Driving north from Verbania along the lakeside road towards Switzerland, you will notice a number of fine villas with beautifully laid out gardens in the towns and villages along the route. These houses, mostly built between the second half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries, are in perfect harmony with their marvellous natural setting on the lake shore or the hillside.
Three especially fine examples in Ghiffa are Villa Ada Troubetzkoy, Villa Giuseppina Giusti and Villa Laforet.
Villa Ada Troubetzkoy stands in extensive grounds with a superb view of the lake, and is built in the style of a Russian dacha, with a double row of wooden verandas fronted by a lattice-work balustrade and a gabled roof whose eaves are decorated with “gingerbread trim”. The grounds contain some very rare and exotic plants. Villa Giuseppina Giusti was built by the chemist Duilio Giusti and named after his wife, Giuseppina. Its style, typical of the period, shows a number of ornamental features, from the paired Doric columns and Ionic capitals to the delicately painted decoration of the attic storey. Villa Louise Laforet was the favourite residence of the painter Augusto Laforet, whose work captures the enchantment of the lake seen from Ghiffa.
In the next village, Oggebbio, two fine mansions are Villa Draneht-Zervudachi and Villa "Solitudine" Polli. Villa Draneht-Zervudachi, usually referred to as “Villa Pascià”, is one of the largest and most imposing villas on Lake Maggiore; it takes its name from its wealthy owner, the Greek-born Drahnet Pasha, who was responsible for giving the grounds a slightly Moorish atmosphere. Villa “Solitudine” Polli outside the village is set in huge grounds (44,000 sq m), and is a perfect expression of its proprietors’ original intention to create an idyllic place far from the noise and bustle of the town.
Farther along the lakeside, in Cannero, is Villa d’Azeglio, where the celebrated statesman and man of letters Massimo d’Azeglio lived after retiring from public life. In a plain classical style, the villa stands right on the lake shore, almost hidden by the dense vegetation of its surrounding garden.
Villa La Sabbioncella in Cannobio, framed by mimosas and woodland, is now a school for training priests and missionaries of the Roman order of the Assumptionist Fathers.