Stresa and the Isole Borromee
One of the better-known resorts on the western shore, Stresa is a tourist town that provided one of the settings for Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. It has capitalized on its central lakeside position, though the luxurious elegance that distinguished its heyday has faded; the grand hotels are still grand, but traffic now encroaches on their parks and gardens.
The best way to escape to yesteryear is to head for the Isole Borromee (Borromean Islands) in Lake Maggiore. Boats to the three islands depart every 15 to 30 minutes from the dock at Stresa's Piazza Marconi, as well as from Piazzale Lido at the northern end of the promenade. There's also a boat from Verbania; check locally for the seasonal schedule. Although you can hire a private boatman, it's cheaper and just as convenient to use the regular service. Make sure you buy a ticket allowing you to visit all the islands—Bella, Dei Pescatori, and Madre. The islands take their name from the Borromeo family, which has owned them since the 12th century.