I wish it was that simple to look in a magic mirror and be told which Italian lake is the most stunning and should be your next holiday destination!
I've been to many of the Northern Italian lakes. Como, Garda, Trasimeno, Lugano. They all have a certain beauty to them. Their own personality.
So far I've felt most at home in Como, and it's not that I just like to hang out at Harry's Bar looking for George Clooney! I find the countryside around the lake very relaxing and the perfect environment for my city dweller children. However recently we discovered a new lake, Lago Maggiore.
Our accommodation was called Golfo Gabella in the village of Maccagno. A beautiful lakeside resort with superb facilities and very attentive staff. All booked through the Italian holiday specialists Bookings For You, which are an English firm who handpick properties in Italy to make sure they perfectly suit their customers. I wrote about our stay last week, so now it's time to find out why Maggiore is the 'greatest' as its name suggests!
Lake Maggiore has so far been much overlooked by British holiday makers as we only really get told about Como through the celebrity press it brings. Lake Maggiore is popular with Northern Europeans, Belgians, French, German, Swiss. Those who can drive south and be at this wonderful lake with ease.
We shouldn't be letting them keep it all to themselves though as it's quite a treasure!
Como or Maggiore
What struck me most about Lake Maggiore on this recent trip is just how wild and unspoiled it is. While the mountains around Lake Como are very green, they're also steep so there's less space for gardens and parks. You can get down to the lake shore but it's generally more of a promenade than being on a beach. There are some small areas of beach far north on the lake but they are quite a way from the main visiting spots.
Maggiore on the other hand has gently sloping mountains and hills, large grassy banks along the shore. Trees and beach. It is no less beautiful than Como, just less frenetic and and maybe a more authentic lake side experience!
So what is there for families? Apart from finding areas as I've described above and having wonderful picnics whilst exploring, there are plenty of days out to suit everyone.
Specifically aimed at families are:
Swissminiatur which is a park attraction comprising a mini village of Switzerland! Complete with delicate houses, a mascot and activities for children.
Alpyland is a bobsled roller coaster at the top of the Mottarone mountain! It's suitable for children from age 4 and upwards.
Villa Pallavicino is a beautiful stately home with parkland which has wonderful gardens and a zoo with over 40 different species of animals. Perfect for the little ones to run around and slightly less daunting than Alpyland!
If it's swimming pools you're after there are lidos at both Locarno and Lugano. Locarno is very well laid out and has a beach club feel. Lugano is more functional but does have a fine sandy beach as well.
If all that seems like too much effort why not visit one of the most famous attractions on Lake Maggiore.
The four beautiful Borromean Islands. Isola Bella, Isola Madre, Isola Superiore dei Pescatori and Isola San Giovanni. They are all accessible from Stresa by boat. The main two to visit are Isola Bella which is an island entirely taken over by an incredible palace, distinctive gardens and white peacocks! And Isola dei Pescatori which was allowed to continue as a little fishing community and due to this has some excellent fish restaurants to try.
Stresa itself is a pretty place with a promenade and is much more bustling if you'd like something more lively. They also host a music festival in July each year.
We visited Cannobio a beautiful picturesque village with winding streets and wonderful local food on display. Cannero another gem and has a lovely market on Sundays. Both can be visited by boat from Maccagno, which is where we stayed.
Luino a larger town hosts the biggest weekly market in Europe every Wednesday. We really enjoyed getting lost here and doing some shopping.
We found a very sweet family friendly cafe/ristorante I Segreti del Caffe' (The secrets of coffee) in the heart of the market but through a little archway. It had simple pasta dishes and lots of ride on toys outside to keep the little ones happy.
You may be wondering what Mr Bond has to do with all this?! If you remember the film Goldeneye with THE famous bungee jump scene into a dam? Well you can visit the Verzasca dam and even bungee jump into it yourself if you are so inclined!
If you're a particularly active family or would just love the opportunity to try something new, there is so much on offer here.
You can wind and kite surf with La Darsena School. They have a base near Pino-Trozano which is the windiest spot on the lake. They offer lessons and hire of equipment.
In Locarno you can try canyoning and rafting! You'll be taken through thrilling, beautiful canyons in hidden valleys around Locarno. The minimum age for children is 6 years old. I'm not sure if we should be excited or afraid that the company who organise this are called Indepth Outthere Adventures!
If you'd love to get out on the water you can hire a motor boat. These can be organised through your accommodation in most cases. Our resort Golfo Gabella, pictured below, do all of this for you. They can also arrange bike hire, babysitters and much more!
Where to stay
We stayed in a lovely village called Maccagno on the Eastern shore. We booked through Italian holiday specialists Bookings For You and they found us the wonderful resort of Golfo Gabella.
Golfo Gabella is situated right on the lake shore, with pools, apartments, gardens and a very helpful reception/concierge. You can read my review of the whole resort and booking process here.
We found Maccagno a very useful location as it has a train station and this connects directly to Milan Malpensa airport.
Have you been to the Italian lakes before?
Would you be tempted to try Lake Maggiore?
**This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are 100% my own.**