Difference between revisions of "Italian Lake District"
Revision as of 19:59, 2 October 2011
The Italian Lake District stretches across Northern Italy. The southern ends of most of the lakes are relatively flat (a continuation of the River Po Plain), but the northern ends are mountainous as the lakes reach deep into the Alps. Popular with Northern Europeans and Italians alike for over 100 years, the Italian Lakes combine good weather with attractive scenery. The climate is mild in both summer and winter, producing Mediterranean vegetation, with beautiful gardens growing rare and exotic plants. Well-known gardens include those of the Isola Madre, Isola Bella and the Isole di Brissago, that of the Villa Taranto in Pallanza near Verbania, and the Alpinia botanical garden above Stresa. Lake Maggiore is the longest lake of the Italian Lakes measuring 65 km. long and has a surface area of 215 sq. km. It is about 2.5 km. in width on average, although twice as wide near Luino. The Borromean Bay between Stresa and Verbania, is blessed with three islands known as the Borromean Islands. These islands are not to be missed on a visit to Lake Maggiore. Isola Bella is known for its baroque palace and gardens, Isola Pescatori for it's fishing character with it's typical lake boats and the scenic Isola Madre is known for its gardens. The lake’s jagged banks are surrounded by the Prealps of Piedmont and Lombardy. The western bank is in Piedmont (provinces of Novara and Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola) and the eastern in Lombardy (province of Varese), whereas the most northerly section extends thirteen kilometres into Switzerland, where it constitutes the lowest point above sea-level in that entire country.
Ferry service is available out to the islands from Stresa, Lake Maggiore's resort town, every day during the summer. After picking passengers up at the dock, the ferries first make stops at Isolas Bella and Pescatori, the two closest islands. Here visitors are free to roam for 1-2 hours depending on the boat's schedule. After visiting these two islands, passengers are then taken to the third island, Isola Madre, which is located more towards the center of the Lake. Visitors are given a couple of additional hours to see this island.
From the North, you'll go through Switzerland, on the A2 to Locarno, then take the A13 towards the West side of Lake Maggiore or stay on A2 to Lugano and Como. Be warned. In winter the Simplon pass is closed and you will have to make a big detour and get to Italy via the St Gotthard tunnel.
From the South:
Fly to Milan, it has three airports. Milan Malpensa, South of Lake Maggiore and Lake Varese. Milan Linate, next to the center of Milan. Milan Bergamo, in Bergamo.
For Lake Maggiore, from the South, get into Milan and then to Verbania. From the North, go to Bellinzona in Switzerland. Buses are available from those destinations.
The most interesting way to get around each of the lakes is by boat or hydrofoil. Varenna, Bellagio, Cadenabio, and Menaggio are the only towns car ferries travel to.  On Lake Maggiore you can pick a ferry in Carciano, Baveno or Stresa which will take you to the Borromean islands. Alternatively, you can hire a private water taxi, which costs a bit more but which will probably be quicker and more convenient, especially if you have luggage. Don't forget to get the 'phone number of the company, then you can ring them to come and pick you up. They also issue return tickets which you can use anytime. Most of the drivers (captains?) speak some English.
Skiing - Lake Maggiore is known for it's wonderful skiing facility on the Swiss Alps, People come from all over the world to ski here. In 2006, the Torino Winter Olympics were held here.
Many types of activities are offered on the waters of Lake Maggiore -
Activities offered out of water in The Italian Lake Districts -
Locarno International Film Festival - The festival showcases the newest films from Europe's best directors and attracts star-studded audiences from as far away as Hollywood and New York. In addition to full-length films, the festival also shows short films and documentaries. San Vito Feast Day in August The Spirit of Woodstock Festival is an annual open air festival at the end of July/beginning of August at Mirapuri.
For tips about what to see and do in and around Stresa this website is excellent. http://stresasights.blogspot.com/
Just a few tips if you visit Isola dei Pescatori. The island is tiny (350m x 100m) but there are lots of cafés and restaurants. Plan to eat at lunchtime because the last boats leave before 18.00 and after that many places close for the night (you can still ring for a water taxi to come and pick you up though). If you want a really cheap meal there are two small grocers shops where you can buy bread, ham, cheese and fruit but don't expect a lot of choice. If you do want a nice meal there are several nice restaurants, including those in the two hotels at either end of the island. Expect lots of fish on the menu!