The enchanting little lakeside town of Baveno, next to Stresa, is of Roman origin, and is famous for its mineral water springs and its quarries of pink granite, and as a holiday resort.
The fine lakefront promenade offers a superb view of the Borromean Islands, which can be reached by boats leaving from Baveno harbour. The architectural attractions of the town include the Parish Church of Santi Gervasio and Protasio and the Baptistery, which stand in a broad square accessed from Via Monte Grappa.
Since the mid-19th century many internationally famous personalities have stayed in Baveno, usually as guests in the opulent villas lining the shores of the lake.
Built between 1870 and 1872 to plans by the English engineer Charles Henfrey, Villa Henfrey-Branca is one of the most original buildings on Lake Maggiore, and was inspired by English castle architecture. Its exposed red brick, its turrets and spires, marble terraces and magnificent English-style garden give the house a fairytale appearance that attracts the attention of every one who strolls along the lakefront promenade. In the grounds there is also a pretty little Protestant church and a small castle built in 1882-1883 along the lines of the castle of Vogogna. Of the many eminent people who stayed here over the years, the most notable must be Queen Victoria of Great Britain, who came with her daughter Beatrice in 1879. Today the descendents of the royal families of Europe still visit the Branca family, who acquired the property after the death of Charles Henfrey.
Standing in extensive grounds which separate it from the lake, away from the town centre, Villa Fedora is a severely elegant residence built in the first half of the 19th century; today it houses the Chamber of Commerce of the Verbano Cusio Ossola. It takes its name from the celebrated opera by the composer Umberto Giordano, who lived here for twenty years (1904-1924). The Umberto Giordano Festival of classical music, held in Baveno every July, was the brainchild of the maestro.
Built in the early years of the 20th century, Villa Barberis stands out not only because of its dazzling white colour but also because of the exotic appearance of its original design. It was built by the wish of Alberto Barberis, a cosmopolitan traveller from Vercelli who lived for many years in the East. In fact, the style of his villa recalls the exotic atmosphere of the Thousand and One Nights, typified especially by the minaret in the garden, which also contains specimens of tropical plants. There are many interesting decorative features such as the high relief depictions of the Dome of San Gaudenzio Church in Novara and the bell tower of Sant’Andrea in Vercelli on the curved tympanum, or the pictures of still-lifes and landscapes which Barberis himself painted on the walls of the top floor six-arched loggia.
Villa Durazzo (Lido Palace Hotel)
An impressive late 19th century mansion, Villa Durazzo was built by the Marquis Durazzo of Genoa on a prime site on the shore, right opposite the Borromean Gulf. Later on the Mayor of Baveno Gerolamo Rossi made the villa into a luxury Belle Époque hotel which was to welcome a number of famous guests, such as Sir Winston Churchill, who came here on his honeymoon in 1908 and on other occasions.
Villa Brandolini d’Adda
Built in the 16th century over a former convent, the villa displays a number of fine architectural and decorative features. The garden is the only one of its kind in the world, being divided into four parts: Italian, English, French and Japanese.
Also worth a mention are Villa Carosio, designed by the famous Art Nouveau architect Giuseppe Sommaruga, Villa Claudia, where the celebrated playwright Luigi Illica stayed, and Villa Provana di Collegno-Galtrucco, the scene of numerous meetings of major figures in the political history of Piedmont in the later 19th century.