Stresa, Lake Maggiore: what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening

Stresa is a picturesque town overlooking Lake Maggiore , in a particularly suggestive position. It is also located near the Gulf of the scenic Borromean Islands and, thanks to the presence of lake waters, it enjoys a mild climate and landscape and architectural beauties that blend in a truly harmonious way. All this, and much more, make it an attractive destination for a large number of tourists , who frequent this little gem since the second half of the nineteenth century. The Lungolago di Stresa lends itself to relaxing walks: on one side the view of the lake, on the other the numerous historic residences and luxurious hotels in Art Nouveau style, surrounded by lush greenery.

If you’re planning on visiting, here’s oneguide on Stresa : what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening on the Piedmontese shores of Lake Maggiore.

What to see in Stresa

1 – Lakeside

The Lungolago di Stresa is a quiet promenade flanked by the waters of Lake Maggiore on one side and the Liberty-style villas on the other.

It is an orderly and particularly romantic path at sunset , full of flowers and particular views, to be tackled without haste, stopping every now and then on a bench so as not to miss even a detail of the landscape. On the lakeside there are also many bars and cafes where you can have a snack or a snack, for a sweet break.

  • How to get: on foot from the historic center, there is no city bus service but the location is small enough to be easily approached on foot –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

2 – Stresa Mottarone cable car

Stresa and Lake Maggiore are places of great charm, full of wonderful landscapes, especially when viewed from above.
Mottarone is one of the most beautiful natural balconies in Italy and in the world, from its summit you can enjoy a splendid view that includes the Po Valley, the summit of Monte Rosa and the seven lakes (Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta, Lake Mergozzo, Lake Varese, Lake Comabbio, Lake Monate and Lake Biandronno).

The Stresa-Alpino-Mottarone cableway leads from the “Lido” station of Stresa to the top of the mountain. Mottarone is also perfect for practicing outdoor sports : winter, trekking, paragliding and mountain biking, or tasting the typical menus of the area in the characteristic restaurants.

  • How to get: starts from Piazzale Lido; reachable in 10 minutes on foot from the train station or the historic center – 
  • Timetables: departures every twenty minutes between 9:30 and 17:40. Times and departures often vary according to the days and the season, we advise you to consult the exact time based on the day on
  • Ticket cost: full return ticket € 17.00, reduced return ticket (4-12 years) € 8.50
  • Recommended cards, tickets and tours:Stresa, Alps and Lake Maggiore: half day tour


3 – Pallavicino Park

The Pallavicino Park extends for 18 hectares and is located on the lakefront of Stresa, towards Belgirate. The park includes flora and fauna, which coexist in harmony : over 50 species of mammals and birds are housed here, including some wild specimens saved by the forester. The special climatic conditions of the area also allow the botanical heritage to be particularly rich, a quality well shown in the Flower Garden.

The Villa that houses the park was born as a private residence in 1855, then transformed in 1956 by the Pallavicinos into a wildlife museum open to the public .

  • How to get: Via Sempione Sud 8; 800m walk from Stresa station –
  • Timetables: from 20 to 31 March and from 1 to 23 October from 9:00 to 16:00; from 1 April to 30 September from 9:00 to 17:30; from 24 October to 1 November from 9:00 to 15:30
  • Ticket cost: full € 11.00, reduced € 7.00

4 – Alpinia Botanical Garden

Located in Alpino, a hamlet located at 800 meters above sea level in the Municipality of Stresa, the Alpinia Botanical Garden is a real natural balcony that offers a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Maggiore in close contact with nature.

In its approximately 40,000 square meters, the Garden hosts over 100 different species of plants , most of them alpine but also from the Caucasus, China and Japan. In the garden there is also a source of natural water coming from the top of Mottarone, very pure and refreshing especially in the summer months.

  • How to get: in via Alpina 22; from Stresa with the panoramic cableway (Lido di Carciano – Alpino – Mottarone) getting off at the intermediate stop in the locality of Alpino, or along the road that climbs to the top of Mottarone. By car from Stresa follow the road signs that lead to Gignese, at the traffic light in the village turn left and take the direction to Alpino, go all the way following the signs – 
  • Timetables: every day from 9:30 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: full € 4.00, reduced € 3.50

5 – Church of Sant’Ambrogio

It is a religious building with a typical Greek cross plan, with a neoclassical facade, built in 1790 on a project by the abbot Giuseppe Zanoia da Omegna. The altar on the right holds the mortal remains of San Vitaliano martyr : in 260, just ten months and twenty-eight days, he was killed by the anti-Christian ferocity of the Romans. In 1833 Pope Gregory XVI agreed to transfer his remains from the Roman catacombs to the parish church of Stresa, where he has been venerated as protector of children since 1835.

