Stresa, Lake Maggiore: main points of interest

Stresa is one of the most beautiful cities of Lake Maggiore, a little green oasis with a spectacular view of the sunset and sunrise on the lake.

Stresa, Lake Maggiore: main points of interest

Stresa is one of the most beautiful cities of Lake Maggiore, a little green oasis with a spectacular view of the sunset and sunrise on the lake.


The atmosphere here is elegant and calm, that is why this is the ideal location to escape the hectic city life.


The short train trip from Milan makes Stresa the perfect destination for long walks on the lakefront, to explore the cobblestone alleys of the old city.


Stresa is full of villas, vintage buildings and historic and artistic-wise precious gardens.


In 1400, it was a small hamlet inhabited mostly by fishermen, which first became fief of the Visconti family and then of the Borromeo one.


In the 19th century it was selected by many literates and intellectuals, such as Lord Byron, Stendhal and Charles Dickens – as one of the Grand Tour stops.


What to see in Stresa

Stresa tour could start from its most vibrant meeting points: the squares Piazza dell’Imbarcadero and Piazza Marconi.


Obviously, the most crowded spot is the lakefront, because it is surrounded by ancient , charming mansions.


In the downtown, Sant’Ambrogio church is worth a visit: neoclassical, it hosts some priceless paintings from the 17th century.


On its right side, you will find the famous Villa Ducale, from the end of the 18th century, and not that far the Palazzo dei Congressi (Congress Palace).


Among the noble mansions you can’t miss the 19th century Villa Pallavicino and its well-known garden, transformed into a paid zoo around 1950.


Stresa and the Borromee Islands

Stresa seems to overlook on the lake without an end, and this optical effect is produced by the Borromee Islands’ small archipelago.


Those are Lake Maggiore’s jewels, reachable with one of the daily ferries leaving from the little Stresa marina.


Isola dei Pescatori (the Fishermen’s Island)

The Upper Island, also known as Fishermen Island, is a pearl of this lake, a small piece of approximately 300 meters.


With its cobblestone alleys and its spider web shape, it fills the visitors’ eyes with an incredible beauty, offering a surprise in each corner.


Very typical is San Vittore church, in gothic style, and the small cemetery at its back, reserved to the dead of the island, mainly fishermen.


Taking a walk around the lakefront surrounding the whole island, you will find many small, tree-lined marinas, and you will want to stop and listen to the sound of crashing waves.


For a lunch or an happy hour, stop by one of the typical restaurants, to enjoy tasty seafood, or one of the the elegant wine shops, admiring the lake.


Isola Bella (the Beautiful Island)


Another must-see is Isola Bella with its huge Palazzo Borromeo and the wonderful gardens.


Those baroque, Italian-style gardens are spread across several terraces placed at different heights, and are enhanced by statues, obelisks, stone stairs and timeless battlements.


The impressive view highlights all the power and the magnificence of the noble palace, where art meets nature.


The most evocative and spectacular area of the gardens is the Massimo theatre: a 3-floors structure with mythological statues, a unicorn on top and alternated stairs creating, on the back, small blooming terraces.


Borromeo Palace seems to be floating on water and, inside, you will enjoy exquisitely furnished halls, from which you could admire the gorgeous lake views.


You will walk among exclusive paintings of famous artists, precious pieces of furniture, neoclassical marbles and plasters, shining armatures and Flemish silk and gold tapestries.


Isola Madre (The Mother Island)

Your visit to the Borromee Islands cannot end without seeing the Mother Island.


Its name comes from its dimensions, slightly bigger than the others, and by the belief that this was the first one to be inhabited.


Its legend tells that the Borromeo family ordered the construction of an aristocratic palace and the start of a citrus fruits plantation, demanding also for a greengrocer to take care of it.


This gave origins to a whole dinasty of greengrocers, the della Torre family, who lived on the island until the beginning of XIX century.


Today the island is abandoned, but it is possible to visit, with a single ticket, both the Borromeo palace and the garden.


The inside of the building is very evocative, the halls overlook on the lake and it is worth a visit especially for the Venetian-style living room, with trompe l’oeil decorated walls, and the puppets and their scenes which were a family entertainment.


The most surprising part of the outdoor park are the english gardens – today transformed into a zoo – with their dreamy flare, rare flowers and exotic plants, but also parrots, pheasants and peacocks.


Sunset on the Lake Maggiore

The best way to enjoy the lake’s magic, especially at dusk, is the panoramic terrace on top of the Hotel Las Palmas Sky Bar.


You will be able to enjoy a full view of the lake and the Swiss Alps’ peaks, while they plunge into different shades of red, and you taste some good cocktails.


From Stresa to San Giulio Island on Lake d’Orta


Stresa offers many charming places to visit, but its surroundings are equally interesting.


Inless than 40 minutes, it is possible to reach the enchanting San Giulio Island on the Lake d’Orta.


You will only need to reach the village named Orta San Giulio, take a look at the lakefront and visit the famous Villa Motta, enjoying the view.


At lunch, we advise to taste the famous local risotto.


Then you could take a boat trip to reach San Giulio Island, in the middle of Lake d’Orta, and visit the Roman Cathedral, the episcopal Palace and the Benedictine Abbey.


A little stair with lead you to the cathedral, then a small alley, called Silence and Meditation road, will follow.


It surrounds the whole island and it is a gorgeous path between spirituality, art and architecture, in line with the atmosphere of the area.


The Benedictine Abbey is still the actual residence of the seclusion nuns who dedicate their lives to pray, study, renovation of holy accessories and preparation of the hosts.


The island offers a peace and calm atmosphere, to get in touch with yourself and the nature through silence.


Are you ready for your Stresa holidays?