Journey to Stresa
This popular Italian resort offers history, natural beauty and charm in abundance
The small and pretty town of Stresa, today one of the most popular resorts on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Piedmont, northern Italy, originated as a tiny fishing hamlet first mentioned in records in 998AD. By the fourteenth century Stresa's population had grown sufficiently for it to be officially recognised as a village and gained the right to hold a weekly market; a tradition still upheld in the town each Friday morning.
Stresa's idyllic location on Lake Maggiore overlooking the island Isola Bella and providing magnificent views of the lake's surrounding hills had already secured the town's popularity with European aristocracy as a holiday retreat, but the opening of the Simplon Pass between Brig, Switzerland and Piedmont in 1806 boosted Stresa's tourism further still. Consequently many beautiful villas and grand hotels were constructed at the beginning of the nineteenth century and by the twentieth the now well-established resort was welcoming prestigious guests such as George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin and Princess Margaret.
Today, although a highly popular Italian resort, Stresa remains small enough to explore on foot, rewarding visitors with medieval buildings, opulent and historic villas, public gardens and several museums. During the summer, the Stresa to Mottarone cable car ascends to the summit of Mount Mottarone from which unparalleled panoramic views across the Po Valley to the Alps are obtained.