Lake Maggiore and surroundings
A place with ancient charm
Considered the largest of the pre-Alpine lakes, hence the name "Maggiore", it is considered one of the most splendid bodies of water in Italy, a favourite destination for great artists for its particular enchantment of rolling hills, quaint villages and secret gardens. The surroundings of Lake Maggiore preserve an atmosphere that seems to live out of time. The spaces imbued with peace and tranquillity offer an idyllic atmosphere of harmonious beauty.
It was 1931 when the Scottish-born captain Neil Boyd Watson McEacharn decided to buy the property of the Marquise of Sant'Elia to transform it into a "botanical art gallery". Villa Taranto, with its thousands of plants and flowers from all over the world, was voted as the most beautiful garden in the world by the Buzzfeed website in 2014.
This botanical park that stretches for one kilometre on the Lombard coast of Lake Maggiore is full of magnificent views and stunning plants such as azaleas that bloom in spring or the rare exotic conifers that have been cultivated since the early twentieth century. When you enter, you are surrounded by pines, firs and other species from all over the world.
There is only one way to reach the top of Mount Sasso del Ferro at about 1100 m: the two-seater gondola lift. From Laveno Mombello, take the cable car that climbs gently up to a panoramic point from where you can admire Lake Maggiore, the Alps, the Prealps and the expanse of the Po Valley.
Considered a true natural balcony on Lake Maggiore, the Alpinia Botanical Garden is located in Alpino, a hamlet of Stresa, at an altitude of 800 m. Easily accessible by cable car, it hosts more than seven hundred species of plants, mostly Alpine, but also examples from Asia and America. It was a brainchild of Iginio Ambrosini who decided to transform a simple pasture into a delightful park in 1934.
Known as the "garden city" thanks to the numerous parks it welcomes, Varese offers several sites to visit surrounded by greenery. The Sacro Monte di Varese, the Estense Gardens and the wonderful villas are just some of the points of interest of this "little Versailles", as Giacomo Leopardi used to call it.