Stunning views on Lake Maggiore

Leave the winter behind, tread new paths, let wide horizons take effect. This is best done on Lake Maggiore. The lake, which has already fascinated Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse and many other cultural figures, offers beautiful landscapes and distant views at their best in every season.

In front of the ten- and thirteen-thousand-feet peaks in its neighborhood, the Sasso del Ferro looks like a dwarf. The “ironstone” rises only about 3,280 feet above sea level on the eastern – the Lombard – shore of Lake Maggiore. On the summit of the “dwarf”, however, there is a scenery to kneel down. On the horizon, the peaks of the Ticino and Upper Valais Alps and the Monte Rosa massif towering over everything, marking the Italian-Swiss border like a sublime colossus.

At the foot of the mountains, scattered like blue pearls in the landscape, smaller and larger lakes and Lake Maggiore with the Borromean Islands, which seem to lie at anchor like ponderous frigates. On clear days – and they are numerous, especially in the winter months – the Sasso del Ferro is recommended as one of the best panoramic terraces far and wide. It can be reached on foot or by car. But the most beautiful way is to let the “Funivia del Lago Maggiore” take you gently to the summit. The ride takes about 15 minutes, and with every foot of altitude that the tiny cabins move away from the valley station in Laveno-Mombello, the world becomes a little smaller and bigger at the same time.

Cadorna Line – Military History and views to Switzerland

Monte Morissolo

Plans to secure Italy’s northern border with a military installation to protect the young state from attacks by its neighbors were already being made at the end of the 19th century. They were put into practice during the First World War. Italy’s army command feared that Austro-Hungarian or German troops might enter the country from Switzerland. Luigi Cadorna, chief of the general staff, had a system of tunnels, trenches and observation posts built high above Lake Maggiore. Thousands of men and women were drafted for the construction. The feared attack, however, failed to materialize.  

Today the “Cadorna Line” is interesting not only for military historians. It is ideal for panoramic hikes and mountain bike tours. Easy to walk in any season, the route leads from the pass Il Colle on the edge of the Val Grande National Park towards Monte Morissolo. A little below the summit is the entrance to the tunnels, which are open to the public. Their embrasures open wide views over the borderland. From the top of Monte Morissolo, you can see almost the entire Lake Maggiore, from Locarno in Switzerland to the southern shore. Turning your back on the lake, the peaks of the Val Grande National Park will leave you speechless.

View of seven lakes from Monte Mottarone

Monte Mottarone rises between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta. Cycling fans may be familiar with it as an energy-sapping stage in the Giro d’Italia. The Mottarone unfolds its charm when you can admire the 360° panorama from its summit. Lago Maggiore, Lago d’Orta and five other lakes lie at the feet of mountaineers – and even more, a piece of northern Italy that stretches from the edge of the Alps to the Po Valley. In recent years, the Mottarone has developed into a veritable mountain biker’s paradise. Over its partly wooded, partly treeless slopes run courses of varying length and difficulty.

Brilliant view from San Carlo’s head

Carlo Borromeo statue

A colossal statue made of bronze and copper plates is enthroned on a hill near Arona. It commemorates Carlo Borromeo, the former archbishop of Milan. Borromeo had made a name for himself in the 16th century as a fierce opponent of the Protestants, but also as a caring helper of plague sufferers. In 1584, at the age of only 46, he himself died of the plague and was canonized just a few years after his death. At the instigation of his cousin and successor in office, construction began in 1624 on the walk-in monument that later served the USA as the model for the Statue of Liberty. Including the pedestal, “Sancarlone,” as the statue on Lake Maggiore is called by the locals, is 115 feet high. Those who do not fear the climb up the spiral staircase and ladders will be rewarded with an enchanting view from San Carlo’s head.

A place, almost floating between the rocks and the lake

Hermitage Santa Caterina del Sasso

The hermitage of Santa Catarina del Sasso is one of the most impressive excursion destinations on Lake Maggiore. Here, where a steep rock wall plunges into the lake with no shoreline to speak of, a Milanese merchant and usurer is said to have withdrawn into a grotto as a hermit in the Middle Ages after a drastic experience in order to lead a godly life from then on. A monastery was later built next to the grotto. The graceful church and the outbuildings seem to literally cling to the rock. Located on the Lombardy shore, between Arona and Laveno, the place can be reached by car. However, its full beauty is revealed only if you board an excursion boat on the opposite, Piedmontese shore and approach it by water. From the lake, Santa Catarina appears as an almost unreal place, suspended between rocks and water.

Photos: Roberto Maggioni