Lake Maggiore is a real pearl, ride up to the sky in a barrel
While arriving at the cable car station, follow the road signs, not Google Maps – unless you’re into adventures. Aunt Google made us drive into a one-way street so narrow that we had to fold the wing mirrors just to fit in between some two houses by the road. Also, don’t pay too much attention to the term “cable car”, because you’ll actually ride a two-person barrel. You can’t, however, miss on that trip while being by Lago Maggiore, if only to find yourself above it. Above the entire town and the second largest lake in Italy, being also the largest lake at least the part of which belongs to Switzerland.
While at the top of Sasso del Ferro, over 1,000 metres above Laveno-Mombello (wonderful name, isn’t it? Music to my ears, itself being
a promise of an adventure...), it’s difficult to get yourself to go back down. The views simply blow your mind, in every direction. At the top, there is also a nice and not too expensive (especially as it comes to its location) joint, a triple swing, a playground, and even a well-rated hotel (we haven’t checked that one, but the sunrise and the sunset you can watch while staying for a night there stimulate your imagination). There’s also a lot of space and wind. These are all valuable aspects, especially in times when during a tourist season it’s increasingly difficult to find a place where you and your family could travel somewhere to be by yourselves, without the crowds around you. Laveno-Mombello provides peaceful atmosphere, and it seems it is not particularly touristy, since we found only one store with fridge magnets in the entire area.
“But, unfortunately, we’re closed on Mondays,” a nice girl informed us through the door ajar while refilling the shelves.
“So there’s no way I could buy some magnets anywhere? We’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Unfortunately. No one else sells them”, said the Italian girl with sadness, but having seen the expression on our faces, she added: “If you have precisely 4 euros, I’ll take the money and put it into the cash register tomorrow. But I can’t give you any change.”
All we had was a 10-euro banknote, but I decided that I’d be happy to spend additional 2 euros, all the more bargaining in such situation was not a good thing. And then, there was a yet another surprise: “You want two of those, but I can’t give you your change... So, for 10 euros, I’ll give you three magnets, would that be OK?”
Sure, it was. When it comes to the opening hours, it’s worth checking these earlier (not only by Lake Maggiore), because we, for example, missed out on visiting the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, located a few kilometres from Laveno-Mombello. When we arrived at the gate, it turned out that from noon to 2 p.m. the eremites have
a break, and then we had other plans afterwards. So, with a heavy heart, we got over the idea of visiting this reportedly beautiful place, treating this fact as a yet another twist of fate that would eventually lead us back to Lago Maggiore – hopefully, the time will come soon. The monastery built on rocks, which is easily accessible by a boat ride from Laveno or Stresa (Piedmont region, located on the other side of the lake, but offering better ferry connections than the Lombardy Mombello), really stimulated our imagination... and so, ourselves imagining what the place actually looks like is all we have for now. Also the fact that we had to give up on the idea of a cruise on the lake, as it takes a while to wake our children up and then the breakfasts are prolonged (you know that, right? Even if your children, just like ours, are great travel companions), is definitely inspiring us to visit the magnificent Lake Maggiore once again. It really is an amazing attraction, because the ferries take tourists to three beautiful Borromean Islands – once owned by the extremely wealthy House of Borromeo from Milan, that today attract tourists like
a magnet. Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori are worth devoting them a whole day, but – NOTE – from the early morning. We arrived in Laveno-Mombello after an hour’s drive from Como (the route is lovely, but we recommend using some car navigation – there are many roundabouts and narrow streets), just before noon. We could’ve probably made some time for a paid guided tour, but we prefer going our own ways and at our own pace. And we lacked time to use the all-day ferry ticket and to content ourselves with the investment (EUR 28)...
An all-day Hop-on Hop-off ticket allows you to get to Isola Madre and leisurely visit the supposedly fantastic Borromeo Palace (extra charged), and to Isola dei Pescatori, where a perfect dinner based on fresh products from the never-ending fishing awaits you. We missed out on all of that, but we didn’t complain – we had our dinner at
a lakeside in Laveno-Mombello, we enjoyed spectacular views, and, on top of that, we have many reasons to visit Lake Maggiore again. Longing for something, chasing after a chance once missed really drives you, doesn’t it?
We managed to stroll around the town and ride a cable car up Sasso del Ferro – that was enough for us to be as captivated by the very area as those paragliders there were, avidly gliding above the lake. Some may hesitate seeing something that resembles more of a barrel rather than a cable car, that is riding up the hill and into which the staff lets – for a reasonable price of EUR 10 – only two persons at once (even if one of the persons is a child riding it for free). Giving up on it, however, would be a mistake, as would using the cable cars (barrels, let’s be honest) shut from the top be. The view during
a 15-minute ride is incredible, and all the more breathtaking as you’re riding on your feet and the railing is not that high. Our children weren’t scared at all, though, they both spent a significant part of the ride standing on our thighs and cheerfully waving to each other from separate barrels. Both at the top and at the bottom, there’s a trained staff waiting for you – opening of the cable cars is carried out very efficiently, and as there are usually no crowds there, the Italians gently reduce the speed of the ride. It really is a fantastic trip, which we wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who will ever have
a chance to visit this part of Italy or Switzerland. Too bad there’s scarcely any information on the area – in many smaller Polish guide books devoted to north Italy, the term “Maggiore” is not even listed, not to mention such names as “Laveno”, “Mombello”, or “Stresa”.
We, however, know for sure that we want to come back there, because we’re not quite satisfied yet. Maybe next time we’ll be able to delight in the magnificent view of Lake Maggiore surrounded by the mountains during the autumn season. We imagine that in autumn, when leaves change their colour, it must be really fantastic there. Unless you’ll steal our thunder, discover the remaining areas and then recommend us something yourselves!