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Discovering Piedmont: Italy's Second Largest Region

Piedmont, or Piemonte in Italian, stretches from the Alps to the Mediterranean over 9,700 mi² (25.300 sq km), making it Italy's second-largest region after Sicily. With a population of over 4,300,000 inhabitants, it shares borders with France to the west, Switzerland to the north, and Lombardy to the east. The region's southern side is naturally defined by the Apennines mountains which separate it from the Liguria region.

Piedmont is famous for its mountainous terrain that boasts ski resorts in the west and north, as well as its fall truffles and renowned wines. The city of Turin is also a must-see destination. With its mountains, hills, and unique flavors, Piedmont is sure to captivate you. This region is rich in art, history, culture, and nature, and offers a diverse range of experiences – from elegant cities to stunning mountain landscapes perfect for skiing or hiking, to charming villages, and world-famous wine regions. You'll find something new and fascinating around every corner.

If you are looking to enjoy the water in one of Italy's few landlocked regions, the lakes and islands of Piedmont are a must-visit. The largest body of water in Piedmont is Lake Maggiore, which is shared with Lombardy. In the middle of the lake, you will find the stunning Borromean Islands – Isola dei Pescatori, Isola Bella and Isola Madre, the latter two of which boast impressive gardens. West of Lake Maggiore is Lake Orta, where you can find delightful lakeside resorts such as Orta San Giulio, Pella, and Omegna. Don't miss the serene Isola San Giulio, peacefully located in the middle of the lake.

Places of Interest

Venture through the lakeside towns of Northern Piedmont

Orta San Giulio is a charming northern Italian town that is often overlooked by tourists, earning it the endearing nickname "Cinderella". With its stunning architecture, narrow streets, and proximity to Isola San Giulio, there is a magical quality to this town that is difficult to describe. The surrounding forested hillside is dotted with chapels, and the town itself hosts a myriad of craft boutiques, antique shops, and cafes. The island of San Giulio lies just a five-minute boat ride away and is home to a community of Benedictine nuns who have taken a vow of silence. Orta San Giulio is an ideal place to spend a few days, especially during the week when it is quieter and you can experience the local culture. Despite its popularity as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, the town has a population of just over one thousand people, giving it a peaceful and serene atmosphere.

The town's name is derived from the Latin "hortus conclusus," which means a closed garden. The Palazzo Comunale, located in Piazza Motta, was once the seat of executive and legislative powers during the town's self-government period. Orta San Giulio also features the sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso and the picturesque island of San Giulio, both of which are worth visiting. The village is a maze of narrow streets and cobbled lanes, flanked by ancient stone walls with doorways topped with triangular architraves. If you're a romantic at heart, you'll find Orta San Giulio to be a particularly enchanting place.

Nestled among the foothills of the Alps and near the Swiss border, Lake Orta is an idyllic getaway spot in northern Italy. This charming lake is surrounded by lush forests and rocky hills, with picture-perfect villages dotted along its shoreline. You can easily take day trips to Switzerland, explore beautiful gardens, sip coffee in grand piazzas, and wander through the narrow streets of quaint towns. And when the day is done, return to Lake Orta for a romantic evening stroll and alfresco dining as the lake glimmers in the twilight.

Lake Orta is renowned for its natural beauty, inspiring poets and writers for centuries. It's considered the most romantic lake in Italy and one of the most romantic places in the world. The lake itself is 13.5 km/ eight miles long and surrounded by verdant mountains, making for a breathtaking setting. But the true gem lies in the middle of the lake – the little island of San Giulio, dominated by a thirteenth-century basilica and convent.

The lake is nestled between slopes covered in dense woodland, providing incredible viewpoints. Majestic peaks encircle the Alpine basin, where you can observe various species of animals and plants. The lake and its surroundings not only boast historic villages and cultural beauties but also have fantastic natural riches. Mottarone is the top that dominates the lake, with a still rural flavor. You can explore this stunning area by walking the grand tour of Lake Orta. And if you're looking for some excitement, there are plenty of adventure parks, climbing walls, ziplines, and other activities to enjoy. Lake Orta is truly a lake of art – from the island of San Giulio to every corner of the region, you'll find well-preserved traces of the people who lived here, with everything from Celtic artifacts to contemporary works and Catholic masterpieces.

