Perched on the western shore of Lake Maggiore, Stresa is a charming town in northern Italy’s Piedmont region. It is believed to date from at least the 10th century and was where Ernest Hemingway set part of his novel “Farewell to Arms”. Stresa watches over the Borromean Islands, with their ornate palaces and ornamental gardens, and is surrounded by the picturesque countryside.
Things to do in Stresa
On the eastern edge of Stresa is Villa Pallavicino, a Neoclassical residence that was envisioned by statesman Ruggero Bonghi in the mid-19th century. It lies at the heart of a 16-hectare park where deer, foxes and racoons roam. Admire the broad lawns and landscaped beds filled with rhododendrons, magnolias and roses, then say “hello” to the zebras, grey-crowned cranes and peacocks at the on-site zoo.
A highlight of visiting Stresa is cruising to the nearby Borromean Islands, a small archipelago named after the family who acquired the islands in the early 16th century. Wander through the English-style gardens of Isola Madre and marvel at the vast palace of Isola Bella where Italian artwork and Flemish tapestries are displayed.
No visit to Stresa is complete without a stroll along the Lungolago, a two-kilometre-long lakeside promenade that winds past grand hotels and elegant villas. In addition to its seasonal flower gardens, the route is dotted with fountains, sculptures and monuments. Along the way, you can refresh with a dip in Lake Maggiore from La Baia Rosa or the Stresa Municipal Beach.
Getting around Stresa
Stresa is 45 minutes’ drive from Gallarate and 1.5 hours from Milan. Milan Malpensa Airport is about an hour away. Trains connect from Milan to the Stresa railway station and boats travel to the nearby Borromean Islands. Stresa is compact enough to explore on foot.