Lake Maggiore - Cannobio-Verbania-Intra

Maggiore Lake

Verbania, despite its importance as a center of provincial politics and bureaucracy is also a garden-city surrounded by beautiful villas

On the Piedmontese side of Lake Maggiore Verbania, a town joining Intra and Pallanza, is the most important town, capital of the province called Verbania Cusio Ossola or VCO. About 20 km away is, Cannobio,a little town opening the pretty Val Cannobina, and the last village before the Swiss border and among the most charming on the lake, a popular destination for Italian and international tourists. 

The 4 seasons

Verbania, despite its importance as a center of provincial politics and bureaucracy is also a garden-city surrounded by beautiful villas, gardens and parks as well as being a center for the navigation on Lake Maggiore. Its Museo del Paesaggio, or Landscape Museum, contributes to its image as a place of enchanting beauty, illustrating its history and the attraction it has always had for painters, writers and poets. Its charm is infinite thanks to the great shopping opportunities, lake trips to be easily arranged in all seasons, visits to villas and parks, as well as the many water sports that can be enjoyed here: sailing, canoeing, water skiing and in the mountains, mountain-bike rifing and hiking in the hinterland. Golf can be played too, all year round, and not far away at Mottarone or Macugnaga, winter sports are a winter attraction.

Villa Taranto is one of the main attractions in the area of Intra Pallanza: the gardens designed by Captain Neil MacEacharn who bought the Villa in 1931 are one of the finest, most extensive examples of English garden to be seen on the Italian lakes. Open from March to November each year, it is just not to be missed!

Cannobio should be seen while walking through it as cars do not alregularly access its historical center. The recent archeological finds, Pre-Roman burial places, give concrete evidence of the ancient origins of the village which thanks to its advantage of a fine geographical position was most likely an important centre both commercially and strategically, 

Cannobio has one of Lake Maggiore's finest promedaes, after the area called Amore, passing through the little bay that was the home of fishermen of yore, your reach the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III,  where the villagers meet for their social exchanges. The other colorful buildings that embellish the promenade go back to the 18th and 19th centuries leading to the charming porticoes with pretty little shops, cafés and restaurants. 

From the main street  via Giovanola you climb towards the Palazzo della Ragione (late 18th century), today called "Parasio" the seat of local secular power, and the Church of the same era  San Vittore, with its Romanic belltower.

The Santuario della Santissima Pietà is defintely worthy of note as in 1522 it was the scene of a miracle known as the "holy rib". This event, in which a picture on parcment came to life and bled on to a bench below later producing a small rib said to be that of Jesus on the Cross,is celebrated every year on 7th January. Called the Lumineri,along the lake front lit candles are placed all along the promenade, lighting up the village streets and the boats moored along the front. The restaurants serve traditional fare of beans with beef sausages and robust local red wine as the perfect accompaniment. 

Cannobio is also well known for its Lido, a generously proportioned beach with all the necessary equipment on hire for a great day out, a popular meeting place for locals and tourists wishing for a holiday in the sun and plenty of relaxation as well as an adventure or two in a sailboat or scuba diving, Sailing and windsurfing are traditional sports around here thanks to the winds that blow from mid-day to three in the afternoon. But tennis is also an option. And that is not all, walking and hiking, cycling and more water sports are all at home here, pure adrenalin for fans: water skiing, paragliding, kitesurfing, and much much more besides, In winter Cannobio empties, however, and becomes a silent place that is as charming as it is empty, so our advice is to repair to Macugnaga, the lovely little mountain village where winter sports can be enjoyed a relatively short drive away. 

Local color

The most curious of legends around these parts are proudly preserved and this one is extraorrdianry as it talks of part of the local populace enjoying Scottish  origins It is told in fact thtat a few Scottish soldiers under King Francis of I of France during the Italian war, after defeat in the Battle of Pavia in 1525, retreated into the valley and reached the village of Cannobio. In confirmation of this theory it is said that the dialect at Gurro, very different from the dialects  nella valle e giunsero nel paese. A conferma di ciò, alcuni sostengono che il dialetto di Gurro, assai diverso dal dialetto degli altri paesi della valle, abbia ascendenze scozzesi.

 Agli inizi del '400, i cinque fratelli Mazarditi di Cannobio sono probabilmente i protagonisti di una delle ultime grandi ribellioni delle nostre zone contro il dominio di Milano. Il luogo è suggestivo. Un castello costruito nei pressi di Cannero Riviera su un isolotto nel Lago Maggiore a qualche decina di metri dalla riva. Non mancano le leggende, probabilmente inventate per sollecitare la curiosità dei turisti, che parlano di loro come pirati, echi di catene, urla di guardie e fuochi che illuminano la notte.....