Furthermore, in this church, in August 1912, the funeral of Elisabetta di Sassonia , Duchess of Genoa, who had lived in Stresa for fifty-five years, was celebrated in the presence of Queen Margherita .

  • How to get: via Principessa Margherita 1; a 10 minute walk from Stresa train station –
  • Timetables: from 8:30 to 20:00
  • Ticket cost: free


6 – Borromean Islands

An archipelago of lakeside islands rich in flora and fauna, the Borromean Islands were also loved by Ernest Hemingway and the royalty of England . The archipelago is formed by Isola Bella , with the seventeenth-century Borromeo palace and its spectacular gardens, Isola dei Pescatori , Isola Madre with a splendid botanical garden full of rare plants, Isolino di S.Giovanni and the rock of the Marghera .

The islands are named after one of the noble families(the Borromeo) who chose Lake Maggiore as a favorite place for their holiday. They therefore had villas with magnificent gardens built, and still today they are the owners of Isola Bella, Isola Madre and the two castles of Cannero rocks. Isola Madre and Isola Bella can be visited every day, from the end of March to the end of October, through the Navigazione Lago Maggiore ferries.

  • How to get: with the ferries Navigazione Lago Maggiore from Piazzale Lido 
  • Timetables: departures are made approximately every half hour from 9:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: the return fares departing from Stresa (Piazzale Lido) for groups of more than 6 adults are: Isola Bella € 6.00, Isola Pescatori € 8.00, Isola Madre € 11.00, Isola Bella and Pescatori € 10.00, Isola Bella, Madre and Pescatori € 13.00
  • Recommended cards, tickets and tours:Borromean Islands: hop-on hop-off boat tour from StresaFrom Stresa: Borromean Islands private boat tour


7 – Villa Ducale

It is the oldest stately home in the town , in fact there is evidence of its existence as early as 1771. Built by the Bolongaro family of Stresa on the lakefront, it was bequeathed by the last descendant of the family to the philosopher Antonio Rosmini in 1848, who lived there in its last years of life hosting also Alessandro Manzoni. The Villa was later the favorite holiday resort of Princess Elisabeth of Saxony , wife of Ferdinand, Duke of Genoa and second son of King Carlo Alberto.

The park of the villa, the museum and Antonio Rosmini’s room can be visited every day, except Saturdays and Sundays, from 9:00 to 11:45 and from 15:00 to 17; 0045.

  • How to get: Corso Umberto I 15; on the Lungolago promenade, a ten minute walk from the train station –
  • Timetables: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: free

8 – Historic center

The historic center of Stresa is small, cozy but well cared for and tidy. Piazza Cadorna is one of the main meeting places for citizens and tourists, on it overlook numerous commercial activities such as local craft shops, shops with typical products, ice cream parlors and restaurants.

This square is also an excellent starting point for exploring the narrow streets of the historic center, which offer postcard views with their decorated houses and small characteristic arches.

  • How to get: 5 minutes walk from the train station –
  • Ticket cost: free

9 – Isola Bella

Although all the Borromean Islands deserve a visit, if you find yourself in the position of having to choose one, this is precisely Isola Bella, the second largest in area (it is 320 meters long and 180 wide) and almost entirely occupied by Palazzo Borromeo and the its park .

Charles III Borromeo started the construction of the palace for his wife Isabella d’Adda in 1632, works that had to be interrupted towards the middle of the seventeenth century due to the spread of the plague in the Duchy of Milan. They resumed thanks to the sons of Charles III, Cardinal Giberto III but especially Vitaliano VI, who entrusted the completion of the works to the famous architect Carlo Fontana.

The palace is imposing, in Baroque style with Mannerist nuances and houses precious tapestries with Flemish tapestries. However, it is the park that steals the show, it is an Italian garden with ten terraces superimposed on a severed pyramid, statues, fountains, rare and exotic plants and flowers.

  • How to get: with the ferries Navigazione Lago Maggiore from Piazzale Lido 
  • Timetables: departures are made approximately every half hour from 9:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: from Stresa Piazzale Lido for groups of more than 6 adults Isola Bella € 6.00, Isola Bella and Pescatori € 10.00, Isola Bella, Madre and Pescatori € 13.00
  • Recommended cards, tickets and tours:Isola Bella: hop-on hop-off boat tour from Stresa


10 – Isola Madre

Isola Madre is the largest of the Borromean Islands and is not inhabited . It is located in the center of the Borromean Gulf and is mainly occupied by gardens. These are, in fact, the main attraction of this island: they are some of the oldest botanical gardens in Italy , with a microclimate particularly favorable to the development of wisteria, rare subtropical plants, exotic flowers and colorful birds including parrots, Chinese pheasants or peacocks.

The park is spread over several terraces, the visitor can also admire a bicentennial Kashmir cypress and a Jubaeae Spectabilis palmover 125 years of age. In addition to the gardens, there is a palace on the island with the famous Dolls Room, the Seasons Room and a room dedicated to the exhibition of ancient puppet theaters.

