Travel guide to Cannobio: Spotlight on Cannobio

Travel guide to Cannobio: Spotlight on Cannobio

Cannobio is an extremely pretty, picture-perfect lakeside town on the Western shores of Lake Maggiore. Not far from the Swiss border and situated in the region of Piedmont, it’s home to around 5,000 permanent residents. With roots possibly dating as far back as pre-Roman times (thanks to the discovery of ancient tombs in the area), it has a long and fascinating history and we think that it should feature on anyone’s Lake Maggiore bucket list. We’ve been visiting here for over a decade as a family so here are our top tips on what to see and do in Cannobio.

What to do in Cannobio

If you’re visiting in the Summer, then make your way from the main Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III, along the waterfront promenade to the lido at the very end of the town. You’ll pass pretty pastel-painted facades, with some buildings dating back over 600 years, lined with stunning porticoes, charming boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

When you reach the end of the lakeside path, you’ll discover one of the few sandy beaches on Lake Maggiore (although the sand is rather coarse). Since 2002, it has consistently been awarded the Blue Flag for cleanliness. It’s a popular spot with sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts alike, thanks to the Tomaso Sail and Surf water sports centre. The latter offers everything from windsurfing to sailing, positioned to make the most of the constant breeze that the town seems to enjoy.

Another spot to cool off in during the Summer months is to be found behind the town. Head by bike or on foot through the narrow cobbled streets and follow the trail to reach the rather wobbly, bouncing bridge which is approximately 1 kilometre along the pathway. It’s a popular spot with youngsters and with lovers who have been busy chaining padlocks to the bridge. From here, keep going to enjoy a stunning walk along the Torrent Cannobino river to the dramatic gorge and waterfalls of Orrido di Sant’ Anna. Take your swimming costumes and you can enjoy a plunge in the cool water here. Don’t miss the opportunity to also take a look inside the old church or simply to enjoy a drink or meal at the restaurant that sits just behind it. And don’t worry… for those whose feet are too tired to manage the walk, you can also drive to the Western end of Cannobio and park near the church free of charge.

In total the loop is 8 kilometres long. If you want to explore more then, from here, carry on to reach the Cannobina Valley and the Val Grande National Park boasting spectacular scenery. More ambitious hikers will discover numerous trails that continue up into the mountains. We recommend you get details from the tourist information office in town.

Alternatively, there is another walk that takes you to the south of Cannobio to the small medieval village of Carmine Superiore, where you will find the imposing 14th century Church of San Gottardo (which took 97 years to complete) and the ruins of a castle sat on a rocky outcrop over the lake.

In the historic old town itself (borgo), some buildings of particular note worth seeking out include the late 13th century Palazzo della Ragione (once Cannobio’s town hall and now where you will find the tourist office, and more commonly referred to as ‘Parasio‘ these days). You’ll find an impressive Romanesque bell tower here, standing 41 metres high. Also make sure you seek out the 16th century Palazzo Omacini and Palazzo Pironi. There are also a number of religious buildings well worth seeing too, among them the small Church of Saint-Marta, the 18th century San Vittore Church and the Sanctuary of the Santissima Pieta (more of this to come later).

Cannobio was built in such a way as to form a defence against any invasions from the lake so the whole town is characterised by narrow streets and tall buildings and wherever you walk, it won’t be long before you come across plenty of steps to climb!

Events in Cannobio

The annual events in Cannobio kick off in early January when, on the 7th of the month, the residents celebrate the Festival of the Lights (Lumineri) commemorating the supposed miracle of the ‘sacred rib’ which is believed to have taken place in the Sanctuary of Santissima Pieta in 1522 when a painting miraculously bled. Whether you believe that the miracle took place or not, it’s an extremely picturesque event when you’ll find all the boats on the lake lit with candles and lanterns, as is the old quarter of the town. Celebrate the event with a traditional local meal of bean soup and luganighette beef sausages.

Most events take place in the Summer months though, when the town often plays host to music concerts. On 15 August, Ferragosto is also marked with fireworks in many of the towns and villages around the lake and Cannobio is no exception.

Try and visit on a Sunday when the weekly market takes place each morning from 8 am until 1 pm.

Where to eat in Cannobio

Ristorante Grotto Sant’ Anna – This isn’t a restaurant we have actually had the opportunity to try personally but comes recommended courtesy of one of our guests and, based on TripAdvisor reviews, should be a safe bet.

Pasta Fresca da Tea – Located on Via Giavanola, this is a charming little shop selling delicious, freshly made pasta and home made Italian dishes for you to cook at home. Highly recommended if you have opted for self catering accommodation on Lake Maggiore but fancy a night off the cooking!

Gelateria di Cannobio – Our favourite ice cream shop in Cannobio, as you walk from the boat stop along the lakeside promenade, it’s located just before you reach the lido. Always loads of flavours, friendly staff and generous portions, what more could you want from an ice cream shop?!!

How to travel to Cannobio

By train: The nearest train stations are Locarno (15 km north of Cannobio) or Verbania Fondtoce (22 km south). If you’re coming via public transport, buses will go from both towns to Cannobio (but may involve changes en route) or you can opt to jump on a boat to help you get the rest of the way.

By car: The town is easily accessible by car. There are a number of car parks where you can leave your car.

By taxi: A pre-booked taxi from Milan Malpensa to Cannobio will cost around 175-250 euros.

By boat: Boats leave from most of the towns and villages in both the Italian and Swiss parts of the lake which will take you to Cannobio. Check out the Lake Maggiore boat timetable online for more details.

Where to stay in Cannobio

Rather controversially, we’re going to suggest not staying in Cannobio itself but instead, across the water in either Maccagno or Luino. You’ll find eating out better value on this side of the water and you can relax each evening watching the sun set over Cannobio on the distant shore. Check out this luxury apartment in Maccagno, sleeping up to 8 people and enjoying wonderful lake views from the private balcony. Or how about this 3 bedroom family-friendly villa on Lake Maggiore which has not just one, but three balconies from which to enjoy the views across to the Western side of the lake.

Check out all the villas and apartments on Lake Maggiore available to rent from Bookings For You.