Your broad and charming guide to Italy
Lake Maggiore, one of the greatest of Italian peninsula, spreads over an area of 212 square kilometers, long about 65 sq km, with a widths ranging from 1 to 4 km. It is located 194 meters above sea level and has a maximum depth of 380 meters, in front of Cannero village. Its shores cover a total length of 150 km and more, starting from the canton of Ticino in Switzerland, and coming up to Sesto Calende (Va), washing two regions: Piedmont and Lombardy, and three provinces: Novara, Varese, Verbano Cusio Ossola. The Lake is set in the Pre-Alps, and has a clear glacial origin; it is framed by rolling hills in the lower part of Novara, some of them with very high peaks permanently covered by snow in the high area of Verbano. In the Lake there are large,small and tiny islands, divided between 8 in Piedmont, 2 in Switzerland and one in Lombardia, for a total of 11.
Between Stresa and Verbania you find the archipelago of the Borromean Islands: Isola Bella (The Beautiful Island), Isola Madre (Mother Island) and Isola dei Pescatori (Island of the Fishermen) also known as the Upper Island. Opposite to the Swiss town of Brissago there are the two Islands of Brissago.
In front of the coast of Riviera Cannero you find instead the three rocks called Castles of Cannero: the greatest rock, totally occupied by the war building of Vitaliana, a fortress wanted by Count Ludovico Borromeo in 1518; the smaller rock, where are erected the ruins of the so-called “prisons“, and finally the Scoglietto of “Melgonaro”, where grows only a tough plant that has fascinated poets and engravers such as Piero Chiara, Marco Costantini, Charles Rapp. You should also cite the Isolino di San Giovanni (Little Island of St. John) in front of Verbania, famous because it was for many years the residence of composer Arturo Toscanini, in the Borromeo Palace of the the seventeenth century; the islet Malghera between the Beautiful Island anf the Island of the Fishermen and then Isolino Partegora (Little Island Partegora) in the small bay of Angera.
Like all prealpine lakes, Lake Maggiore is marked, especially in summer, by two types of prevailing winds, one in the morning that blows from the mountains to the plains (known sometimes as moscendrino wind, sometimes as tramontana) and a wind that blows from the plains to the mountains especially during the afternoon (called inverna). These constants winds make the prealpine lakes a very good field for sports such as sailing and windsurfing. Lake Maggiore has some points, especially at the top, where the mountains draw close to form a narrow valley in which these winds blow very strong. Then there are other typical winds of this lake as the invernone, which blows from the south-west and brings in general the storm; the maggiore that comes from the north-east and is very dangerous because it shakes a lot the lake; the valmaggino that blows slightly from the valleys behind Locarno and the mergozzo, which blows mainly at night, from north-west.
The lake is unique for its flora, often defined with the wrong term of insubrica flora. The flora is strongly influenced by the lake basin that allowed the proliferation of typical Mediterranean plants and plants originating in the Atlantic zone favored by the soil composition and abundance of siliceous rocks. Lemons, olives and bay leaves grow easily. Camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolias can be admired in the many beautiful gardens follow one after the other along the coast of Piedmont. The natural vegetation is composed of rates, holly and chestnut trees on the surrounding hills. In the Lake you find particular animal species: the lake whitefish also blue that live in deep waters and come to shore only during the spawning in early December. There are also perches, pikes, chubs, monkfishes and eels.
How to arrive there
By car: from Milan you can tahe the motorway A8 Milano-Laghi, that then joins with the A26 in the direction Gravellona Toce. From Turin with A4 and then A26 towards Gravellona Toce.
By train: from Milan there are frequent connections on the line Milano Domodossola (Geneva – Berne).
By air: the nearest airports are Milan Linate, Milan Malpensa, Orio al Serio (Bergamo) and Turin Airport.