday and is the most important market at Lake Maggiore. You can buy food, clothes, leather and ceramic ware at over 350 stalls.

Gorgonzola cheese

Activities - Sailing and surfing on as well as hiking around the lake

Lake Maggiore offers a variety of leisure activities. On the one hand, the lake is a paradise for water sports like bathing, swimming surfing, sailing or fishing. On the other hand, travellers can enjoy the scenic landscapes around the lake on a round trip on a steamer. The surrounding mountains and valleys offer excellent conditions for going hiking, cycling or climbing. Popular destinations are the Cannobino Valley (Valle Cannobina), the pilgrimage route of the Sacred Mountain of Ghiffa and Val Grande National Park, Italy's greatest wildlife park. Travellers who are looking for a rush of adrenaline can go on a sightseeing flight over the Alps in a helicopter, go parachuting, paragliding or bungee jumping. The Valle Verzasca in Switzerland is particularly suited for the latter activity because it has a bungee jumping facility of 220 metres of height, which was used as a shooting location for the James Bond film "Golden Eye". Furthermore, there are several towns with beautiful golf courses, for example Arona, Ascona, Locarno, Premeno and Stresa.

Water sports on Lake Maggiore


Due to the mild climate, Lake Maggiore is a popular travel destination throughout the year. Thanks to its convenient position in Northern Italy, it can easily be reached by car, bus, train or plane.

A trip to Lake Maggiore is of particular interest to active holidaymakers. In addition to the wide range of leisure activities, the magnificent palaces and delicate gardens as well as the mild climate create the perfect mix of sport, culture and relaxation.

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