Glistening expanses of water surrounded by spectacular scenery of verdant hills and luxurious gardens; mountain itineraries from which seven lakes, the Po Valley and the Italian and Swiss Alps can be admired. Thus are the Lakes of Maggiore and Mergozzo introduced. The first thing that impresses the visitor to Lake Maggiore are the three beautiful islands that, together with the Castles of Cannero and the small isle of San Giovanni Battista (where Arthur Toscanini sojourned), form the splendid Borromeo archipelago: Isola Bella, with its magnificent Palazzo (1670) and gardens, Isola Pescatori, a maze of picturesque lanes and passages, and Isola Madre, with its famous botanic gardens rich in rare flora and freely roaming fauna and exotic birds. The scene of important historical events, from feudal times to the Renaissance and up to the battle against the Austrians, the territory of the two lakes was for four centuries under the dominion of two of Italy’s greatest families, first the Visconti and later the Borromeo, who gathered around them men of letters, painters, sculptors and architects and left a rich cultural and artistic patrimony in their island Palazzi, the colossal statue of San Carlo at Arona, and the Massino Visconti Castle, to mention only a few examples.
The list of artists and famous personalities who have frequented the area is long and impressive: from Stendahl to Hemingway, Leonardo Da Vinci to Fogazzaro, and Queen Victoria to the King of Saudi Arabia. Today the area has become the coveted destination of tourists from all walks of life: artists in search of new inspiration, families on weekend trips, pilgrims visiting the many sanctuaries, and businessmen. No less in evidence are athletes and sportsmen who come to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the limpid waters, where all sorts of aquatic sports are regularly practiced, or by the nearby mountains which attract fans of hiking, skiing and other high altitude activities and by Val Grande, the largest wilderness area in Europe. And finally, for golfers the area offers the opportunity of playing eight different courses all within an hour’s drive from one another. With its particularly mild climate, the area surrounding Lake Maggiore has been nicknamed the “Garden of Europe” for the wealth, variety and beauty of its flowers and vegetation, many being exotic imports which have become completely familiar elements in the local landscape. Other big tourist attractions are the international events hosted by the territory: the Lake Maggiore Jazz Festival, Stresa’s “Musical Weeks”, Pallanza’s Flower Parade, and the Remiero Palio and the Palio Nautico dei Rioni races, to name just a few.