This was my first visit to the Italian Lakes and wow what a treat, picture postcard at its best.
A very quick 1 hour and 45 minutes from Bristol to Milan and then a short drive down to Lake Maggiore took us to the beautiful small town of Stresa.
My first thought was how pretty and quaint this resort was and also very flat so great for anyone with walking difficulties.
All the hotels are mainly set along the promenade and consist of 4, 5 and 5* Deluxe with many rooms offering fabulous Lake Views across to the lovely Borromean Islands.
We had two full days to explore Lake Maggiore, day one after a trip to the lovely 5* Grand Hotel Borromees, we took two cable cars and a chair lift over 1300 metres high.
From this point you have amazing views of the Lake which also included views as far as Switzerland one way and Milan the other, also at the top of the mountains snow was still visible. This area is great for walking or hiking and if you visit in the winter they even have a small ski area open.
Back in the town of Stresa we had the most amazing lunch in one of the many typically Italian restaurants, the food was amazing and the wine just as good. If you like to eat out I would recommend maybe opting for bed and breakfast at the Hotel and taking advantage of the lovely restaurants in the evening. Stresa has a few shops to choose from but for main shopping I would head into Milan, just an hour by train.
Day 2 we took a water taxi across to visit the Borromean Islands (10 minutes ) these boats are constantly sailing to and from Stresa and if you prefer you can hire a private one.
There are three Islands to visit, two have palaces and beautiful English and Italian gardens, you can easily spend a few hours wandering around taking in the 1000's of plants and flowers and looking at the beautiful palaces and learning the history of these islands, there are also lots of different birds wandering around so many photo opportunities. You can buy a two day ticket and use over the course of your holiday.
The third Island known as Fishermans Island dating back to the 11th century and with now only 32 people actually living there was where we stopped for lunch, although very small with winding medieval streets it is home to many restaurants which have amazing views across to the mainland. This would be a lovely setting for a special occasion as they also open at night.
I would recommend Lake Maggiore also twin centred with Milan where you could combine the busy city life along with the tranquil pace of the lake side resort. The best time to travel would be from mid April (this time of year would have all the beautiful flowers out) until early October, the lakes mostly close around mid October as the weather is starting to change. Many of the hotels have great leisure facilities including indoor and outdoor pools and some have a private beach area where you can also swim in the lake.