Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Lake Maggiore and Lake D'Orta lakelands

Date of Submission: 01/06/2006
Criteria: (ii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities
State, Province or Region:

Region: Piemonte - Provinces: Novara, Verbania, Pallazna

Ref.: 325
Cultural landscapes

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The proposed site is situated in Piemonte, in the provinces of Novara , Verbania and Pallanza, on the eastern side of  the Pre-Alpine lake district, at 200-220 m above sea level (Lake Maggiore) and 280.300 m above sea level (Lake d'Orta).There are several very small islands (the largest ones measure 200-300m), and villas and gardens have  remodelled the gentle slopes on the mainland.

On account of he large lakes in the Pre-Alpine belt the landscape is totally different from that of the other valleys; the mild sub-Mediterranean climate is favourable to botanical species typical of the peninsular regions, including olive trees and a wide range of flowering plants. The lakelands, easily accessible by way of large rivers and mountain passes and endowed with an extraordinary climate, have always attracted humans settlements, while the variety and beauty of the landscape determined the development of a very particular religious and cultural sensitivity.

These lakelands, under the dominion of the Duchy of Milan until the latter was annexed  (1735) by the House of Savoy, have always been a privileged way of passage, and feature a very original re-elaboration of various "erudite" architectural suggestions carried out with a view to improve the landscape artificially by adapting the pompous Roman and Milanese architectural models.

The "modelling" or landscaping of the lakelands began in the 16th century, at the time of what is known as "antica Civiltà della Riviera" (ancient Riviera Culture): a revival of commerce, liberal activities and the arts. A particular type of building appeared, especially around Lake d'Orta, halfway between a town house, or palazzo, and a country house, in line with its destination as holiday residence and often enriched with an abundance of virtuosities in the decorations of the façade and wrought iron railings. The celebrated villas on the Lake Maggiore islands were built in  those same years, namely the villa-palazzo commissioned by Lancellotto Borromeo on Isola Madre at the beginning of the 16th century and the monumental palazzo and formal gardens on   Isola Bella between 1620 and 1670. They are born of a creativity, typical of the period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, aimed at using architecture to conceive scenic landscapes crammed with illusionist, eccentric perspectives. 

Once the Simplon Route (begun in 1801) and the first railway up to Arona (1855) had been built these lakelands became a fashionable holiday resort and attracted foreign visitors. So, it is in the 19th century, that they acquired their present structure, with sumptuous late-Neoclassical and Eclectic stately homes set in formal gardens overflowing with exotic plants and evergreens to suit the extravagant tastes of uncommonly wealthy purchasers. The district attracted thinkers, men and women of letters and artists who, way ahead of their times, discussed  the conservation and development  of the countryside. Concepts such as "landscape museum", "landscape painting", "landscape poetry" and "landscape literature", found in these lakelands  original and diverse, inspirations which, however affected,  certainly testify to a particularly harmonious man-landscape relationship.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The site's fame as a tourist resort has long since ensured a "virtuous circle" for its safeguard, conservation and development.

The coasts and, all the more so the islands, come under the protection of the national legislation on cultural heritage, (Decree n. 41/22.1.2004), of the regional landscape regulations  and of the municipal zoning regulations.

The management plan will be co-ordinated by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, and local authorities, namely: Regione Piemonte (Regional Authority), Comune di San Giulio d'Orta , Comune di Stresa, Comune di Verbania (Municipalities), Famiglia Borromeo.

Comparison with other similar properties

The World Heritage List does not include "cultural landscapes" similar to or born of the cultural trends that determined the features  of the Lake Maggiore and Lake d'Orta lakelands. The fact that this site was created over time, from the Renaissance to the 20th century and that it has an eminently "ideal" character, distinguishes it from other sites that have been included in the World Heritage List on the basis of quite similar criteria.

Several features of Great Britain's Lake District are comparable to those of the Lake Maggiore and Lake d'Orta lakelands; however, in Great Britain, the remodelling of the countryside took place in much more recent times.