  • How to get: with the ferries Navigazione Lago Maggiore from Piazzale Lido – 
  • Timetables: departures are made approximately every half hour from 9:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: from Stresa Piazzale Lido for groups of more than 6 adults Isola Bella, Madre and Pescatori € 13.00

Stresa itinerary in one day

Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, is a small but interesting destination that can also be visited in one day . Start with breakfast at Cafe Savoy , with an average cost of € 4.00. A short distance away is the Villa Ducale, get ready to take a real step back in time.
After visiting it, explore the historic center , starting from the Church of Sant’Ambrogio and passing through Piazza Cadorna, one of the main ones in the city.

For lunch, stop at Ristorante Trattoria “Stornello” , with an average cost of € 30.00.
After recovering your energy, enjoy a nice walk along the lakefrontuntil you reach Piazzale Lido. Here you can take the cable car and go to the top of Mottarone, stopping at the Alpinia Botanical Garden . From the top you will admire a truly incredible landscape! This activity will fill your afternoon (alternatively, you can choose to visit one or more Borromean Islands).

After the excursion on Mount Mottarone, go down with the cable car and enjoy the sunset over the lake! For dinner you can stop in Piazzale Lido and enjoy a lake view dinner at the L’idrovolante Café restaurant , with an average cost of € 20.00.

One day itinerary at a glance

  1. Breakfast at Cafe Savoy (average cost € 4.00)
  2. Villa Ducale – opening hours: from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: free
  3. Stresa historic center – opening hours: always accessible – ticket price: free
  4. Sant’Ambrogio Church – opening hours: from 8:30 to 20:00 – ticket price: free
  5. Piazza Cadorna – opening hours: always accessible: ticket price: free
  6. Lunch at the “Stornello” restaurant (average cost € 30.00)
  7. Promenade Lungolago – opening hours: always accessible: ticket price: free
  8. Mottarone cable car – timetables: departures every twenty minutes between 9:30 and 17:40 – ticket price: full return cost € 17.00, reduced return (4-12 years) € 8.50
  9. Alpine Botanical Garden – opening hours: from 9:30 to 18:00 – ticket price: full € 4.00, reduced € 3.50
  10. Dinner at L’Idrovolante Cafè Restaurant (average cost € 20.00)

Where to eat in Stresa

  1. Ristorante Trattoria “Stornello” : cuisine based on the use of local products or from the Ossola and Piedmontese valleys
    Average price per person: € 30.00
    Address and contacts: Via Cavour, 35 
  2. Il Vicoletto Restaurant : typical restaurant in the alleys of the historic center with traditional home cooking
    Average price per person: € 32.00
    Address and contacts: Vicolo del Pocivo, 3 
  3. L’Idrovolante Café : lake view restaurant with meat and fish specialties, also available to dine on the outdoor terrace
    Average price per person: € 25.00
    Address and contacts: Piazzale Lido, 6

What to do in the evening: nightlife areas and the best clubs

The nightlife of Stresa reflects the elegance and tranquility of the tourist resort of Lake Maggiore. Most of the nightclubs are located in the very small historic center but also in the lakeside area. The fun in Stresa begins at aperitif time, one of the most awaited moments of the day, especially in high season.

  • Sky Bar Stresa : located inside the 4-star Hotel La Palma and is the most fashionable and trendy place in Stresa, with its panoramic terrace / Address: Via Duchessa di Genova, 1 
  • Lov Lounge Beach : directly overlooking the lake, has a solarium and minigolf, organizes happy hours with DJ sets / Address: Via Sempione Sud, 3 
  • Al Buscion : wine, beers and cocktails accompanied by local meats and cheeses of the highest quality, tastings of fine wines and local products / Address: Via Principessa Margherita, 18

Plan your stay in Stresa: info and useful tips

  • How to get: by car from Milan on the A8 motorway towards Laghi-Sesto Calende-Varese, then the A26 motorway towards Gravellona Toce up to the Carpugnino exit. In Carpugnino follow the signs for Stresa. By train 21 daily trains depart from Milan stopping in Stresa, with destination Domossola or Geneva / Basel. By bus 2 daily buses leave from Lampugnano underground station to Stresa
  • Getting around : the best way to get around Stresa is on foot, taking the cable car to Mottarone or the boats to the Borromean Islands. There is no city bus service
  • Where to park : near the lakefront all parking lots are paid at a cost of € 1.50 per hour, € 12.50 all day
  • Where to sleephotels and b & b from € 67.00 per room – see the offers
  • What to see in the area : Arona (17.4 km), Orta San Giulio (45.5 km), Hermitage of Santa Caterina (49.2 km), Cannobio (99.3 km)

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