Even though I have visited Lago Maggiore countless times, I had never navigated the northern part of the lake before this last trip. Some friends advised us to take the Cento Valli Tour offered by the Lago Maggiore Express. This “tour” combines a train ride in a panoramic coach through the beautiful Valle Vigezzo (which sits northwest of Lago Maggiore) with a boat ride throughout the lake. The train takes you steeply up the canyons high above the lake where you will see waterfalls and rushing rivers. Tiny, picturesque hill towns pop up everywhere. We made a stop at Santa Maria Maggiore, a cobblestoned small town with a lovely main square and beautifully decorated buildings. We visited a local delicatessen and had them make up some delicious panini which, along with a bottle of prosecco, became an impromptu picnic lunch at a local park!
The Cento Valli tour can be taken in both directions – you can either do the train first or the boat. It doesn’t matter and you end up seeing the same things. We decided to do the train first because we wanted to end the day with a relaxing tour on the lake. The train ride began in Baveno, but we didn’t actually board the Cento Valli panoramic train until Domodossola. We disembarked at the final stop of Locarno, at the northernmost tip of Lago Maggiore. Locarno is fairly large and busy, with some interesting sights. We didn’t have much time here, so we decided to only visit the main attraction – the beautiful church of La Madonna del Sasso,which sits at the top of a hill with a gorgeous view of Lago Maggiore. There is a funicular that takes you up to the church…but, if you are feeling energetic, you can also walk the entire way!
After spending a few hours in Locarno, we boarded the boat and began our journey back to Baveno. The boat ride took about 3 hours and we went past so many beautiful lakeside resorts – Cannobbio, Cannero, Intra, Pallanza and many others. We sat inside and outside, and enjoyed a glass of wine while cruising the calm lake. This was a memorable day and one that will remain with me forever 🙂
Hello, everyone! I am happy and sad to say that I have returned from my very quick jaunt to il Bel Paese!!! I’d like to share my adventures with you as well as offer some recommendations for anyone who may be travelling to the places that I visited on this trip 🙂
Our trip began with a flight from SF to Zurich, Switzerland. We chose Zurich because the air fares were so much more reasonable. We flew U.S. Airways – a good and comfortable airline and airplane! The seats in coach were spacious and comfortable. The only drawback was that on the domestic part of the flight (to Philadelphia and back), there was no food service. If we wanted food, we could purchase it, but it consisted of yucky sandwiches 😦 So we actually bought food at the airport prior to our flight and brought it on board with us. Lots of passengers had the same idea!
After arriving in Zurich, we immediately boarded a train for Italy! Our route left directly from the Zurich airport and ended in Baveno, Italy. The train passed beautiful Swiss scenery via Brig and Domodossola. Baveno sits on the western shore of Lago Maggiore, just north of Stresa. The Borromeo Islands sit right offshore and they are easily visible from the shores of Baveno. Please see my previous post about the Borromeo Islands.
We spent our first night at the Hotel Rigoli in a lakefront room. The hotel is very small but well appointed. It is extremely clean but the rooms are on the small side, with REALLY tiny bathrooms. But the size of the room didn’t matter at all once I looked out onto a gorgeous balcony overlooking the lake. Being that I still wasn’t quite used to the time change, I spent a part of the night out on the balcony. The sliver of moon over the lake and the twinkling lights on the opposite shore made me feel like I was living a dream. It was absolutely heavenly 🙂 The hotel has a lovely breakfast room. As with most hotels in Italy, breakfast is included with the price of the room. The breakfast consisted of pastries, breads, cold cuts, cereals and fresh fruits. Espresso coffee drinks are made to order and the service is perfect. The breakfast room opens to the outside, and we were able to enjoy our breakfast lakeside at tables with geraniums to add just the right touch of color to the ambience! All in all, this hotel’s setting is very romantic and the scenery was a dream 🙂
Sunrise over Lago Maggiore from the Hotel Rigoli
Baveno boasts an elegant Lungolago promenade where you can soak in the wonderful lake front vistas. We stopped at a small lakeside cafe for a glass of white wine and some relaxation, which we needed after having been awake for about 30 hours! We found a WONDERFUL restaurant for dinner called Piccola Napoli. The prices were reasonable and the food was excellent. I had been craving real Italian lasagna – and it did not disappoint! But get there early, as the restaurant fills up very quickly. Our first day in Italy did not disappoint!!