Ascona and Lake Maggiore

Eden Roc
H E R Anlaesse Flower Festival

Italian lakes too crowded? Visit Ascona on Switzerland’s Lake Maggiore instead

The Italian lakes are impossibly beautiful – but in high season it can feel as though half the population of the world is drawn to Como. However, there are several other lakes, not all of them quite as hectic, and that’s why we have come to Maggiore, the region’s second-largest lake. Most of Maggiore belongs to Italy, but the northernmost part is Swiss – and it’s here that the quietly beautiful town of Ascona combines a Swiss wholesomeness with the glamour of the Italian lakes. 

Ascona’s main waterfront strip is a colourful run of brightly hued houses that look more German than Italian, with the microclimate’s signature palm trees defining the landscape, along with the mountains behind. It’s an extraordinary spot. We’re staying at Eden Roc, a luxurious hotel with a strong focus on wellbeing and relaxation. Built in the 1970s, it has an enviable position with lots of spots from which to enjoy the views, which are, without exception, breathtaking. 

Here it’s all about the lake, which we admire over breakfast, lunch and dinner on the shore, and also from various boats in the water. Activities include excursions on the hotel’s sailing boat and on the hotel’s yacht, on which we cruise towards a small island that’s home to an extraordinary botanical garden filled with lush and unlikely flora – there are spectacular rhododendrons, mature palms and sprawling cacti surrounding a private Italianate palazzo. 

Eden Roc
Hotel Eden Roc and Lake Maggiore

Eden Roc – along with the rest of the Tschuggen group to which it belongs – has a wellness programme called Moving Mountains. This, they say, is designed “to help you restore vitality, reconnect with nature and celebrate joy”, which is a pretty accurate description of how we actually do feel here. A diverse offering of activities spans paddleboarding, kayaking, lake swimming from the hotel’s own beach, yoga, paragliding and hiking as well as lots of excursions into the region. We take a guided tour of Bolle de Magadino to see one of Switzerland’s last remaining delta ecosystems where a heavily protected wetland is home to an impressive number of rare and endangered species. Here we watch nesting swans and swimming turtles and learn about the area’s significance as a rest stop for migratory birds. 

Back at the hotel, dining options are varied: the Moving Mountains menu options are wholesome, with a vegan slant, but there are also less worthy options in the name of gastronomic excellence. We are promised the world’s best tomato pasta, and treated to a live cookery demonstration as staff roll up a mobile hob and proceed to sling quantities of tomatoes into hot olive oil to demonstrate the resulting alchemy. Another restaurant offers a global menu with a cavalier mix-and-match approach, so we enjoy dim sum and mezze along with excellent lake-caught pike and Italy’s popular Franciacorta sparkling wine.

Sustainability-wise, there’s a strong commitment to the hotel’s carbon neutral pledge. A temporary art exhibition is currently on display, a site-specific project commissioned specially to use waste generated by the hotel. So in the lobby there’s a wall of bricks made from recycled menus and discarded cut flowers and a row of ornate frames displaying tangles of plastic packaging. 

With the hotel’s dual focuses on sustainability and wellbeing, there’s a serene, quiet feel to the place. Rooms are spacious and bathrooms are vast (we note that we’ve never found a bathroom scale in a hotel before). The spa is high class, and the heated indoor/outdoor pool is a luxury for when the lake is just a little too chilly. In all, Eden Roc is a treat for all the senses. 

Rooms start at CHF 390 based on two adults sharing a standard double on a B&B basis.

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