If Lake Maggiore is your first impression of Italy, you're in for a treat. By train or by road, travellers traversing the Alps from Switzerland at the Simplon Pass wind down from the mountains and sidle up to this enormous finger of blue beauty. 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 Como and Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore has retained a belle époque air. All three have mesmerised foreign visitors down the centuries but Lake Maggiore became a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century after the Simplon Pass was opened.