Cannobio is the last town on the shore of Lake Maggiore before the Swiss border. Today it is one of the prime tourist resorts in the VCO province.
The discovery in the area of tombs which may predate the Roman period means that the first settlements here were of great antiquity, and it is likely that Cannobio’s geographical situation made it an important strategic and commercial centre from earliest times.
The dynamic commercial character of the town is still seen today in the many fine 17th to 19th century buildings lining the streets and the cobbled lanes of the historic centre. Examples are the 16th century Palazzo Omacini and Palazzo Pironi, with its unusual wedge-shaped profile reminiscent of the prow of a ship.
The original centre of the town, known as the “Borgo”, begins from the ancient Via al Castello and takes the visitor into a timeless world of old houses, flights of steps and lanes leading down towards the lake front. These narrow streets, shut in by high buildings, were designed to protect the inhabitants from hostile incursions from the lake.
Cannobio’s lakefront is one of the finest promenades on Lake Maggiore. Starting from the southern end (called “Amore”), the first thing to notice is the marble sculpture of a lion, made by Giulio Branca in memory of the successful defence of the burgh against attack by the Austrians in 1859. Farther on you can explore the area of the old fisher houses before ending up in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III, the square that is the main meeting place in the town. The other colourful buildings adorning the lakefront, with their picturesque porticoes, boutiques and bars, date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Going back up Via Giovanola you come to the former town hall, the Palazzo della Ragione (late 13th century), now known by the name of “Parasio”, and then to the most important church in the town, the 18th century San Vittore, flanked by a Romanesque bell tower.
Another interesting church is the Sanctuary of the Santissima Pietà, the scene in 1522 of the supposed miracle of the “sacred rib”. The anniversary of the miracle is celebrated every year on 7 January with the arresting festival of the Lumineri or lights: the old quarter, the lakefront, and the boats in the harbour and off the shore are lit only with candles and lanterns placed along the streets and on the windows, while the restaurants serve a traditional dinner of bean soup and luganighette, beef sausages.
Cannobio is also well-known for its Lido, a broad, well-appointed beach which is a magnet for bathers and sunbathers, as well as water sports enthusiasts.
Behind the town a road leads into the mountains of the Cannobina Valley, a paradise for hikers and lovers of unspoiled nature; the valley is part of the Val Grande National Park. Don’t miss the natural spectacle of the Sant’Anna Gorge, cut deeply into the rock by the rushing Cannobino river.