Stresa is a nice town located 90 kilometers north of Milan, the ideal place if you are planning to visit Lake Maggiore or for a pleasant daytrip escape from the big-city chaos. There are several reasons why Stresa is the most popular town on Lake Maggiore, including the city center and waterfront area which is attractively maintained and a very enjoyable place to start exploring the town with a promenade and an ice cream along the lakeside.
Stresa has also some interesting attractions, such as Alpinia Botanic Garden and the garden of Villa Pallavicino. The animals and birds here are generally of the smaller species but they are very accessible to visitors and the park is quite extensive, with a large botanical garden and numerous mature trees along the shores of the lake, all around an imposing 19th century villa. You can also visit some of the many villas that shine along the lake, or take a trip to Isola Bella and Isola Madre, the most famous islands of the beautiful Borromean Islands. The gardens of these two Borromean Islands are rich in flora and fauna: camellias, rhododendrons, white peacocks, exotic birds, tropical flowers and the largest Kashmir cypress in Europe. The villa on Isola Madre hosts some beautiful trompe d’oeil frescoes as well as puppets and puppet theatres. Over on Isola Bella our favourite parts of the grand palace are the mosaic table, the shell-studded grottoes and the Salone delle Feste.
Stresa is also the perfect starting point if you like peaceful walks, mountain trekking, climbing, and cycling along the surrounding mountainous routes. The most striking ones are on Mottarone, a mountain located west of Stresa. Its peak, 1492 meters above sea level, is a fantastic natural terrace to enjoy a an uninterrupted 360° panorama from the Ligurian Apennines and the Maritime Alps to the Monte Rosa massif, the Monviso and the high peaks of Switzerland, across the Po Plain, and the unequalled spectacle of seven lakes (Orta, Maggiore, Mergozzo, Biandronno, Varese, Monate, Comabbio). Mottarone belongs to the western Alps group and it is also known as "the Mountain of the two Lakes", as it is conveniently located between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta. Mottarone offers hiking enthusiasts a myriad of paths of historical and scenic interest, through mature woods of fir, pine, larch, beech and chestnut, across ancient mountain pastures where animals graze and the meadows are full of the scent of herbs and flowers. In winter it is a major ski centre for the Lake Maggiore area, with a variety of runs, excellent restaurant facilities and equipment hire.
In the past, Mottarone was accessible only by walk. Today, you can get to the peak from Stresa, taking a cable car, or by biking as well. If you are a non-expert biker, it would be wiser to take the cable car and taking your bike with you, and then go down for 25 kilometers following the signs for Stresa. If you want to walk, keep in mind that the difference in elevation to be covered is about 1350 meters. In about 1 hour, the well-marked path takes you to the peak of Mottarone, where you can enjoy a great view of the Lake Maggiore and the mountains in the background. However, the best way to reach the top is to take a cable car from Stresa to Mottarone, which leaves from Piazzale Lido and reaches the peak after a 20-minute journey.
Do not forget to taste the local food! The area surrounding Mottarone is rich of farms specialized in local cheese, ricotta and blue cheese. Another typical product of this area is thel liquor, called Amaro Mottarone, which is produced with the herbs that grow on the peak of the mountain.
If you are looking for something romantic you should experience an unique dinner on Isola Pescatori. After the last ferries take visitors away you’ll find you virtually have the island to yourselves. Take a romantic stroll around narrow lanes and out onto the “tail” of the island as the sun sets and then head for one of the restaurants for dinner – our favourite is Ristorante Belvedere. If you book dinner at one of the island’s restaurants they will arrange the taxi boat transfers free of charge from Stresa
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