Rivers and lakes

Veduta dell'Isola Bella del Lago Maggiore
Isola Bella - Lago Maggiore

There was a time when holidays were a privilege reserved to few aristocrats. Even then, however, the foreign tourists who visited Italy coming through the Sempione Pass always included among their priorities a visit to the Lakes in Piemonte. Even today, this tourist district represents a unique starting point to discover Piemonte and its waterways.

lago d'orta

Even today this tourist attraction, the lake district, which includes Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta and Lake Mergozzo is an excellent starting point to explore Piedmont and its lakes and rivers. Visit the Borromeo islands on Lake Maggiore; marvel at the splendid Italian gardens on Isola Bella and Isola Madre; or enjoy the romantic atmosphere of Isola dei Pescatori. The Toce river flows placidly into the lake, but that same river, nearer its source in the Val Formazza, forms the second highest waterfall in Europe, cascading 143 metres down a sheer rock face. It then resumes its tranquil journey down the valley towards the lake, through one of the largest wilderness areas in Italy, in the Val Grande National Park.
Piedmont has many high mountain lakes, 300 in the Cuneo province alone, and a hundred more scattered through the Alps. The source of the river Po is Pian del Re, on the slopes of Monviso. This river, so important to Italian history and agriculture, flows through Piedmont for 235 kilometres, touching four provinces. In 1990 the Parco del Po park authority was created, to manage over 25,000 hectares of land along the banks of the river. 6,000 hectares of this land is a protected environment consisting of nature reserves with certain areas made available to the public for a variety of activities: birdwatching, walking or cycling.

Dove nasce il Po
Po River – Cuneo Tract

Water in all its forms reigns in Piemonte. The region is overflowing with rivers, streams and creeks, and it gives birth to the main and longest Italian river, the Po. Among the several regional parks, it is the river parks which offer visitors a truly unique experience. Landscapes dominated by hills and rice-fields, unique habitats where migrating birds can be spotted resting, diverse and interesting panoramic views, ranging from mountains to plains, form the backdrop of one of the most important natural heritage of the whole region.



Photo: Archivio Ce.D.R.A.P - Archivio Sist. F.F. del Po Tratto cuneese A.P.F. P.C., A. Farina

Palazzo Borromeo
Palazzo Booromeo - Isola Bella - Lago Maggiore

Piemonte guards a vast heritage of historical mansions, which testify the region’s past and its inhabitants’ love of art, and which are often surrounded by charming Italian or English-inspired gardens. From Medieval castles through farms to liberty-style villas, the whole region is sprinkled with highly significant buildings and with botanical gardens where visitors can admire rare vegetal specimens and exotic plants coming from all over the world. On lakes and among hills, surrounded by rice-fields or immersed in historical city centres, from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century, the journey through history reflects the diverse epochs of the striking architecture of Torino and of hamlets and towns in every corner of Piemonte.




Piedmont is not on the seaside, but the sea is not essential to enjoy watersports. The Po, the most famous Italian river has its source in Piedmont, and hundreds of torrents and streams of water flow through the region. In 1863 a group of eleven young students formed the area’s first rowing squad. Nowadays the riverbanks are occupied by many different rowing associations, some of whom also offer the opportunity to try the sport out for free. During the festival of Saint John, the patron saint of Turin, these groups organise a torch-lit procession down the river, and once a year the University and Polytechnic rowing teams engage in a fiercely competitive race, which recalls the Oxford Cambridge boat race.
As if this was not enough, the more adventurous can also organise white water kayaking or hydrospeed-rafting trips on the mountain torrents of Val Sesia (Vercelli) or Valle Stura (Cuneo) or go canyoneering down narrow river-beds, exploring otherwise inaccessible gorges, waterfalls and ravines. Finally, it is worthwhile exploring the lake districk of Verbano Cusio Ossola, a beautiful area, often visited by Gustave Flaubert who declared it “the most voluptuous place in the world, where nature enchants you with a thousand unknown seductions …”. In peak season, large numbers of foreigners visit the Lago Maggiore, the Lago d’Orta and the Lago di Mergozzo to sail, water-ski or windsurf.

Last Updated on 23/03/2017

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