Only the northeast corner of Lago Maggiore is in Switzerland – the rest slices into Italy’s Lombardy region. The second-largest lake in Italy has cinematic looks, with inky blue waters rippling against a backdrop of lush, rugged mountains where the snow lingers into spring.
With its palm trees and much-hyped 2300 hours of sunshine a year, visitors have swooned over Locarno’s near-Mediterranean setting since the late 19th century. Switzerland’s lowest-altitude town is quite special, for sure, with an air of chic insouciance, a promenade strung along its mountain-facing lakefront and botanical gardens bristling with subtropical flowers and foliage.
Nature has certainly worked her magia (magic) in this broad, sunlit valley, where 3000m peaks thrust up above cascading waterfalls, and granite villages cling precariously to steep hillsides. The startlingly turquoise Maggia River twists through the valley until it splits at the main town, Cevio, the first of several divisions into smaller valleys.
It’s hard to tell but Campione d'Italia really is part of Italy surrounded by Switzerland. Sitting on the southern shores of Lago di Lugano, it has an appealing old town with a medieval church and a piazza lined with al fresco cafes. Forested slopes fling up spectacularly above the town.
Dipping south of Lugano, this peninsula is created by the looping shoreline of Lago di Lugano. Walking trails carve up the interior, dominated by the thickly wooded peaks of Monte San Salvatore. Tiny villages cling to the slopes that rise above the lakeside, with stairways leading up to stone houses, medieval chapels and pocket-sized gardens.
Looking as though it will topple off its terraced hillside with the merest puff of breath, lakeside Gandria is ludicrously pretty, with pastel-coloured houses stacked on top of one another like children's building blocks, narrow stairwells, arcades, courtyards and terraced gardens.