Lake Maggiore is a canvas of blues and greens painting Italy like a fresco in Florence.
You will find Lago di Maggiore, also known as Lake Maggiore, within the lake region of Italy. Although it’s smaller and less frequented than Lake Garda and Lake Como, Lake Maggiore is one of the most impressive natural destinations in the entire world.
Lake Maggiore was formed from a glacier long ago amongst piercing mountains and rolling hills in northern Italy, and even parts of southern Switzerland. It’s a staple in both the Lombardy and Piedmont regions. The mass of water goes for about 40 miles in either direction lapping at the rocky shores shaded by a sea of greenery. You can spend days exploring its winding trails, sleepy towns, and gentle waters.
Because the Simplon Pass was created to intersect the Alps and connect Switzerland and Italy, Lake Maggiore became a bucket list destination in the 19th century. And still to this day, it’s flooded with families, weekend warriors and locals who are all infatuated with the woodsy landscape.
Although simply idyllic all year round, Lake Maggiore is best visited and explored during the autumn months, especially October. The lake’s greenery transforms into hues of red and orange that ignites the lake into a rippling fire of freshwater. It’s not only beautiful and mesmerizing, but it is also less crowded and cheaper than the rest of the year. Plus the weather has yet to capture winter’s chill.
Are you ready to pack your bags?
Lake Maggiore in October is when this region transforms into a beautiful backdrop of colour, crisp mornings and comfortable afternoons.
Although a bit cooler than September, October’s temperatures are far less stifling than the summer months. The average daily high temperature throughout the month rests right around 13°C (55°F), while the average daily low temperature plummets to about 7°C (45°F) at night. Don’t be surprised if temperatures reach highs of 18°C (64°F) at various points throughout the month. This time of the year the sun still has some hints of warmth that the November and December months lack.
October may also see more rain, but the rainfall only adds to the beautiful landscape that gleams and glints under the moisture. After it rains, stroll along the edge of the lake and wander from town to town taking in the feeling that only October can offer Lake Maggiore. You won’t be disappointed.
How to Get There
Although Lake Maggiore is situated between both Italy and Switzerland, it is a pretty easy trip to make, especially if you’re coming from Milan. Like Lake Como, it is relatively accessible for locals and tourists.
Whether you’re travelling internationally or nationally within Italy, chances are you will find yourself accessing Lake Maggiore via one of Milan’s airports. It’s not only close by, but it’s also a budget option for travellers. Milan has two airports, Milan Linate and Milan Malpensa. And they are both a little over an hour away from Lake Maggiore. From the airports, you can rent a car or take a train to this region. Are you not coming from Milan? Then the Il Caravaggio International Airport located in Bergamo is also a quick option for those coming from other countries and across the border.
If you decide to travel by train from the airport then you will want to catch a ride from Milan’s central station, Milano Centrale. Another option is to take the Swiss Rail from Switzerland’s Brig to Stresa or Arona. Just remember that Italy train fares often increase with time so try to book as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re on a budget! Although October is considered off-peak season, and you will most likely get better deals and prices.
Bus services, like Alibus, from Malpensa Airport, also make stops in the towns dotting this region. It stops in Dormelletto, Arona, Belgirate, Stresa, Baveno, Pallanza, and Verbania. Be sure to research this option since some services will change during the shoulder tourist season.
Lake Maggiore offers one of the best ferry circuits in the entire lake region. You can find ferry services in Stresa, Baveno, or Carciano, and they will all go to the Borromean Islands, which are popular day trips.
The roads in Lake Maggiore wind and crisscross at all angles through the mountainous region. Although the views are incredible, driving throughout the region can be quite a daunting task for tourists. The locals, of course, make it look easy.
Festivals and Events
One of the best reasons to visit Lake Maggiore in October is all of the festivals and events, especially all of the food festivals that pop up in celebration of the fall foliage and harvest. What’s an Italian holiday without tasting everything the region has to offer?
Crodo d’Autunno comes around from the 14thof to the 16thof October in celebration of the changing of the seasons, and the flavours that come with it. You can find this festival in Crodo.
Sagra della Castagna
On the 2nd of October, the 8th of October, and the 9th of October you can find a tribute to the chestnut in both Massino Visconti and Seppiana.
Sagra del Cinghiale
Lake Maggiore is known for its use of boar in its many staple dishes, and the fall season seems to be when it tastes best. So make the trek to Ornavasso to try all the tastes of the Lake Maggiore boar.
Sagra del Cioccolato
Sagra del Cioccolato is a festival completely dedicated to chocolate. The smells that waft through Gravellona Toce wrap the entire region in a sweet and comforting aroma. This is a can’t-miss event!
Sagra della Zucca
What’s a festival in October without a little bit of pumpkin? From the 15thof October to the 16thof October Santa Maria Maggiore comes alive with everything and anything pumpkin.
This food festival bridges Italy to the rest of its home continent and celebrates the many tastes, smells, and herbs of European food. Go to Arona at the end of the month to celebrate Mercato Europeo!
