Stresa – Locarno by boat

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Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore – Photo © Paolo Marini

Stresa – Locarno, a boat trip

This boat itinerary covers the Northern part of Lake Maggiore, and ends in Locarno, Canton Ticino Switzerland, so, bring your passport with you, as you will need it to cross the border between Italy and Switzerland.

Baveno and Pallanza

From Stresa the hydrofoil stops also in Baveno and Pallanza, while the slow boat doesn’t.

Porto Valtravaglia - Photo ©

Porto Valtravaglia – Photo ©

Porto Valtravaglia

The boat crosses the basin reaching Porto Valtravaglia on the Lombardy side, in about twenty minutes, locality that inherited its name from the surrounding territory, with summit in Germignaga, it stretches out to the west to Castelveccana, to the south towards the mountains Cuvignone, Colonna, Nudo and San Martino, and to the east towards the valley of the Margorabbia stream.

Tourist center with a small lake-front, Porto preserves in the area going towards the mountains the Romanesque style arrocchiale dell’Assunta, later adapted in the 16th cent., and the 17th Oratorio of San Rocco.

Arriving in this locality, is visible on the right the promontory Rocca di Calde’, so called because of the ancient fortress that rises there that was restored by Ottone Visconti, and then dismantled by the Swiss in 1513.


Luino Real Estate Photo ©


Departing once again from Porto Valtravaglia the boat continues in the direction of Luino fronting the Piedmontse shore and the tiny centers towns that comprise the commune of Oggebbio (Novaglio, Camogno, Gonte, Barbe, where there is the 19th cent. villa of Massimo D’Azeglio, Piancavallo and Resega) and you arrive after having doubled round Germignaga, industrial center stretch froth on the lake and home of the Stehli silk mills.

Birthplace of Piero Chiara and frequently mentioned in his novels, positioned at the mouth of the Valtravaglia and of the Tresa, in a wide inlet of the high lake, Luino is a celebrated tourist spot.

Besides, favored by the confluence of communications networks and by the proximity of the frontier mountains passes with Switzerland, it is site of industrial and commercial activity of antique tradition.

While the old Borgo, of which there remain epoch buildings and narrow steep streets, originated in the hinterland along the right bank of Tresa River, the most recent development is the lake-front, where the 15th cent. Madonna del Carmine rises, and the southern zone of the built up area.

In the central piazza Garibaldi, is the Monumento all’Eroe (Monument to the Heroes) of 1867 by Alessandro Puttinati, to commemorate the fight that occurred here between the Austrians and the 1500 volunteers led by Garibaldi on August 14th ,1848.

Here, every Wednesday, you have the crowded famous market, instituted with the special edict of the Emperor Charles the Fifth of the Hapsburg in 1541 and considered the oldest market in Europe. Still fronting on the lake is also piazza della Libertˆ, where Palazzo Crivelli Serbelloni rises, planned by Carlo Felice Soave (today home of the Municipal) and surrounded by other elegant 19th cent. buildings.

Cannero Riviera

Cannero Riviera Photo ©

Cannero Riviera

The spectacular ruins of Cannero Castles are situated on two small rocky islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore. They date back to the 12th-13th centuries and were rebuilt in 1519-1521 upon orders from Ludovico Borromeo.

Cannero Riviera faces Luino, and takes its name from the namesake stream at back of which there is Mt. Carza (116 meters). In front of this popular tourist spot, emerge two rocky tiny islands with the suggestive ruins of the celebrated Castelli di Cannero: all that remains of the villa-castle Vitaliana that at the beginning of the 16th cent. Ludovico Borromeo had built on the ruins of the old castles called Malpaga, belonging to the Mazzarsiti, overbearing squires of the zone in the 14 – 15th cent. and dismantled by Filippo Maria Visconti in the early years of the 15th cent.

Cannobio in winter

Cannobio in winter Photo © ladigue_99


With departure from Intra, the boats connect various towns mentioned above: Ghiffa, Oggebbio and Cannero on the Piedmont shore and effect numerous daily runs between Cannero, Luino, Maccagno and Cannobio.

Precisely at Cannobio, last Commune in Italian territory, the boat departed from Luino docks after crossing the basin once again.

This tourist spot presents interesting medieval testimonies, among which the Palazzo della Ragione (House of Reason) called “Parrasio”, ordered to be built at the end of the 3rd cent. by the chief magistrate Ugolino Mandello and modified in 17th cent. ground-level portico, at its right is the Torre del Comune (Tower of the Commune), in Romanesque style (13th cent.), that in reality is the ancient belfry of the nearby Collegiata di San Vittore, demolished and rebuilt in the 18th cent.

