A microclimate which can also be subtropical, favourable to plants as well as cyclists, washes the Piedmont shores of Lake Maggiore. Parks, villas and islands are the highlight. But not only this:
The islands of wonder
Arturo Toscanini lived on the little island of San Giovanni Battista. However, the island’s real charm is the Borromean islands which emerge from the blue waters right in front of Stresa. Isola Bella is home to a monumental baroque palace with gardens; isola dei pescatori also called upper is a labyrinth of narrow streets; Isola Madre boasts botanical gardens full of rhododendrons, camellias and pergolas of Wisteria.
The English garden
Villa Taranto sparkles bright in Pallanza along the north eastern flank of the Castagnola promontory. It was Neil Boyd Mc Earcarn Watson, the Queen of England’s bowman and member of Linnean Society to take over the property transforming the old Italian garden into a park with typical English water features, lawns sloping down to the Lake and plants from all over the world.
The most curious Museum
Unique in the world, the umbrella Museum in Gignese between the lake and slopes of Mottarone collects evidence and artefacts which trace the history of the umbrella and its craftsmanship. More than a thousand pieces are exhibited in the Museum next to the tools of the umbrella pedlars of Alto Vergante.
A tranquil and favoured alpine village at the foot of Monte Rosa, Macugnaga is hidden away in a valley surrounded by coniferous woods. In the second half of the 13th century, a nation of shepherds, farmers and woodcutters who were part of the Walser ethnic group settled here on the plateau looking for bountiful meadows. Their characteristic traces are still visible today. The Walser gave life to the villages creating architecture which was able to cope with rigid winters at high altitude. They heated themselves by burning manure in stone ovens and making rye bread once a year in community ovens. A story also told in the Museum of the Mountain and Smuggling of Macugnaga.
The Casa Forte
The presence of the Walser was also felt in the northern triangle of Ossola, wedged in Swiss territory. A landscape marked by the presence of the Toce River that divides the valley into two parts: on one side, the Romance and Latin Antigorio and the other side, the Germanic Val Formazza. Among pastures and Alpine Lakes, Ponte, the historic centre of Val Formazza preserves the Casa Forte dating back to 1569, today, it is a small and interesting ethnographic museum.
The animal park
A botanical garden with many animals. Villa Pallavicino in Stresa has a diversity of flora and fauna making it interesting for adults and children. Its large park includes a farm, a classroom, picnic area, summer gardens, café and a historic villa. After visiting deer, kangaroos, zebras, flamingos and llama farms, there is a snack at the Bar Chalet and a stop in the play area.