The Alps, the Lakes, the Sea Part 1: From Turin to Milan through the mountains and the lakes

The area between Turin, Milan and Genoa is today known in Italy as the industrial triangle. And yet the names of these same cities evoke three of the most magnificent aspects of Italy’s natural scenery: the Alps, at whose feet Turin spreads the regular network of its straight streets; the lakes, which are set like a diadem on the brow of the Lombard capital; and the sea of the two Rivieras which meet where Genoa sits, enthroned like a queen.

The itinerary:

Torino: one or more days should be reserved to visit Torino and nearby surroundings.

Ivrea: an ancient city on the banks of the tumultuous Dora River, which was the capital of the short-lived Italic kingdom of Berengarius It and Arduinus (966-1011).

Turin Torino

Beyond Ivrea, the Canavese plain narrows as we climb the valley of the Dora: this is the road along which the legions passed between Rome and Gaul, and it is, therefore, strewn with Roman bridges, archways and inscriptions. Massive medieval castles dot the countryside up as far as the Alpine passes.

Some 11 miles from Ivrea is the town of Pont Saint Martin with its Roman bridge (130 B.C.) and 9 miles further on, the town of Verres, with its Tower of St. Gilles, Castle and medieval houses. It is worth going the extra mile to Issogne, where, in a breathtaking position, stands the most beautiful Castle in the Valle d’Aosta, with a remarkable arcaded courtyard, XV century frescoes showing scenes of everyday life, and magnificent original furnishings.

After another 3 miles, we reach Saint Vincent, a famous holiday resort, with a Roman bridge. Passing through Chatillon (with another castle) and Nits, we reach 1,5 miles) the mighty Castle of Fenis also containing beautiful frescoes.

Aguille Brenva

Aosta: Tourists are advised to spend the night in Aosta and on the next morning take the unforgettable trip through Courmayeur, the well-known mountain resort, to the daring Cableway which soars over the Mont Blanc glacier to Chamonnix, probably the most thrilling Alpine journey possible today.

Vercelli: On the morning we come back down the Valle d’Aosta and, passing by lvrea, cover the thirty miles to VERCELLI, an ancient Roman and medieval city.

Novara: Fifteen miles from Vercelli, we find the city of NOVARA, dominated by the Doing (399 feet high) built by Antonelli for the Church of San Gaudenzio. In the center of the town stand the XIX century Cathedral, the XIV century Baptistery and the XV century Palazzo del Broletto.

Orta Lake: After a short climb through Borgomanero and Gozzano we reach the lovely LAKE OF ORTA, surrounded by high mountains.

Isola Bella Garden
Isola Bella Garden – Photo ©

Stresa: After a journey enhanced by magnificent views of the lakes and mountains, we descend to Stresa, the gem of Lake Maggiore (in Latin Verbanus), whose northern arm extends into Swiss territory. The extraordinary beauty of its vegetation, its delightful scenery and the mildness of its climate have made it a famous holiday resort ever since ancient times. By taking a boat from Stresa, you can visit the Borromean Island: Isola Bella, with its Palazzo Borromeo, containing partings, tapestries and a collection of arms, Isola Madre and Isola del Pescatori, with its quaint fishermen’s houses. From Sresa it is also worth a visit to the Mottarone.

The next day, our trip continues towards the Swiss border (35 miles). We come first to Baveno with its lovely bay (Romanesque Parrocchiale, Baptistery) and then, leaving tiny Lake Mergozzo to our left, to the village of Pallanza perched on an enchanting promontory jutting into the lake (note the Palazzo Pretorio, the XVI century Church of S.Leonardo, and the Church of the Madonna dl Campagna with its Bramantesque octagonal dome).

Rounding the tip of the promontory, we come in rapid succession upon the towns of Intra, Ghiffa and Cannero, off which the ruins of old castles may be seen on two tiny islands.

At Poggio di Valmara, we cross the Swiss border. After Ascona, the millionaires paradise, we reach the city of LOCARNO 11 miles from the border, with its Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, which is accessible by funicular railway and from which a magnificent view may be enjoyed.

We then cover the 25 miles of lovely scenic road, via Cadenazzo, to LUGANO on the lake of the same name (see the old quarter, the Renaissance Cathedral, the XV century Palace of Justice and Lucchini Palace, the XVII century Rival Palaces and, above all, the extremely important frescoes by Bernardino Luini in the church of Santa Maria degli Angioli; visit the richly endowed Von Thyssen collection).

Lecco from Varenna
Lecco from Varenna

Continuing south and crossing a bridge over the lake, we leave the tiny Italian enclave of Campione (charming position, Casino) on the left, and come to the border-town of Chiasso (15 miles), where we re-enter Italy.

Two miles more and we are in Como. Following the shore road, we reach the middle of town, heading in the direction of a noteworthy group of buildings which includes the severe Tower with its Gothic-Renaissance facade (elaborate Porch with statues in cuspidate niches) and its XVI century apse and dome; insider, tapestries and paintings by B. Luini and G. Ferrari.

From Brunate, which may be reached by funicular railway (2,355 ft.), there is a magnificent view, of the lake and the Alps.

The next day should be spent in a tour around the lake. From Como to the northernmost tip there are some forty miles of unforgettable scenery, punctuated by towns containing features of extraordinary interest: Cernobbio, with the XVI century Villa d’Este, now a luxury hotel; Moltrasio, with the little Romanesque church of S. Agata; Argegno, at the mouth of the Val d’Intelvi and across from the Island Comacina (remains of the very old church of S.Eufemia, and an attractive in). Then we come to Tremezzo, with the best view, of the shoreline as well as the lovely Villa Carlotta (1747); crossing over by boat to Balbianello Point, a visit may be paid to the Villa Arconaii. Then there are Cadenabbia, Menaggio and Gravedona the latter with a severe Romanesque church in S.Maria del Tiglio and the noble XVI century Palazzo Gallic.

From the tip of the lake, we start down the eastern shore (27,5 miles) to Lecco. On the far side of a small inlet stands the Romanesque Abbey of Piona, the cloister of which is the architectural jewel of the lake. We then pass through Bellano, with its beautiful XIV century church, and Varenna, whence a boat can be taken to the delightful town of Bellagio with the Serbelloni and Melzi Villas, set amidst pinewoods and parks that stretch to the very extremity of its tiny peninsula (Romanesque church of San Giacomo). Continuing from Varenna, in the shadow of the towering slopes of Mt. Grigna (7,875 ft.), we pass by LECCO and skirting the little Garlate Lake, we come after 20 miles) to MONZA, which was an extremely important city under the Longobards. It boasts a magnificent Cathedral (1396) faced with white, green and black marble m the Chapel of Queen Teodolinda, lively XV century frescoes; in the Treasury, the Iron Crown of the Longobard kings of Italy which was worn by Charles V and Napoleon, the XIII century Arengario, at one time the Town Hall, and the splendid Royal Park, where the Motor-Race Track is to be found.

Milano: You should reserve at least two days to visit Milan, interesting is also the visit on foot to the center of Milan.

The itinerary continues with: Part 2: From Milan to Turin via the sea

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