When you decide to go hiking Lake Maggiore, the local communities are as charming as the hiking paths themselves. Just picture this: a tiny village with a small bell tower, tiny streets, and houses perched on green, lush slopes. During our guided hiking tours in this Italian lake district, you will discover five picture-perfect towns.
You will also discover different cultures, completely different from the Italian one. These five villages are the representation of a land of borders, a mix of populations that managed to survive in the Alps. Each village has its own hiker.
Hiking Lake Maggiore: the village of Gurrone in Valle Cannobina
This valley is in the region of Piedmont, right at the foothills of the Alps. Its attractions include historical monuments, palaces, Medieval castles, and churches. Then there is Gurrone, a true balcony over the valley’s panorama, up to Lake Maggiore. This village is on the slopes of the mountain, its roots reaching deep into the area’s traditions.
The church of Maria Assunta is the heart of Gurrone, where visitors can admire its frescoes dating back to the 16th century. The high bell tower stands alone by the church, the focus of Gurrone. Just as traditional is the roof called “piode.” This type of roof is made of local stone, smooth and with a typical gray shade. The village of Gurrone is truly stuck in the past.
Ideal for: hikers who love to travel slowly, better without any distractions.
Hiking Lake Maggiore: the village of Santa Maria Maggiore in Vigezzo valley
Between Piedmont and Switzerland lies the Vigezzo Valley, also known as the “valley of painters.”. The entire valley is famous for its views, which have inspired artists for centuries. This is also a historical destination, since the first inhabitants predated the Romans. Vigezzo has been a place of movement and passing, with people and cultures crossing and meeting. The testimony of this history is visible at the Museum of the Chimney Sweep in Santa Maria Maggiore.
This village is bigger than Gurrone and it features a historical city center with colored buildings, cobblestoned streets, and charming balconies. It’s a great destination while hiking Lake Maggiore even in winter. That’s when Santa Maria Maggiore comes to life, filled with lights and a tall Christmas tree.
Ideal for: hikers who love a winter wonderland and a charming Christmas market.
Hiking Lake Maggiore: Ornavasso in Val d’Ossola
During our guided tours in Val d’Ossola, a stop in this village is a must. In the northern heart of Piedmont, this valley is a paradise for nature’s lovers. The main town is Domodossola which features a Roman city center. Visitors of Val d’Ossola can also enjoy the natural thermal baths and spas in Premia and Bognanco. There are also waterfalls (like the Toce one) and the charming Vigezzina-Centovalli train route, perfect to admire fall foliage.
Then there is the village of Ornavasso, an unmissable stop when hiking Lake Maggiore. You can admire the church, but this Alpine municipality also includes caves and the famous Linea Cadorna, a defensive line during World War I. This is a historical (and easy) trail that takes visitors through the area’s past, walking by muleteers, galleries, and trenches.
Ideal for: hikers who love history, mixing adventure with discovery.
Ornavasso, Santa Maria Maggiore, and Gurrone are three villages around Lake Maggiore. But they aren’t the only ones. Two more stops that hikers might enjoy are: Macugnaga in the Anzasca Valley and Riale in Val Formazza.
Macugnaga is a typical Walser settlement of German descent dating back to the 13th century. This population migrated around the Monte Rosa throughout the regions of Valle d’Aosta, Lombardy, and Piedmont. The Walser’s language derives from the south of German while their architecture features wooden structures and local stones. All visibile in Macugnaga.
On the other hand, the village of Riale is a smaller yet still charming destination when hiking Lake Maggiore. It still has a Walser heritance which it also maintains in its cuisine such as the Chnéfflene soup and the sweetly fried pòmpernòsslené. Other must-see attractions in Riale in Val Formazza are the church of Sant’Anna, a while building on top of a hill, and the lake of Morasco, which hikers can discover through an easy hiking ring.
So, there is more to Lake Maggiore than its famous villages and ferry rides. Hiking is the perfect way to discover the surrounding valleys and their towns, which take visitors back in time. And it’s always picture-perfect.