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destination | italian Lakes Lake Maggiore


Long and ravishing, Lake Maggiore reaches so far north that part of it sits within Switzerland, a fact which saw it feature in Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms as the scene of a cross-border escape. Modern-day visitors, however, won’t be overly inclined to fl ee — particularly when faced with the palm trees and hills of the lakeside or the fl owers and villas of the Borromean Islands. T e main resort is Stresa, which sits on the


lake’s western shore and was one of the main calling points of the Orient Express train during its heyday. T ere’s a fi ttingly refi ned atmosphere at the town’s distinguished Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees, while golfers have the prospect of a memorable round at one of the numerous championship courses in the vicinity. From Stresa, it’s possible to catch ferries out


to what many consider the highlights of Lake Maggiore: three small picture-perfect islands collectively referred to as the Borromean Islands. Of the three, the appropriately named Isola Bella is the most natural option for fi rst-timers; it’s home to an opulent 17th-century palazzo, complete with baroque gardens and fountains. Opposite Stresa and the islands, the town of


Verbania has plenty going for it, not least the Michelin-recommended Dei Cigni restaurant, where you can dine on fi sh fresh from the lake.


Castagnola village, Lake Lugano Lake Lugano


Most of Lake Lugano is located within Ticino, an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, making a trip here an attractive option for those keen to experience lakeside life in two countries. It takes its name from the wealthy Swiss city of Lugano, sitting on a bend along its northern shore, although on the Italian side it’s the town of Porlezza that provides a natural focal point. Porlezza, which also sits less than 10 miles


from Lake Como, has some fi ne places to stay, including the modern Parco San Marco Lifestyle Beach Resort, home to a large private beach and wellness center. It was named Europe’s Best Luxury Hideaway Resort at the 2013 World Luxury Hotel Awards. Sailing, watersports and fi shing are all big


draws to the lake, while the hefty peaks that ring it are ideal for hiking and climbing. One of the region’s best views comes from the 5,580ft summit of Monte Generoso, a mountain straddling the border, while on the southern shore the pyramid-shaped Monte San Giorgio is now inscribed by UNESCO thanks to its extraordinary fossil records of prehistoric marine life. If spending time exploring the villages along


the Swiss sections of the lakeside, take time to wander the car-free lanes of Gandria and see the architectural styles on show in Morcote. 


FASTFACTS


 CLIMATE: The Lakes have a typically continental climate, with a mild spring and fall, warm summers and cold winters. The Alps shield Lombardy and the Lakes area from the extremes of the northern European winter. Generally, the best time to visit is between April and June, when the weather is sunny without being stifl ing — with temperatures between 80 and 90F — and the summer crowds have yet to arrive.  CURRENCY: Euro. $1 = €0.72.  TIME: GMT +1.  DIAL CODE: +39.  GETTING THERE: Reaching Italy is straightforward from the main US hubs, either fl ying direct or with one stop.  GETTING AROUND: The key gateway cities to the Lakes region are Milan and Bergamo, both of which have road and rail options to the major lakes. There’s good road access between the lakes themselves.  GEOGRAPHY: Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiore sit close to each other in an area north of Milan, and can be easily combined. Lake Garda sits three hours’ drive east of these lakes.  VISITOR NUMBERS: Around 4.4 million annual US arrivals.  TOURIST BOARD: Italian National Tourist Board. T: 212 245 5618. italiantourism.com  SAMPLE: Tour ’n Travel offers an 11-night Magic of the Italian Lakes escorted coach tour, taking in Lakes Garda, Como, Maggiore and Lugano. There’s a relaxed three-night stay at Lake Como at the end of the trip. Priced from $1,629 per person, land-only. T: 610 534 9100. tourntravel.com


SWITZERLAND Ticino Maggiore Porlezza


Stresa Verbania


Lugano Como Lake Lake


Lake Como


Bellagio Lecco


Bergamo Gargnano


Lombardy Brescia Milano


Riva del Garda


Lake Garda


Verona Veneto Lombardy Piacenza ITALY 20 miles


Trentino- Alto Adige


92 | ASTAnetwork | summer 2014


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MAP: JOHN PLUMER


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