The opulence and elegance of Lake Maggiore’s villas

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The Lake Maggiore area has always been a favourite with writers, poets, artists and aristocratic families enchanted by its stunning views. Their love affair with the lake has given us some of the most superb villas in Italy.

Lake Maggiore is fringed with beautiful Baroque, Art Nouveau and Neoclassical mansions, built chiefly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From Cannobio to Arona they embellish the lakeside towns with their air of a more gracious past.

The Borromean Gulf area boasts the largest concentration of houses built in these styles of great elegance. Baveno possesses a number of fine mansions overlooking the lake, such as Villa Fedora or the exotic Villa Barberis. In Stresa many of these opulent houses have become luxury hotels like Villa Aminta.

The superb Villa Giulia in Pallanza is now used as a major exhibition centre, as is Villa Ponti in Arona, which hosts international art exhibitions.

The shores of Lake Orta are also studded with villas; a prime example is the astonishing Villa Crespi, its flamboyant minaret and Moorish exterior evoking the atmosphere of the Thousand and One Nights.

Matching the opulence of the villas are the gardens surrounding them. Perhaps the most famous are the Villa Taranto Botanic Gardens, with flowers, shrubs and trees that attract thousands of visitors every year, but the beautiful gardens of Isola Bella and Isola Madre too can hold their own in any contest. Lake Maggiore has a microclimate that is ideal for Mediterranean trees like the cedar of Lebanon and palms, as well as flowering shrubs like camellias and azaleas, of which the lake area is perhaps the most specialised growing area in Europe.

Walk along the lakefront of any of the towns on the lake to feel you’re in a waking dream!