Casa Bellavista is perfectly situated for visiting the scenic towns around the lake which all have their own unique charms – Luino, Cannobio, Cannero, Arona, Baveno, Pallanza and Ascona to mention but a few. The best way to get around is to catch one of the many boats. Over in Switzerland at the far end of Lake Maggiore is the gorgeous town of Locarno which you can reach by boat in no time at all.
The Lago Maggiore Express
A fabulous day or even two days out is the Lago Maggiore Express which allows you to explore the Swiss Alps on the ‘Hundred Valley’ train where you will pass through (and over!) breathtaking mountain scenery and pretty villages. Don’t be fooled by the name, the pace is gentle and allows more than enough time to drink in the continuous spectacular views. Starting and finishing at various locations to suit you this circular trip can be taken over one or two days, and you can hop off and get back on as and when you like, to allow you to explore and of course, find somewhere for lunch! For more details, timetables and prices click here www.lagomaggioreexpress.com/Inglese/benvenuti.html
Slightly further afield at 1.5 hours drive away is Lake Como which features the stunning towns of Bellagio and Varenna plus Villa Carlotta. Maybe we’re biased as we think Maggiore trumps Como every time for sheer majesty and beauty, but being fair about it, Como is rather spectacular too and worth visiting if you have the time.
Just 25 minutes drive from Stresa is the small but perfectly formed Lake Orta which makes for a fabulous day trip. It has its own historical flavour and charm, and its own island San Giulio, with its basilica and renowned pulpit and 15th century frescoes. Orta San Giulio is one of the loveliest villages on any of the Italian Lakes and is not to be missed!
Milan and shopping…
If you fancy a day out in a city that is world famous for its shopping and fashion then Milan is the place to go. You can catch the train to Milan from Stresa (free parking at the train station) and be there in just 45 minutes. Milan also boasts the beautiful Milan cathedral, il Duomo di Milano. This beautiful Gothic masterpiece took five centuries to complete and is the fourth-largest church in the world. Make sure you take the steps up to the roof of the church if you’re not afraid of heights. The roof allows close-up views of spectacular sculptures that would otherwise be unappreciated.
If you’re more of a sports fan, the tour of the colossal San Siro stadium is well worth a visit. And with Inter and AC both playing there, if you want to catch a game, your chances are pretty good – one of the two rival teams will be playing someone on a weekend! Tickets are available from various internet sites in advance, sometimes at rather eye-wateringly inflated prices, so you can get them sent to your home address before you arrive. Or you can always take your chances on match day at the ticket office at the ground and pay considerably less. The San Siro holds over 90,000 so your chances of getting a ticket on the day are actually very good, with remarkably good concessions for children and OAPs.
For considerably cheaper but no less exciting shopping than Milan, Luino boasts the biggest weekly market in Europe. With 356 stalls, it regularly draws bargain hunters from as far away as Germany and Holland.
Milan of course, has all the wining, dining and nightlife that you would expect from such a chic city if it’s a really big night out you’re after.
If hiking is your scene, then simply turn left outside the door of Casa Bellavista and head up the mountain to Mottarone! It will take you around 3 hours, 30 minutes to reach the top on foot along the established walking trails, but the scenery and surrounding nature is as breathtaking as the gentle but relentless ascent. For those who like to take it easier than that, you can reach the National Park at the top of Mottarone by car in 40 minutes from Casa Bellavista, or indeed catch the cable car down in Stresa, or the midway station just a short drive from the house, and be there in 10-20 minutes whilst enjoying the stunning vista as you ascend with the minimum of effort.
Mottarone is considered one of the most beautiful natural balconies in the whole of Piedmont. Its orographical formation allows the tourist’s gaze to sweep over 360° from the Po Valley to the summits of the Alps. Here you can see seven magnificent lakes; Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta, Lake Mergozzo, Lake Varese, Lake Camabbio, Lake Monate and Lake Biandronno, lying in the natural surrounding basin. Mottarone not only boasts breathtaking views, but it also offers activities for every season: it’s possible to practise winter sports, go trekking, hand-gliding, parascending, make exciting descents from the top by mountain bike on properly marked paths (and you can take your bike back up in the cable car too) or just relax at a table with typical menus of the region in the characteristic restaurants and bars. If you are into skiing then the slopes of Mottarone are open from December through to March, and ideal for a day or two on the slopes. With 21km of piste you’ll be spoilt for choice!
The Alpine Gardens
If you decide to take the cable car up to Mottarone, you will be able to alight at the mid station, Alpino where you can visit the Alpine Gardens. The gardens cover an area of approximately 40,000m2 (431,000 ft2) with a wonderful view over the Borromean Islands and Lake Maggiore. The gardens were created in 1934 and specialise in Alpine and sub-Alpine species.
Lago Maggiore Adventure Park
Strada Cavalli 18
Tel: +39 0323 919799
In Baveno, just a five minute drive from Stresa is the first Adventure Playground of the province. The Lake Maggiore Adventure Park, offers numerous activities; suspension courses (Tibetan bridges, Tyroleses, little climbing stairs, platforms that can be used without fear thanks to the best and most modern safety equipments), an artificial free-climbing wall, an acro-jump and a fantastic circuit for cycle-cross where you can you use your own bicycle or you can rent one. Adults and children will be able to test their psycho-physical skills and spend memorable hours with friends or family. Here you will be able to immerse yourselves in beautiful scenery in a new and fun world.