Things to See and Do
There is so much to see and do in Lake Maggiore, but these activities, views, and attractions are a great place to start!
Hike the Mottarone
The Mottarone is a looming mountain that watches over the lake region and ignites under the vibrant hues of autumn. No matter where you are in Lake Maggiore you can’t miss this natural beast that practically erupts under the Italian sun. Although you can reach the views of the Mottarone by cable car, it’s also a great place to immerse yourself in Lake Maggiore’s refreshing air by hiking, strolling or running through its vast trail system.
Eat on the water at Ristorante Milano
When you visit Lake Maggiore you can’t leave without dining at Ristorante Milano, one of the most famous restaurants in the entire area. The restaurant is perched over Pallanza’s harbour where you can capture views of small fishing boats rocking to the tune of the lapping shores. It’s a quaint and gentle scene that only Lake Maggiore can capture with its charm. And the food served is an adventure to experience. Ristorante Milano serves lake fish, pigeon pâté, and local lamb. If you want the full Ristorante Milano experience then be sure to arrive by boat.
Experience culture in Stresa
Stresa is one of the most famous towns in Lake Maggiore because it offers incredible views of the lake, easy access points to the Borromean Islands and an atmosphere rife with entertainment, history, and culture. It also has a bustling music scene. And even during the off-season, Stresa always seems to be a lively Italian jaunt.
Kayak through the Orrido di Sant’Anna
It’s never too cold to kayak through the Orrido di Sant’Anna. The Orrido di Sant’Anna is a gorge that greets the rhythmic flow of the Cannobino River with wild rapids that will greet any adventurer with a healthy bit of fear and excitement.
Live out a fairytale at the Rocca Borromeo
The Rocca Borromeo is a castle practically etched from a fairytale so much so that it has become a wedding destination for swooning couples. The structure hails from the 10thcentury and still dons the same air of elegance, beauty and prestige centuries later. You can find this well-preserved structure in the heart of Angera.
Tour each of the Borromean Islands
The Borromean Islands are by far the largest draw for tourists when they visit Lake Maggiore. The Borromean Islands comprise an archipelago of three islands that sit between the shores of Verbania and Stresa. Their history stems from the Borromean family, who decorated each island with lush gardens, rare flora and fauna and grand villas that loom large and depict the Romantic Age. And all three islands have something different to offer.
The main attraction and the highly-popular island is Isola Bella. Isola Bella is famous for its villa and maze of gardens where the Borromean threw lavish parties with historic figures like Ernest Hemingway and Napoleon. Isola Madre is an ode to English-style architecture where plants and gardens grow along with the island’s history and culture. Isola Pescatori is the smallest of the three islands to offer quaint cobblestone streets to get lost along. It’s also a great place to indulge in Italian cuisine. Whether you go to one island or all three, this is an experience that you cannot miss.
Ride the Mottarone Cable Car
Instead of hiking the Mottarone, you can experience everything it has to offer by riding a cable car to the top for panoramic views of Lake Maggiore. From this vantage point, on a clear day, you may also have the opportunity to capture glimpses of Lake Orta, the imposing Alps, and Po Valley. You can make a day of it by stopping halfway up at the Alpine Gardens for a quick snapshot, a lounge or a picnic of Italian delicacies. Then continue towards the top of Mottarone for a picturesque dream. Round trip tickets cost around 16.55 pounds (19 euros), and it’s well worth the price tag.
Trek through Lagoni di Mercurago Nature Park
You will find Lagoni di Mercurago Nature Park in the hills just outside of Arona near the smaller village of Mercurago, which is another great place to take a day trip for a local experience. The park is home to animals, birds, plants and several smaller lakes to explore – if Lake Maggiore isn’t taking up too much of your time. This is also a great spot to hike and mountain bike since motor vehicles are prohibited from entering Lagoni di Mercurago Nature Park.
Wander the gardens of Villa Taranto
Villa Taranto is a magnificent and lush labyrinth of greenery that rivals the gardens of the Borromean Islands but welcomes far less foot traffic.
October is by far one of the best months to experience everything Lake Maggiore has to offer. And here are some tips of the travel trade to make sure you get everything and more out of this popular holiday destination in northern Italy.
To be prepared for the slight chill of October, make sure you pack layers, a light jacket, and a raincoat just in case the weather is temperamental. Don’t forget trainers that you don’t mind getting a little muddy because Lake Maggiore offers some of the best hikes in the region.
Do you want to see all three of the Borromean Islands? Then purchase a hop-on-hop-off ticket that will allow you to travel at your own pace and experience every lavish nook and cranny.
Another way to spend a day aside from gallivanting across the Borromean Islands is a day trip to Switzerland since it’s so close! You can take the ferry over, and return by train later in the day.
And don’t forget that one of the best reasons to travel to Lake Maggiore in October is the off-season discounts on airfare and accommodation.
To discover more about Lake Maggiore and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for where to go, where to stay, and what to do.