East Coast of the Lago Maggiore incl. Ispra, Luino and Laveno

One out 14 wonderful chapels in Santa Maria del Monte

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Some of them are as big as a church

Some may ask themselves why a website for project workers has a post on the Lago Maggiore, which is widely known as a holiday destination.  Well, who said that projects and research do not correspond with nice locations?

One of the most prominent research institutes of the European Union is the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra,  Lombardy, Italy.

Consequently, workshops and meetings get organised in / around Ispra, and project workers would definitely miss the most interesting things at the Lago Maggiore and in the Italian Lakes region by simply flying in, joining the meeting and leaving.

This article will help you to find nice locations, get some culture, recommend one of the rare, nice beaches at the Lago and – if you like – get some physical exercise (which is mostly a problem for frequent flyers and those who work day and night).

Lago Maggiore, the westernmost of the great northern Italian lakes, stretches out from Switzerland towards Milano. it is located conveniently between the region’s highest mountan summit – Monte Rosa – and Lago di Garda.

What to do

Do you want to get in touch with some culture?

  • Make a trip to Santa Maria del Monte. This  picturesque little village belongs, due to its pilgrims way with 14 chapels, to the  UNESCO world cultural heritage. The chapels were built in the 16th and 17th century and are dedicated to different aspects of the Christian faith. When already being there, think about making a hiking trip to Monte Tre Croci, Forte Orino and back to Prima Cappella, the starting point of the pilgrims way.
  • Most tourist guides recommend the Borromean Islands close to Verbania. However, the trip did not convince our travel group, but it should be mentioned that the islands are there and that you can visit them. Be aware that the passage by ferry and the admission price are quite expensive.
  • Visit Angera with its mighty fortress. Angera is pretty close to Ispra and just across the lake to Arona. Some ladies and children might not prefer the fortress itself but the museum of dolls and automatons which is located in the fortress.
  • The anchoritism Santa Caterina del Sasso, close to Reno, is always worth a trip.  Check our gallery for a picture of that place.
  • Make a trip to Milano.
  • Make a trip to Locarno.
  • Or finally, make a trip to Como which is a nice location  for shopping.

Do you want to go shopping?

  • Milano and Como are nice shopping places and the latter one is not necessarily pricey.
  • Do you like Bassetti? Think about a stop-over at the Bassetti Outlet in Cuveglia, Via Provenciale 5.
  • Visit the market of Luino which is open each Wednesday. Local products are sold to acceptable prices but finding a parking lot tends to be a problem. Think about using ships and ferries when coming from other villages around the lake.

Do you want to get some physical exercise?

Especially in summertime, you will not have to many other hikers with you on the mountains around. Even on the hottest summer days there is always a nice wind blowing to give you some refreshment. Therefore, we have tested some trips which we offer for a download in the gpx-format coming along with a short description. None of them needs special skills but all will give enough sportive activities to melt the good project meals away from your hips. However, hiking shoes are always strongly recommended.

  • Make a panorama trip above Lago Maggiore, starting in Vararo, close to Laveno. Get there via SP8 and enjoy the narrowed streets. Take a parking lot close to Bar Alpino and just follow the GPS trace. This trip lasts about 4 hours without stops and overviews about nearly the whole lake. On the last part down from Passo Barbè, you might benefit from hiking sticks but you can easily do without them  if you take some time. Download the trace from here.
  • Have you ever seen a village which cannot be reached by car? Just make a hiking trip from Piero via Monteviasco to Curiglia. You get there via Luino and Curiglia – and again narrowed streets will lead you to your starting point. Leave your car in Curiglia and make a relaxing walk down to Piero. Here you will have the most important choice of the day: Untrained persons should take the cable railway, hikers with more ambitions may go for the more than 1000 stairs for getting up to Monteviasco. When arriving here, imagine that this village cannot be reached by car and that the residents have only the cable railway or a helicopter for bulky luggage – which is a total difference to what we call modern comfort. After the sightseeing part, the rest of the trip is enjoying the view and watching old stone houses falling into disrepair. Download the trace from here.
  • When being back from the mountains, think about going swimming at the Lago Maggiore. The tricky part is where to find a) a beach and b) a beach that one can also call a beach. One of the best might be the beach in Caldè (part of Castelveccana), which has nearly a sandy one and you will also find a parking lot nearby – both important criteria in that area. Find the beach under the following link.

Go fishing :-) Fishing permits are sold in tourist offices around the lake. A permit costs for a day around 10 € and has to be paid at the post office.

Where to stay

Lago Maggiore’s lodging opportunities are numerous.

However, being a crowded touristy area, not all offers on the lake will be satisfactory.

  • If your workshop does not already happen here, check Casa Don Guanella in Barza d’Ispra. The place is pretty cool and offers spiritual environment with all facilities that a conference place needs.
  • Closer to the JRC is Albergo Le Terrazze. However,  the biggest advantage of this place is that it is close to the JRC. Probably better check some fora regarding the service before booking.

Getting around

The local traffic and transport infrastructure is an art in itself.

Before talking about how to get around, it is probably better to talk about how to get to Lago Maggiore.

  • Depending on where you are coming from, Malpensa International Airport, as one of the airports of Milano, will be a good option. Getting from the airport to Ispra takes less than 20 minutes and your host will be able to assist you with taxi transfers. Another option is getting there by train via Milano and taking train or bus to the lake. The probably most interesting way in terms of marvellous views is getting  there by car, especially in the summertime when the interesting mountain streets are open. When coming from the direction of Zurich, check whether Grimselpass and Nufenenpass are open. You will not need to be an experienced driver for this route but when having good weather conditions, the marvellous views cannot be beaten.
  • The golden rule at the Lago Maggiore how to get around is  rent a car. There is also a train line running at the eastern cost of the Lago Maggiore but trains do not run so frequently and you might also need a bus connection to your destination.

Where to eat

There are no limits on the amount of Italian food that can be earen around the lake. You just need to find a nice restaurant!

  • When you are already in the area of Luino, do not miss having a meal in Ristorante – Bar “Al Cortiletto” in Via Roma 43 in Brezzo di Bedero. From our point of view, they serve one of the most delicious Pizza quattro formaggi and Calzone farcito one can get. However, this might be a very personal and bias view. So make your own judgement and go there.
  • The water sides of many cities, such as the harbour area of Caldè, offer nice restaurants which are worth a try.

What to bring home

  • Limoncello, a liquor with lemon aroma,  is one of the local specialities. Before just taking a bottle at the supermarket, check the brand and its taste (the yellow colourant is not necessarily an indicator for quality). In some cases it is just a marketing trick to make tourists buy the stuff that local people would never touch.
  • Italian cheese, salami and ham are always worth a try.


  • We tend to recommend openstreetmap.  However, the available material at the Italian cost of the Lago Maggiore still  needs sustainable revisions.
  • Check google maps for useful data.

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