Sitting on deck, the breeze ruffling your hair, listening to the splashing of the water, feeling the sun on your skin and enjoying the feeling of freedom.
Lake Maggiore and its boat services are hugely important for tourism.
Summer activities without the lake are unthinkable: swimming, pedalo, boat trips, SUP, diving, fishing, etc. – the list is long. The lake, though, isn't only a welcome attraction, but also an important resource for the locals. Fishermen used to live from fishing in the Verbano, as the lake is officially called; some still do.
The Verbano also forms an important link between the right and left shores of the lake: because it's the most direct connection, young people from Gambarogno take the boat to Locarno to attend the vocational or secondary schools. In short, the lake connects: Italy with Switzerland, the left shore with the right, this village with that one.
Being out and about on the lake has the advantage that you can alight at any landing stage to explore the region.
Our tour starts in Locarno and takes a direct line across the lake to San Nazzaro. A walk or short bus ride leads to the Botanical Gardens of Otto Eisenhut. The park contains some 950 species of camellia, 450 different magnolias, azaleas, peonies, rhododendrons and many other plants, some of them rare. San Nazzaro also boasts a lovely lido, perfect for the hot summer months.
Famed for its colourful lakeside promenade, Ascona has much more to offer. Steps lead up the slope to Monte Verità, the "mountain of truth", which is also accessible by bus. Tour the shops and galleries to find the perfect souvenir, then, before you get back on board, an ice cream on the lakeside promenade is a must. From here you can already see your next destination – the Brissago Islands.
Located here in the unique climate of Ascona-Locarno is the only island in Switzerland to house a botanical park: the climate means the park is unbelievably rich in flora and fauna. Emerging from the waters of the Verbano, which absorbs heat in summer and releases it in winter, the Brissago Islands benefit from a subtropical climate with few frosty days a year. This provides the ideal environment for plant species not found elsewhere in Switzerland. Open to the public since 1950, the Isola Grande botanical park is home to over 2000 plant species from major southern climate zones, such as the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Australia and California, and from humid subtropical climate zones, including Asia, America and Oceania. Like the Camellia Park, the Brissago Islands belong to the Gardens of Switzerland, and rightly so: thanks to their botanical diversity, they succeed in moving visitors from one part of the world to another in just a few steps.
Back on the boat for one last time, we have the choice of continuing our voyage of discovery and stopping in Brissago to visit the church of San Pietro e Paolo, or returning to our starting point in Locarno.