Markets on Lake Maggiore
The weekly markets held in the lakeside villages on the Italian shore of Lake Maggiore are easily accessible by boat from either Locarno or Ascona: in Luino on Wednesdays, in Verbania-Intra on Saturdays and in Cannobio on Sundays. Particularly the market in Lunio has drawn, for years, hordes of tourists and bargain hunters from as far away as the northern region of the Alps, Bavaria and Austria. In addition to making great purchases and discovering these charming villages, visitors can further enhance their trip by taking a relaxing cruise on Lake Maggiore, described by Stendhal as "one of the most beautiful places in the world."
While crossing the large lake shaped like a dolphin, visitors can admire the Brissago Islands renowned for their exotic trees, Cannobio home to the majestic Santuario della Pietà, Cannero hosting the ruins of the castles where the perilous Mazzarditi brothers, a band of robbers, took refuge and, facing it, Lombard-style Luino. From its Piedmont bank, it is also possible to glimpse Oggebbio and Ghiffa, and finally Verbania, the biggest town on the lake which overlooks Laveno and is known for its beautiful flowering gardens. Laden with bags, the day ends on board of one of the boats that traverse the lake during the twilight hours, as described by a poet.
Luino (every Wednesday, from 8.30 am to 5 pm)
Luino market is the most famous in the Lake Maggiore area. It has been frequented for the past five centuries, since 1541 when Emperor Charles V granted ‘market rights’ to the people of Luino. This is how Piero Chiara (1913-1986), a Luino-based writer, described the market of his home town half a century ago: “Merchants of every kind (...).used to convene, and still convene at Luino market. Sellers of poultry, cheese, fruit and vegetables settled their stalls in the shade of the trees of Piazza Mercato, while others displayed handbags, fabrics, shoes, trinkets, umbrellas, seeds, grains and farm equipment. There even was a bookseller with his stall set on a car. They all scattered in the streets and invading every available space until the entire town was taken over.”
Today there are more stands, including the ones of shirt and clothing sellers, leather goods, haberdashery, with rare threads and ribbons for sewing and embroidery, plates and tableware and popular fruit and vegetable stalls, totalling almost four hundred in all.
Cannobio (every Sunday, from 8 am to 1 pm)
“In this noble Hamlet honourable and noble wool workers flourished. Now they do great trade here in leather and thick woollen blankets, and every two weeks there is a market visited by a great deal of people on Thursdays" – wrote Friar Morigia four centuries ago. Today's market takes place every Sunday in the main rectangular, porticoed square featuring a charming vintage pier overlooking the lake. On the north side, to the right of those disembarking the boat, is the majestic Santuario della Pietà, enlarged by San Carlo Borromeo; inside, above the altar the “Road to Calvary" by Gaudenzio Ferrari is to be found and on the dais the miraculous weeping painting of the Virgin Mary known as the "Pietà".
The picturesque market – also frequented by many locals and by tourists staying in the Locarno.region – sells food, fruit, vegetables and flowers from the hills in the background, typical cheeses and salamis produced both locally and nationally, as well as clothing including leather jackets, handbags, jerseys, shirts, shoes, hats, handmade crafts and other goods, displayed on three hundred stalls.
Verbania-Intra (every Saturday, from 8 am to 5 pm)
Laws regulating the market first appeared in the Intra communal statutes of 1393. The market was then held every two weeks in the Sassonia quarter, along the San Bernardino stream. Two centuries later, the monk Morigia described it like this: “One does not pay duties or tolls in this village. Every two weeks, a large market is held on Saturdays and visited by the inhabitants of the area as well as by people from far away villages, attracted mainly by the presence of various kinds of livestock. Livestock that comes from the Canton of Valais (Switzerland) and other German-speaking areas, renowned for their great variety of cheese.” The market was held in nearby Pallanza on alternate Saturdays.
Today, 240 stalls display their wares side by side every Saturday in four squares located in the historic centre of Intra. Goods on offer include all kinds of cheeses and meats, fresh fish from the lake and the sea, fruit and vegetables from local vegetable producers from the surrounding hills, and finally shoes and clothing, leather jackets, handbags, belts, socks, hats, and cotton, linen, silk, and worsted wool fabrics