Lake Maggiore and the surrounding area offer great opportunities for taste sensations for foodies and fans of gourmet delights thanks to the rich gastronomic tradition of the Piemonte area. 

Alll tastes are catered for here, from the cheeses made in the mountain pastures where both cows and goats graze freely in great open meadows, to the many varieties of salami and cured meats for more discerning palates. There is also a significant production of local honeys and a great number of fine cakes, desserts and typical biscuits. 

And we should not forget the wines produced in the area as they are an absolutely perfect complement to local specialities and ingredients. This area of Northern Piedmont is known for its rich Nebbiolos which are perfect with the excellent meats from the area as well as superb local cheeses such as the creamy  Gorgonzola. A place better known for its reds than its whites, we would however recommend trying some of the Piemontese chardonnays, autoctonous grapes such as Favorita and fine wines such as Arneis from Roero or Erbaluce di Caluso.


The Sunday market at Cannobio is just not to be missed, For local color, hundreds of market stalls and an awesome display of food, household items, clothing, shoes, and bags. Quite a destination for tourists from Switzerland, the cosmopolitan atmosphere is attractive and it is well appreciated for a day out that is quite different from the usual days shopping at home. And of course the superb views over one of the most breathtaking lakes in Italy and the chance to sit and enjoy an alfresco meal for all tastes, from pizza to excellent local cuisine and even some fine gourmet food.  

Great shops and boutiques are also to be found in Intra less than 15 minutes away and at Gravellona Toce where an interesting mall awaits for the occasional  rainy day like the fantastic design kitchen and dining ware at the Alessi outlet in the small town of Omegna on the charmingly picturesque Lake Orta (with its fabulous sightseeing opportunities).

And anyone up for the shop till you drop experience will enjoy a day out in Milan buying up the Italian designer fashion that is famous the world over. It is no more than 90 minutes drive away. 

Culture & folklore

The Santa Pietà Miracle

The story goes that on the evening of 8 January 1522 just a few people remained in an inn at Cannobio and so the innkeeper went to bed leaving his wife to tidy their poor kitchen with their 13 year old daughter who was told to go upstairs.
Once the girl had reached the top floor, she was struck by the picture of the Pietà hanging on the wall, showing Jesus, Mary and St. John. She was probably filled with wonder and not a little fear and she called her parents. All those left in the inn ran upstairs to her.  
Jesus was bleeding not just from his eyes but also from scars on his body, particularly from his rib on one side. Mary is also crying, shedding tears of blood while St John's tears are crystalline. Those who stayed until the wee small hours saw the scar on Jesus' rib swell as if still alive and Mary is seen to move her right hand to touch the scar. What happened the following evening was most surprising or rather most miraculous: on  9 January at around six o'clock in the evening, a number of witnesses saw the wound on Jesus' side swell again and a small rib came out of it, in perfect proportion to the size of the picture..

As it fell from the open , bleeding wound, the little rib fell on to the white tablecloth covering the chest beneath the picture.  

The same evening at about 9 o'clock the rib was gathered up by members of the parish church, placed in a precious chalice and carried in a procession to the Church of St. Victor where it is kept to this day in a silver reliquery. 

The tears also fall on later occsions: on 10 January at 5 pm, on 28 January at 7 pm, on 4 February at noon and between the night of 27 February and theearly hours of th following morning, a little after midnight. The last time, the body of Jesus appeared to be covered in bloody wounds, as if he had been whipped. 

The authenticity of these facts is well documented. On 25 January just seventeen days after the first miracle the official interrogations of witnesses were initiated, sworn testimonies were taken and registered by the Notary Public  Bartolomeo Albertini. There were ten witnesses selected for their presence at the time of the manifestations and for their reliability, local women and priests were excluded.
Very soon the little room where the rib was kept was constantly filled with vsiting  pilgrims and in 1526 the small Sanctuary was finihed. It was visited by St Carlo in 1571 and, considering it too small, ordered the archtect Mr Pellegrini to replace it with the present building which is larger and more majestic. St Carlo returned to Cannobio on 31 October 1584 and celebrated his penultimate mass there. 

To see

Its medieval origins make it culturally and historically interesting and the beauty of this area is a perfect combination, in fact, of art, local color and nature. All along the lakeshore road there are villas and gardens to be admired on the lake front and at one and the same time it is possible to see country and mountain places where there is a serious, conscious desire to preserve the timeless traditions that give them their unique character.

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