Holidays to Stresa will take you to a place of classic villas and elegant, palm tree-lined promenades, sitting proudly in the Borromean Bay on the western shore of Lake Maggiore.
Piazzas and cobbles
As you walk around Stresa’s three main piazzas and down the cobbled, traffic-free streets that lead around the town, you’ll find many stylish shops and independent cafés, as well as an excellent weekly market.
Stresa’s grand history is proudly on display in the large ornate villas lining the waterfront – some with an eerie sense of ruin. A trip over to the stunning Borromean Islands of Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Pescatori is a must, to tour the over-the-top palaces and exotic gardens.
Stresa has a train station, giving you easy access to cosmopolitan Milan and other towns on the western side of the lake, including neighbouring Baveno and sleepy Meina. There's also a regular ferry service that runs from Stresa across to pretty Pallanza, on the other side of the bay - a large town full of lush gardens and parks. You can catch another ferry from here to the northern and eastern shores of the lake in high season. If you’d love some panoramic views out across the lake, be sure to take a trip up the cable car to Monte Mottarone, which has an elevation of 1,491m.
Out and about
• Boat trips
• Botanical gardens
• Rooftop bars
• Mountain lifts
Things to See and Do in Stresa
The beach club
La Baia Rosa is Stresa’s public pool and beach club. There’s a small free beach area, where you can take your own towel and chair, and another with an entrance fee for the use of sun loungers, parasols, hot showers and changing cabins. There’s also a pool area, which you can pay an additional fee to use. Close by, there’s a snack bar and two restaurants where you can grab refreshments throughout the day.
In the centre of Stresa, opposite the Hotel Astoria and Hotel Regina Palace, there’s a small pebble beach that's free to the public. In some areas, sun loungers and parasols are available to rent, and roped-off swimming areas are clearly marked. Nearby, there’s the Lido Blu and Caffe Bar Verbanella where you can get refreshments through the day.
The sandy shores of Feriolo
If you’re looking for a new beach to explore during your holiday, head to Feriolo. It’s two villages north of Stresa and has a large, peaceful sand beach. Sun loungers are not available to rent, so you’ll need to take something to lie on. The tiny town has several charming restaurants along the lakefront, too, for an afternoon wander and a spritz.
The Stresa market is not to be missed. It runs every Friday until 1pm, in Piazza Capucci in the centre of the town. You’ll find everything from clothing and souvenirs, to leather goods and local art and crafts. The market moves from town to town around the lake each day, so if Friday isn’t good for you, try a nearby town on another day.
Stresa has many boutiques as well as chain stores, too. You can buy clothing, jewellery and books, and visit the deli shops to try meats and cheeses. In Gravellona Toce, 8km from Stresa, there are two large shopping centres. The centres are opposite one another and have shops selling jewellery, electronics, clothing, sportswear and much more. Gravellona Toce also has several large supermarkets.
Some shops and boutiques in the area sell some designer products, but if you’re really looking to treat yourself, take a trip to the fashion capital of Europe – Milan. It’s just 1 hour 10 minutes by train from Stresa train station. Brands such as Gucci, Prada and Versace are just the start of what’s on offer, lining the city’s glitzy shopping streets.
For a more relaxed evening, make your way to one of the best panoramic viewpoints of Stresa – the rooftop Sky Bar in Hotel La Palma. Grab a drink, sit back and admire the stunning views. If you prefer your feet on the ground, treat yourself to an ice cream from L'Angolo del Gelato in the main piazza and take a stroll along the promenade.
Every Thursday and Saturday from June onwards, head to the lakefront restaurant Verbanella for evening entertainment. From around 8pm, people from all around come to watch live jazz and blues music. Free concerts and events take place throughout the summer, sometimes with firework displays out on the lake, too.
Stresa’s lakeside promenade is lined with bars and cafés, which have wonderful views of the Borromean Islands. However, you’ll find cheaper and more traditional restaurants if you head into the backstreets and piazzas. Definitely try some mussiltini – lake fish often served with pasta – if you want to eat like a local.
Pizza with a personal twist at Mamma Mia
In the backstreets of Stresa, you’ll find Ristorante Pizzeria Mamma Mia, serving Italian cuisine at pretty reasonable prices. The staff are really attentive and, if your favourite pizza isn’t on the menu, they’re happy to accommodate your own choice of toppings.
Quieter fine-dining at Il Vicoletto
For a fine dining experience, Il Vicoletto should be on your list. You'll find it in the quieter streets of Stresa, set back off the main road. This restaurant is highly regarded for its extensive menu, helpful staff and freshly prepared dishes. It's a little pricier but worth it, and we recommend you book in advance.
A family touch at Caffé Torino
Serving food in Stresa since 1904, Caffé Torino is perfectly placed in the centre of town. It has a large outdoor seating area and a great selection of typical Italian cuisine, including pizzas, pastas, meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
Stresa has a lovely lakeside promenade, with the blue waters on one side and a collection of grand hotels and villas on the other. The town is full of cobbled streets, so it may not be the best choice for those with walking difficulties. For a more challenging walk, head up the cable car to Monte Mottarone, for incredible views and several hours of walks along the peaks.
Ferries run from Stresa to each of the neighbouring towns, the Borromean Islands, and across to places like Verbania on the other side of the lake. Daily Rover tickets can save you money if you’re island-hopping, and fast services are more expensive. Over 65s get discount from Monday to Friday with ID.
Stresa, along with each of the towns down the west of Lake Maggiore has a railway station, which runs a local service around the lake. From Stresa, you can also catch the train straight to the cosmopolitan city of Milan (1-2 hours).
The main bus stop is opposite the ferry port in Stresa. Buses run through each town, heading south to Arona and north to Verbania. Services are limited on Sundays and bank holidays.
The cable car from Stresa to the peak of Monte Mottarone was restored and re-opened in August 2016. Consisting of two cable cars and a final chairlift to the summit, the views from the top are spectacular. Going up on a clear day, you’ll see seven lakes, surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.
Nestled in the secluded Borromean Bay, overlooking the Borromean Islands, Stresa is perfect for pottering around during your holiday. The promenade stretches right along the front of town, and the maze-like cobbled streets are lined with traditional town houses. Just 13km south of Stresa is Meina, a laid-back village that's perfect for an afternoon of wandering. Taking the Stresa-Mottarone cable car gives you shaded woodland walks and incredible views. For a little variety, journey 2km to the quieter town of Baveno for a range of more challenging walks up to the town of Oltrefiume.
The Chestnut Route
Head into the hillside behind Stresa and down to the commune of Belgirate, for a trek through the shaded trees, with views out across the lake. The well-signposted route can be completed in either direction, and ends with a gentle ferry trip back to Stresa. It'll take around three hours to complete the 11km trip, which is a moderate walk with a few steeper sections, so walking footwear is recommended.
Walking down from Mottarone
If you’re after incredible views without the uphill walk, take the Stresa-Mottarone cable car on a clear day. Take a gentle stroll along the ridge, or grab a bite to eat and a refreshing drink in the sunshine at the café. If you’ve still got energy, challenge yourself with the 4-hour downhill trek back to Stresa. Much of the walk is through shaded green woodlands, and it follows a signposted pathway through Alpino, and back to the lakefront.
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