It’s always a pleasure to share Guest Posts from like-minded people. When Jo from Bookings For You and I exchanged our life stories I instantly liked her. She has a passion for Italy (like me!) this beloved Country that rivals my own. I asked if she could share her experience of Lake Maggiore:
When travellers think about the Italian Lakes as a holiday destination, the most obvious areas that spring immediately to mind are nearly always Lake Garda and Lake Como.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that these lakes are uppermost in people’s minds.
After all, Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian Lakes and, as well as numerous picturesque lakeside villages to explore along its shores, it also has the lure of some big cities to attract visitors in. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from both Venice and Verona which between them attract well over 20 million visitors each year. And, for those with children, Lake Garda is also famous for it’s amusement park – Gardaland – Italy’s answer to Disneyland.
Whilst Como may not be as large (at 46 kilometres in length, it’s in fact the 3rd largest of the Italian Lakes) it is certainly the deepest of the lakes (the very bottom sits 200 metres below sea level). Whilst it has been popular for centuries, particularly amongst the aristocratic elite, it was certainly made famous more recently by arguably it’s most famous modern resident, George Clooney. Once Clooney bought a house on the shores of the lake in 2002, visitors flocked to Lake Como to catch a glimpse of the American actor and the lake’s popularity expanded to the masses.
In contrast, Lake Maggiore has too long been overlooked but it’s secret is now slowly being revealed. In size, at 65 kilometres long, it nestles comfortably between Garda and Como. Whilst three quarters of the lake rests on Italian soil, it’s northernmost tip actually falls into Swiss territory. It’s most famous town – Stresa – is known by some but, generally speaking, the lakeside towns and village names ring few bells amongst holidaymakers. But this should not deter you from visiting. Arona, Ascona, Cannobio and Cannero may not be names you know but they are as worthy of a visit as any of the lakeside towns and villages on it’s more famous neighbours, Como and Garda. And it’s trio of islands – Isola Madre, Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella – will rival any of the other lake’s historic villas and gardens.
And, just like on any of the lakes, a network of boats criss-cross the lake all day and well in to the evening allowing visitors to easily sightsee and explore all that it has to offer.
Whilst Maggiore’s scenery may arguably not be quite as dramatic as Lake Como where the mountains seem to literally rise up from the lake, it’s certainly just as beautiful. The colours of the lake and mountains seem to change daily and there is every reason to visit in the Spring and Autumn as much as the Summer.
Whilst the popularity of Lake Maggiore is certainly on the rise as its secrets are revealed, it still very much offers holidaymakers the chance to explore an unspoilt part of Italy. With possibly the exception of Stresa, you won’t automatically be spoken to in English and you may find information on what to see and do a bit hard to get your hands on (the Italians are not always that good at selling themselves!!)
However, don’t let this put you off. There is a wealth of activities to enjoy on the lake whatever your interests and whatever your age.
For sun worshippers, Lake Maggiore has a plethora of beaches around it’s shores. With most, it’s a case of pulling up on the side of the road and simply stepping down to the beach however there are also some larger beach areas as well as some terrific lidos that enjoy not just lake access but also boast a plethora of swimming pools. Our favourite in Locarno is super stylish with 3 indoor pools, 4 outdoor pools (including an Olympic sized pool and hot pool) as well as a diving pool and inflatable assault courses. But don’t let all these pools deter you from swimming in the lake. The lake water is beautifully clean and clear and it’s ideal for children as the shallow waters only get deep gradually.
There is no doubt that any child that loves the water will be in their element. But there is plenty more on land to keep them entertained too. There are a number of adventure parks with tree top assault courses similar to ‘Go Ape’ in the UK, as well as mountainside toboggan rides, zip-slides and loads of opportunities to explore on two wheels either by road or mountain bike. Or for a faster pace of entertainment, there is go-karting on offer as well.
Another activity that both children and adults love is a ride up the mountainside, the most popular of these definitely being the ‘bucket lifts’ at Laveno. For those with a fear of heights, covered buckets are available but for everyone else, it’s worth being brave and taking one of the open top buckets.
For sports lovers, take your pick of an abundance of water sports including canoeing, sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing whilst on land there is rock climbing, golf, cycling and hiking. Not forgetting the opportunity to ski during the Winter months.
For adrenalin junkies there is parasailing, bungee jumping, sky-diving and parasailing.
However, if you’re more into your music, then music lovers will enjoy the plethora of music festivals on offer particularly in the Summer months when you have a wealth of classical music at the Stresa Music Festival at one end of the lake and a variety of more popular music at the other extremity of the lake as part of the Locarno Moon and Stars festival. In the past, the latter has played host to chart topping acts such as Bob Dylan, Paola Nutini and Sam Smith whilst in 2018 it’s line-up includes The Script, Emile Sande and James Blunt amongst others.
And it goes without saying, that as with the rest of Italy, the serious foodies amongst you won’t be disappointed either! There really is something to please everyone, whatever their interests.
On a more practical level, Milan Malpensa is the nearest airport if you fancy trying Lake Maggiore for yourself. Easyjet and BA fly daily from the UK. From here, it’s easy to hire a car and you can reach the lake in as little as 40 minutes dependent on where you are staying. There are also direct trains from the airport to the lakeside as well as regular bus services. It is also possible to fly into Milan Linate or Milan Bergamo if you don’t mind a longer transfer time.
So if you’re looking for a truly unspoilt part of Italy or somewhere that you can still enjoy an authentic Italian experience away from the crowds, it’s definitely worth putting Lake Maggiore at the top of that bucket list!
*This Post was a Guest Post by Jo Mackay from Bookings For You. If you’re looking for any advice on where to stay in Italy, she’s your gal!