Maggiore is Italy’s international lake – its northernmost point protrudes sinuously into Switzerland, while its Italian shores are shared by Piedmont (west) and Lombardy (east). Free of Como’s overt glamour or Garda’s Disney-esque theme parks, it is often considered the most peaceful of northern Italy’s great bodies of water, its shores a little less crowded and its hinterland intriguingly wilder. The star attractions are the Borromean Islands, which, like a fleet of fine vessels, lie at anchor at the Borromean Gulf’s (Golfo Borromeo) entrance, an incursion of water between the lake’s two main towns, Stresa and Verbania.
More than its siblings to the east, Lake Maggiore harbours a distinct belle-époque air. The lake became a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century with the opening of the Simplon Pass and it is this era, with its stately hotels and regal promenades, that still defines its essence.