After a short hop from Bristol to Milan with Ryanair we were transferred to the resort of Stresa for our 3 night stay in Lake Maggiore.
We checked into the 5* Villa and Palazzo Aminta situated just across the road from the lake. The original building is the old villa and the newer section of the hotel is the Palazzo which was extended in 2010. The hotel has 71 bedrooms and is beautifully decorated with Murano glass chandeliers dominating the ceilings. The spa is very unusual as it is built into the caves underneath the hotel but it is very relaxing and there is a gym, sauna and steam room. Villa and Palazzo Aminta is located about a 20 minutes stroll outside the resort of Stresa but the hotel offer a complimentary shuttle service to and from the resort although on a lovely sunny day is it a beautiful walk past the lake and surrounding scenery.
Day two took us to the nearby 5* Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees. After checking in we were shown around the hotel. It is a very large hotel compared to the Villa Aminta with 179 rooms. Facing the lake, the hotel is very well equipped with a peaceful pool area which is being renovated for the beginning of the 2020 season. The restaurant has a beautiful setting with a terrace overlooking the lake. Tables cannot be reserved so make sure you get in early to get a good spot! The resort centre of Stresa is only a 10 minute walk from the hotel along the promenade.
Stresa itself is a fairly small resort but during the summer months is bustling with tourists and locals eating and drinking in the cosy restaurants around the main piazza. There are a few souvenir shops that line the old cobbled streets. There are only 5,000 people living in Stresa and 3,500 hotel beds so the resort never feels too crowded. Eating out is good value for money with a decent size pasta dish costing around 12 Euros.
There are plenty of excursions to keep you busy while in Lake Maggiore. You can take the ferry across the lake to the resorts of Baveno and Verbania. Milan is easily reached within an hour by train. The city has museums, markets, shops, restaurants and the magnificent Gothic Cathedral. Back to Stresa and you can take the cable car up Mount Motterone for gorgeous 360 degree views over the lake and as far as Switzerland.
A three Island tour around Lake Maggiore takes in Isola Bella, Isle de Pescatori (Fisherman’s island) and Isla Madre. Isola Bella and Isla Madre are owned by the Borrommeo Family, a wealthy family who have owned the islands since the 16th century. Isola Bella features beautiful manicured gardens and a Baroque Palace also owned by the family. Isola Madre has a botanical garden with a stunning array of flower, plants and various birds and wildlife. Fisherman’s Island is a quaint island with fish restaurants and winding streets lined with shops.
The 4* La Palma Hotel is modern with recently renovated rooms, a spa with views over the lake and an impressive sky bar for cocktails at sunset. The pool area is just across the road from the hotel and has an infinity style pool with comfy sun beds, changing rooms and a pool bar. The Junior Suites with Lake View have large balconies that wrap around the room giving side views over the mountain or a full lake view.
Just next door is the 4* Grand Hotel Bristol. We were lucky enough to have a lovely Lake View room with very large balcony. This is quite a large hotel with 260 rooms and to get from the lobby area to the indoor pool you can either take a few minutes walk through the hotel or the horizontal lift! Once there, there is also a sauna and fitness centre. The outdoor pool area is surrounded by gardens with sun beds and umbrellas and is a peaceful spot to rest.
Our last stop was the Regina Palace Hotel set behind magnificent gardens and just a short stroll from the centre of Stresa. Each floor is individually decorated but very opulent. 214 rooms with some overlooking the courtyard and fountain and others with a lake view. Because of rules against amending the façade of the hotel not all the rooms have balcony.
The heated indoor swimming pool is very unique. There are colour changing lights that make you feel relaxed and an occasional rain shower that comes from the ceiling. The outdoor pool is a perfect sun trap. During the summer months there is live music at the bar most evenings which attracts guests from all over the resort.