Lago Maggiore is so far in the north of Italy that its most northern tip actually spills into Switzerland. Within Italy, it is also shared between two regions, Lombardy to the east and Piedmont to the west.
The first archeological discoveries of this area belong to nomadic tribes that probably inhabited this area in prehistoric times. The first proper settlements of the lake date back to the Eneolithic Age, which took place between the 4th and 2nd Centuries BC.
Lago Maggiore, along with its surroundings then passed through the hands of the Ligures, Celts and of course the Romans. The areas and settlements that we find today come from the time after the fall of the Roman Empire. Various noble families laid claim to the lakes different shores. Amongst them were the Visconti, Hapsburg and Della Torre families. The most famous of these is perhaps the Borromeo family, from whom the Borromean islands in the middle of the lake take their name.
The name Maggiore comes from the Latin names given to it by the Romans, Lacus Maximus. The lake, as mentioned before, has several different collections of islands. For example, the Borromean islands include Isola Bella, Madre, dei Pescatori and San Giovanni. The Brissago islands consist of San Pancrazio and Isolino. Some of these have a few different names, so be sure to check where you’re actually heading when getting on a hydrofoil or ferry. That said, most of these islands and the other independent islands are very easy to access with regular shuttles and even tours across their lands. You can also take water-based tours that will take you around many different islands. This is a great way to fit in gorgeous views and history into one trip.
Some might recognize the name Lago Maggiore from the Ernest Hemmingway piece A Farewell to Arms. This is not the first time Italian lakes have inspired artists and writers. The northern siblings of Lago Maggiore, such as Como and Garda, are famous for their transcendental beauty!
Today, you can take part in more than just lazy strolls along this lake’s shores. Activities that range from wakeboarding to quad biking, zip lining to paintballing, horse riding to spa days are all available.
The nearest airport to Lago Maggiore is Milano Malpensa, around 50km away from the lake. Of course, wanting to reach the other end of the lake, it is better to fly to Switzerland. Around the lake, you can take hydrofoils and ferries to the opposite shores, up and down the shore and to its islands.