Lago Maggiore Express
The Lago Maggiore Express is an unforgettable excursion, through mountains, valleys and lake, by train and boat. Leaving Locarno with the Centovallina train, in about an hour and a half you will cross the natural and romantic landscape of the Centovalli and the Vigezzo valleys, where dizzying bridges, water courses, vineyards, forests and mountain villages alternate along the course. Another three hours are dedicated to navigating Lake Maggiore, through the lovely shores of picturesque towns and the fascinating Borromean Islands , through the ruins of the Cannero castle and the Brissago Islands. The tour can also be done over the course of two days.
From Locarno, the Centovallina train swiftly reaches Ponte Brolla where you can admire the gorge of the Maggia River before entering the Terre di Pedemonte and crossing the villages of Tegna, Verscio (home of the Dimitri Theater) and Cavigliano before reaching Intragna, where Ticino's highest bell tower is located. The stretch through the Centovalli begins here: an enchanting and natural area with dizzying bridges and spectacular bodies of water (such as Lake Palagnedra), vineyards, forests and small villages nestled on the steep slopes of the valley. In Camedo you will cross the border entering the Vigezzo Valley, also known as the Valley of Painters.
You will shortly reach Re where the imposing sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna del Sangue (Virgin Mary of the Blood) is located, a reminder of a miracle that took place in 1494. From here the landscape becomes wider towards S. Maria Maggiore, a charming holiday resort mostly frequented by the Milanese. The town houses the Chimneysweeper Museum and has a well-preserved centre. Two young emigrants who invented the famous perfume Eau de Cologne were born here.
Once you reach Domodossola, a typical pre-Alpine Piedmont town, you will need to change train and, after passing by the picturesque Lake Mergozzo, you will proceed to Stresa where the boat trip begins.
Stresa has a well-preserved historic centre but is especially known for the Borromean Islands , located directly across the lakefront. The Islands get their name from the noble Borromeo family of Milan, who were the owners already back in the 16th century. With their beautiful combination of remarkable palaces, creative gardens and picturesque houses they constitute a classic destination, considered a must-see by all the main tourist guides.
The boat proceeds into Italian waters with stops in different romantic villages that face the lakefront, such as Laveno, Cannero and Cannobio. One of the most remarkable snapshots are the 16th century ruins of the Cannero Castles sheltered on two islands.
Beyond the Swiss border, other two fascinating islands rich in history can be seen: the Brissago Islands, with their precious botanical park. The unmistakable Ascona lakeside can be admired in the distance while completing the final navigation segment along the Gambarogno Riviera before reaching the bay of Locarno.