Of the end of the 16th cent. and due to Carlo Borromeo is the Sanctuary della Pietˆ. Not far from Cannobio you find the Orrido di Sant’Anna (Ravine of Saint Anna), a rocky gorge hollowed out by the Cannobino stream. Old testimony of an illustrious historical past (in the 17th cent. it even had at its disposal a Mint where it made money) it is the so-called Torre Imperiale, fronting the lake and dating back to the 13th – 14th cent.

Going up from Maccagno towards the Valveddasca, at some kilometers is the Lake Delio, at 930 meters of altitude, of glacial origin. Its waters feed the imposing hydroelectric power plant of Ronco Valgrande (the turbines are positioned in the enormous caverns), with an output of close to a billion KWh a year.

Brissago - Photo © uwelino

Brissago – Photo © uwelino


The boat, departed from Canobbio, courses along the western shore doubling round Piaggio Valmara, seat of the Dogana Italiana (Italian Customs) and Madonna del Ponte, seat of of the Swiss one, in order to dock after twenty minutes at the first port called in Helvetian territory: Brissago, where the operations of the Swiss frontier are carried out. Popular weather station situated at the feet of the Limidario Mt., the little city is seat of a large tobacco manufacturer dating back to the mid-19th cent., and, in panoramic position, rises the Parrocchiale of the ‘500s.

A little more than a kilometer from the shore you come upon the archipelago of the Islands of Brissago (reachable either from here as from Porto Ronco, further north), made up the little island of Sant’Apollinaire, of lush vegetation, where are preserved the remains of the tiny Romanesque church that gave it its name, and from the Island of san Pancrazio, home of a monastery, as far back as the ‘500s, where you have the botanical garden and a villa of the 1927 with the Museo Etnografico Africano (African Etnographic Museum).

The archipelago, transformed into a place of residence and convention of artists by the Baroness Antonietta Saint Leger in 1895, is from the 1950s Botanical Park of the Canton Ticino and its lush vegetation, thanks to the unique climatic conditions, it is subdivided in zones representing flora of all over world.

On the left of Brissago, set down in the inlet in line with the delta of Maggia River and at the feet of wooded hills, you find the picturesque Borgo of Ascona, famous tourist locality with a beautiful lake-front of plant trees flanked by hotels, characteristic houses and, on the adjacent little piazza, the Parrocchiale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo. Among the many cultural and folkloristic displays, the “Musical Weeks”, held in the autumn, are noteworthy.

Locarno - Photo © uwelino

Locarno – Photo © uwelino


After 40 minutes of navigation from Brissago (or 20 from Ascona) the boat reaches the celebrated city of Locarno, positioned at the northern tip of Verbano and accommodated in a beautiful inlet at the slopes of the Mt. Poncione di Trosa.

Interesting and characteristic the historical center with buildings and structures of the ‘600s, and part of the 14th cent. Viscount Castle rebuilt in the 16th cent. but destroyed by the Swiss in 1513, currently site of the Museum of Modern Art and the Archeological Collection.

Of the 16thy cent. period are instead the buildings and portico houses gathered around piazza Grande, where silhouetted against the sky is the 14th cent.

Torre del Comune, connected to the gardens with the Kursaal-Casino of the early ‘900s. Two important artistic reminders are the 15th cent. frescoes of Santa Maria in Selva (presently the Chapel of the Cemetery), and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, in a panoramic location on the slopes of Poncione.

Founded in 1450, following the apparition of the Virgin, rebuilt in the 17th cent. and again rearranged in the early years of this century, it preserves some interesting works.

Lastly it must be remembered that at Locarno annually there is the Cinematography Festival, fourth in importance after Cannes, Venezia and Berlin.

From Locarno the boat leaves following the course already executed, and facing on the so-called eastern shore of the Gambarogno, a series of localities reached by local boat services: Magadino, at the mouth of the vast plane where the Ticino river outfalls; the picturesque fishermen’s village of Vira-Gambarogno, San Nazzaro, then Gerra-Gambarogno and Ranzo, ultimate landing place in the Swiss waters.

Locarno, Madonna del Sasso Photo © fastfoodforthought

Locarno, Madonna del Sasso Photo © fastfoodforthought

Locarno, Madonna del Sasso

Beyond the Italian border the townships of Pino Lake Maggiore rise, with its 16th cent. tower present seat of the Municipal, and of Tronzano, at the slopes of the Mt. Borgna (1158), with the Church of Immaculate reconstructed in the ‘500s, on the ruins of a Romanesque building, of which the belfry remained; finally Maccagnano the locality we discussed earlier.

Where to stay in Stresa

There are hotels, apartments, villas and B&Bs available, check it out and make a reservation here.