I’m lucky enough to be able to call this place my home, yet every time I come back it takes my breath away. Laveno Mombello is a gem on lake Maggiore, the second biggest lake in Italy, which may not have offered too much to a teenager looking for nightlife, but now as an adult it offers the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. It is the ultimate place of relaxation, home to my favourite spot in the whole world: a little bench overlooking the lake.
Top things to do:
- Take the cable car up to the top of the mountain. Getting up there is an experience in itself, since you take a cable car that basically consists in a series of bins that fit 2 people max standing. It’s then a 20 minute ride up the 1100 metres to the top, all while enjoying spectacular views and slowly gaining more of an idea of just how huge the lake really is.
At the top there is a hotel, bar and restaurant although I’ve never eaten there so I can’t vouch for it. The idea of sleeping at the top may sound fun but bear in mind that the cable car stops running around 18:30, meaning you’re stuck! So only do it if you’re looking purely for great views and relaxation. Maybe bring a bottle of wine 🙂
My favourite spot in the whole world. Renato Pozzetto, a famous Italian actor back in the ’70s-’80s owns the land right next to us and a few years ago turned the house into a cute hotel & wedding venue. It couldn’t be more perfect for it! You have an insane view of the lake, beautiful sunsets and complete peace and quiet. Couple that with good food & wine and you’re sorted! I’m guessing the menu may be a little pricey, but if you can make your way up there even just for a drink it’s definitely worth it. The best thing: a swing that overlooks the lake 🙂
- Catch the ferry to Verbania. Again only a 20 min or so ride, this takes you to the other side of the lake in the Piedmont region. Verbania is a cute little town and seems to have a lot more happening than Laveno in terms of shops and restaurants. On a Saturday you can enjoy the local market which is quite extensive and sells clothes, bijoux, bags and some great food (cured meats, cheese, fruit & veg).
My main recommendation here would be to go to La Casera for lunch: a rustic, delicious hidden gem where you can enjoy local and regional products of the highest quality for a good price. Burrata, hams of all types, a great cheese selection, etc, and if you like anything in particular you can then buy it to take home. Their house Prosecco is exquisite!
- Go check out the Cittiglio (Vararo) waterfalls. These are not exactly the Niagara Falls, however it’s only 10-15 min from Laveno in the car and then offers a pretty walk in the woods, up to the first of the waterfalls. Not many people know about it and especially if you don’t go on a weekend you’ll often have them all to yourselves. It’s quite beautiful as the first waterfall is in a kind of cave and you can swim in for an intense hydro massage! There are apparently another two going further up but I’ve never actually made it there, may it be out of laziness or landslides which blocked the paths.
- Visit the local market on a Tuesday. Every Tuesday from about 9 am until midday Laveno has a local market that sells food and clothing. You can get your hands on some delicious local products, I especially recommend the formaggio Friulano, also called Carnia, my favourite cheese in the whole world! It’s similar to parmigiano but has far more flavour and is less sickly. I could eat kilos of it.
- If you’re lucky enough to be there in August, the 15th is a big holiday in Italy called Ferragosto and every year we have spectacular fireworks on the lake. At that time the luna park (fun fair) is also open so you can go observe some local youngsters (always interesting) and have a go on some rides. The fireworks display is usually around 11pm.
- Eat, eat, eat… As in the whole of Italy, the food is amazing. Fresh, tasty, juicy. I obviously eat at home most of the time when I’m there, also because my parents are excellent cooks and it seems like a waste to eat out, but there are a few good restaurants around. I’d probably avoid those along the lake as they are more touristy and pricey. An excellent pizza place is a bit hidden and a 20 min drive away called Petit Parc, but it’s well worth the drive. The base is so thin you can pop the crust with your finger and the pizzas are HUGE but you’ll probably eat it all (I sure did). In Laveno itself I’d recommend stopping for a cannoncino (little pastry) at the Pasticceria Il Porto which is delicious. Good coffee too.
Don’t forget the booze too! As if you would 🙂 you can get great very cheap wine, as well as a good Spritz (Aperol + Prosecco), grappa, limoncello.. you name it!
- Make the most of the lake! It’s huge – a whopping 64.4 km from end to end and its deepest part is 372 metres deep. Dare you to touch the bottom! My brother sure tries to make me. Take a boat trip around the Isole Borromeo (islands which I’ll speak about in my next post), if you have friends with a boat don’t be shy and jump on board! It’s the best way to enjoy the lake.