Driving Tour: Lakes & Mountains

  • Start Cannobio
  • Finish Orta San Giulio
  • Length 110km; half a day

This picturesque drive combines some of the best lake and mountain scenery anywhere in Italy's north. While half a day is ample, this drive could easily fill a most pleasurable day in your life.

Begin in the charming lakeshore village of Cannobio, before taking the scenic P75 which leads high into the heavily wooded hills of the Val Cannobina. Just 2.5km along the valley from Cannobio, in Sant’Anna, the Torrente Cannobio forces its way powerfully through a narrow gorge known as the Orrido di Sant’Anna, crossed at its narrowest part by a cute Romanesque bridge. If you've started the journey just before lunch, consider pausing for a meal at Grotto Sant'Anna, a Ticino-style grotto (traditional inn) that overlooks the thundering gorge. About 7km further up the valley, a steep 3km side road consisting of hairpin bends leads up to the central valley’s main town, Falmenta (666m – they say the town’s priest would like to have 1m added to or subtracted from the official figure). It’s pleasant to wander around and worth a lunch stop at Circolo Falmenta. At the top of the valley in Malesco, turn left (west) towards Domodossola. If you haven't eaten by the time you arrive, take the 33km round trip detour to the village of Crodo which hides Ristorante Marconi where, in a simple but welcoming stone house, you'll be welcomed with fine food from the kitchen of chef Denis Croce. Be sure to call ahead.

Forsake the autostrada and follow the S33 past Domodossola to Vogogna where a 14th-century castle keeps watch over the town. With the forested hillsides of the wilderness Parco Nazionale Val Grande visible away to the north, continue east then southeast, following the signs for Omegna at the head of Lago di Orta. From here it's just 10.5km into charming Orta San Giulio.