Lying north of Milan, and only a 40-minute drive from the Milan airport of Malpensa Lake Maggiore stretches for about 65 kilometres, reaching into the Ticino region of Switzerland. Despite its name (“maggiore” means “major”), it is only the second largest of northern Italy’s lakes. Its most popular attractions are on the western shore, where the magnificent Borromean Islands, with their subtropical parks, draw many visitors. The Borromean Islands lie off Stresa, with the impressive Isola Bella, where between 1650 and 1671, Count Vitaliano Borromeo built up terraces and created a splendid summer palace. You can tour its magnificent state apartments that below has are six grottoes, artificial caves whose walls are encrusted with shells and pebbles. Sumptuous furnishings and collections of 17th-century Flemish tapestries and Lombard paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries decorate the palace.