Stresa, a renowned Italian tourist destination, is a beautiful town situated on the shores of Lake Maggiore in the Gulf of Borromeo. This charming town of only 5,000 inhabitants offers a spectacular view of the stunning Borromean Islands, which serve as the main attraction in the region. Stresa's captivating landscape, architectural gems, and pleasant climate make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. Since the late 19th century, the town has been a hub of sophistication and refinement, with a notable list of cultural, musical, and meeting events that continue to this day.

Stresa's ancient name, Strixia, is derived from the Lombard word "strich," which means "strip of land." It is hard to believe that this incredibly popular tourist spot was once a tiny fishing village, first recorded in 998 AD, occupying a narrow strip of land accessible only by a dusty old Roman road. Today, the town's historic center and waterfront are attractively maintained, and visitors can easily access the Borromean Islands, the most sought-after attraction on Lake Maggiore, as well as the picturesque mountains in the background.

With a rich history of hospitality dating back to the early Roman merchants who traded in the 1st-century B.C. settlement, Baveno has been a summer retreat for 19th-century nobles. Come and explore this quaint town to discover its architectural gems and picturesque islands that resemble paradise.

Baveno's splendid lakefront promenade offers an opportunity to explore the town's elite history. On the promenade's eastern side, you'll discover stately waterfront villas with striking terracotta tile roofs. Take a walk along the charming old-town streets as they wind their way through beautiful parks and grand villas. You won't want to miss the castle-like turret of Villa Henfrey-Branca, the Moorish design elements of Villa Barberis, or the magnificent grounds of Villa Fedora. Make sure to also visit the 19th-century Villa Durazzo, which is now the Lido Palace Hotel. This opulent mansion welcomed Sir Winston Churchill on his honeymoon in 1908.

Take in the stunning views of Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands from the western side of the promenade. For a more up-close experience, jump aboard one of the ferries that depart from Baveno Harbor to explore these offshore gems. As you look back, you'll see the majestic pink-granite foothills of Mount Camoscio towering behind the town. The top of the mountain is where the healing Fonti di Baveno spring is located, which feeds thermal baths throughout the area.

Located in Northern Piedmont, Lombardy, and Switzerland, Lake Maggiore is the country's second-largest lake, covering 212.5 sq. km of surface area. You can reach the lake quickly from Milan Malpensa Airport or nearby cities, thanks to the extensive highway network.

Lake Maggiore, Italy’s international lake, stretches into Switzerland at its northernmost point, while its southern shores are situated in Piedmont (west) and Lombardy (east). Unlike Como and Garda, Lake Maggiore is not known for its glamour or theme parks. Instead, it's considered the most peaceful of northern Italy’s great bodies of water, with less crowded shores and a wild hinterland. This lake boasts of 11 islands, 8 of which are in Piedmont. Among them are the famous Borromean Islands, including Isola Madre, Isola Bella, and Isola dei Pescatori, as well as the Castles of Cannero, the island of La Malghera, and the picturesque islet of St. Giovanni. The Borromean Islands, the star attractions of the lake, are like a fleet of fine vessels anchored at the Borromean Gulf’s entrance, between the lake’s two main towns, Stresa and Verbania.

If you're a sports lover, Lake Maggiore is your paradise. The area surrounding the lake is perfect for hiking, biking, golfing, and horseback riding. You'll be surrounded by stunning natural landscapes that will take your breath away. The lake's waters are also perfect for sailing, canoeing, yachting, water skiing, and even scuba diving.

For centuries, visitors have been captivated by the enchanting waters of Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands. From Ernest Hemingway to the English Royals, the archipelago has been a beloved destination. It consists of five islands, each with its unique charm. The majestic Isola Bella features a 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo and spectacular gardens. In contrast, the Isola dei Pescatori is a quaint Fishermen's Island, where time has stood still. The Isola Madre boasts a botanical garden with rare plant species. Lastly, the little Island of San Giovanni faces Pallanza and the Rock of Malghera.

The Borromean Islands were named after the Borromeo family, who owned them in the 16th and 17th centuries. The family, who were art lovers and botanists, hired some of the best architects and gardeners of their time to realize their ambitious vision. Despite their alpine setting, each of the three islands has a pleasant climate and offers a unique experience. Isola Bella is a symbol of wealth and luxury, while Isola dei Pescatori is an ode to simplicity. The Isola Madre is a tranquil paradise covered by lush gardens. You can easily reach the Borromean Islands from the main ports, and they are a must-see for anyone visiting Lake Maggiore.

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