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Lake Maggiore is a beautiful spot in northern Italy and a popular destination worldwide for good reason. The day we went, the weather was near perfect and we spent the morning sailing, a popular activity to do while there. We saw lots of incredible homes lining the shores, Santa Caterina del Sasso which was simply unbelievable and even if only for a morning, got a glimpse of what life is like there.
If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you look into sailing on Lake Maggiore, quite possibly no better way to see the lake. Also, your captain will be able to answer the many questions you’re sure to have as well as point out lots of different things you wouldn’t have noticed.
Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second-largest lake. It measures 64 kilometers in length, with a small portion of the northern end sitting within Switzerland.
Lake Maggiore has been home to human habitation since the Copper Age. Inhabited by the Ligures and then the Celts, the area was conquered by the Romans, who called this lake Lacus Maximus, or Verbanus Lacus.
The settlements that exist around Lake Maggiore today mostly date from the Middle Ages. Over this period of history, the lake was controlled by a various nobles, including the likes of the Della Torres, the Viscontis and the Habsburgs.
Scientist Alessandro Volta became famous in the late 18th century for isolating and identifying methane from marsh gas that rose from the banks of Lake Maggiore.
Lake Maggiore has also been referenced in modern literature, as American author Ernest Hemingway featured it in his novel A Farewell To Arms, in which the book’s protagonist and his lover fled from the Italian National police by paddling across the lake in a row boat.
Geography and climate
Much of the lake is ringed by the southern ranges of the Alps, with prominent peaks including Monte Tamaro, Monte Nudo and Monte Limidario.
Monte Rosa is the highest mountain within visual range of the lake, sitting 50 kilometers to the west. A Mediterranean climate exists here, with warm summers and mild winters.
The lake retains heat better than the surrounding land during the winter, and it cools the surrounding area with breezes off its waters during the summer.
Tourist attractions in the area
Sacro Monte di Ghiffa is a mountaintop Christian shrine that is one of the nine that are part of the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy UNESCO world heritage site.
Dedicated to the mystery of the Trinity, it remains incomplete in the present day. However, its architectural aspects show the difference in construction between the era of The Counter Reformation and the era when building monuments to The Passion of the Christ became popular.
Santa Caterina del Sasso is another popular religious landmark in this region and one of the highlights of our sailing trip. It is a monastery that was built in the 13th century after merchant Alberto Besozzi was saved from a storm after praying to the Virgin Mary.
Located on the side of a cliff on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, it had played host to a variety of monks over the centuries, and was saved from ruin by the Italian government in 1914. It can be explored by visitors by taking a long staircase from above, or via an elevator from the shore of Lake Maggiore below.
Sailing is a popular summer activity for visitors to Lake Maggiore. Those that lack skill in this area can hire experienced captains that will help them pilot their boat to landmarks such as Santa Caterina del Sasso, as well as various restaurants around the lake.
In the winter, some people come to Lake Maggiore to go skiing. There are 21 runs available at Mottarone Ski Centre, many of which are suitable for beginners.
With the area’s mild climate, it is possible to spend the morning here, and then go sailing on the lake in the afternoon.
Fans of folk and indie rock come to the area annually in July to attend the Spirit of Woodstock Festival. They host bands from around the world, don’t charge admission, and offer cheap rates for camping. Together with a German-style beer garden, it draws a faithful following every year.
Below is a video I made of my time sailing on Lake Maggiore.
In closing, I’d like to thank the fine people at iambassador and In Lombardia for creating, managing and sponsoring this campaign. That said, all thoughts are my own as they always have been and always will be.