OUT OF TOWN
Lying North of Milan, each year the lakes of Lombardy attract millions of visitors thanks to their mild climate, breathtaking scenery, natural beauties and historic and artistic treasures.
Discover the lakes of Lombardy: breathtaking scenery, natural beauties and historical treasures
The shores of Lago Maggiore wash up on the banks of Piedmont and Lombardy in Italy, while its more austere northern basin lies in the mountainous region of Switzerland. The most famous island, lying just off Stresa – a small, elegant town, rich in neoclassic and liberty buildings and a shopping mecca boasting a myriad of boutiques – is Isola Bella, anchored like a fantastic ship-garden and dominated by the majestic Palazzo Borromeo, built in the 17th century and rich in art treasures, including the private collection of Milan’s most famous aristocratic family. The Borromeo clan also owned Rocca di Angera, an imposing fortress (12th-17th century) boasting opulent ambiences, of which the most famous is the Sala di Giustizia. The “Rocca” also has a medieval garden (Visits daily from 9am-5.30pm. www.isoleborromee. it). The new “Lago Maggiore Express” now also offers daily excursions by train and boat from Milan (www.trenord.it/it/free-time). Lake Como is the romantic and worldly older sister of Maggiore and Garda and takes its name from the city of Como. “Must-visit” sights include the Gothic Duomo, the Romanic basilicas of San Fedele and Sant’Abbondio and the neoclassic Villa Olmo. Nestling on the banks of Lake Como in Lenno and currently owned by FAI – a private non-profit trust – Villa del Balbianello is a magnificent example of a perfectly preserved 18th century dwelling. Surrounded by a stunning, terraced panoramic garden, with a breathtaking view of the lake, the Villa is one of the area’s most romantic retreats. Standing on the tip of a promontory overlooking the waters of the lake, the Villa was chosen by director George Lucas as one of the evocative settings for the famous Star War series. Lying just a stone’s throw northwest of Como is Cernobbio, a small fashionable resort frequented by the wealthy of Europe because of its deluxe hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba where director Luchino Visconti spent his childhood (www. villaerba.it). Continuing North, we find Isola Comacina a jewel of art and nature, rich in Mediterranean vegetation and one of the most important archaeological sites of the dark ages in Northern Italy (www.isolacomacina.it). In nearby Tremezzo, don’t miss a visit to the Baroque-style Villa Carlotta, featuring an Italian garden and sculptures by Canova. At the junction of the southern arm of the lake lies Bellagio, also referred to as the pearl of Como, set in a strategic position to soak up the panorama. Don’t miss a visit to the other lakes that are also easily accessible from Milan. These include Lake Orta, with the old Island of San Giulio, dominated by the Romanesque basilica, the Palazzo Vescovile and the monastery (by car from Milan: take the A26 autostrada and exit at either Borgomanero or Arona). Situated just moments from the lake, we find the UNESCO world heritage site of Sacro Monte di Varallo (16th century) with its magnificent basilica and reconstruction of the life of Christ in 45 chapels.
Lake Como, Villa del Balbianello