Baveno, in northern Italy, is one of our favourite destinations.
Sitting on the shore of Lake Maggiore, the town is literally a slice of heaven: a world away from the pressures of modern living and a great advertisement for the dreamworld that is Italy.
The lake – the second biggest in Italy and the largest in southern Switzerland – nestles into the southern side of the Alps and Baveno is set in typical prealpine countryside, part of the region of Piedmont.
We’ve been fortunate to spent time in the town, visiting the wonders of the Borromean Islands; touring the famous Isola Bella and its magnificent Baroque palace; taking day trips to neighbouring Lake Como and Lake Garda; and checking out the area’s many villas, castles and wonderful gardens.
Isola Bella, we were told, dates from 1630, when local Governor, Carlo Borromeo the Third, apparently obtained land on what was then known as the island of Isola Inferiore. He soon began planning a residence there – and renamed the island after his wife Isabella.
Carlo’s sons later created not just a simple villa, but a palace worthy of entertaining the greatest nobility of Europe.
On the way back from touring the palace, we stopped at neighbouring Isola Pescatori, where there is a quaint fishing village and some excellent fish restaurants.
The island ferries provide a striking view across the waters of Lago Maggiore toward the Swiss canton of Ticino.
Only a short drive away is the picturesque Swiss city of Lugano, with its eye-catching lakeside and mouth-watering hot chocolate.
The water wonderland around Baveno is set against a backdrop of striking green hills and impossibly steep roads.
In these hills, north west of the town are famous red granite quarries, which have supplied the columns for the Cathedral of Milan; the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura at Rome; the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele at Milan; and other important Italian buildings.
Baveno itself is a quaint town with a tangle of cobblestone streets; a notable 16th Century square; and excellent restaurants and cafes. Many of the villas around the town boast extraordinary grounds that benefit from the region’s moist and temperate climate.
Our hotel – the Grand Hotel Dino
Our favourite hotel in the area is the Grand Hotel Dino, part of the Zacchera group and sitting plumb on the waterside with views over the Lago Maggiore to the mountains.
With two swimming pools and colourful gardens, Grand Hotel Dino combines the benefits of a large hotel with the tranquility of the lake shore.
From the eye-catching stained glass ceiling in the foyer, to the lavish furnishings, well equipped rooms and health club, the Grand Hotel Dino manages to be modern and plush while still at one with the peaceful lakeside environment.
We cannot speak more highly of both Baveno and the Grand Hotel Dino.
It is a very nice part of the planet indeed.