A renowned location on Lake Maggiore, Intra overlooks the Golfo Borromeo and presents a large number of tourist attractions, cultural opportunities, fantastic shops and trendy locales.
On arrival in Intra you will encounter first of all, at its very entrance, an ultra modern architectural structure erected in a scenic position facing the lake: standing there to greet the visitor is the theatre Il Maggiore with its futuristic appearance, laid out along the mouth of the torrent, San Bernardino. Designed by the Spanish architect Salvador Perez Arroyo, this venue has become the town's flagship owing not only to its high -profile programme of cultural activities but also its scenographic appearance and the beautiful outdoor arena, with its flight of big stone steps, facing the lake. It is a real storehouse of events created in the form of a sculpture stretching out towards the clear Verbano waters...
In reality, the town of Intra represents one of Verbania's three hubs, together with Suna and Pallanza. Its name comes from the Latin expression “intra flumina” ( which means «town among rivers») since it was built on the river plains formed by the San Giovanni and San Bernardino torrents. The historic centre is made up of a cluster of narrow little streets, small coutyards and paths following the lakeside as far as the Basilica of San Vittore, the church dedicated to the patron saint of the town, whose most distinctive feature is the cupola in copper overlay. There are numerous shops of various kinds, ranging from the famous icecream parlour “Riva Est” to the wonderful boutique, Colombara, located in the porticoed piazza Ranzoni, a meeting place and the true heart of the town's commercial activity.
However, “La casera”, the famous place owned by Eros Buratti, is the most amazing of all, a paradise for the palate, a kind of promised land where the most exquisite of typical Italian products are to be found: burrata and mozzarella made from buffalo milk, different varieties of cheese made in the Ossola region, the precious Bettelmatt, many Piedmontese toma cheeses, ‘angry’ robiola… Eros's business is an ancient trade: being a cheese refiner involves a close relationship with the grazing pastures of our mountains which warrants the careful selection and maturation of top quality products.
Of course, Intra reserves other pleasant surprises. Among the many cafés and elegant shop windows there are some ancient city buildings to be discovered, such as the grand Palazzo Peretti with its ornate windows and wrought iron balconies and the 1800s Palazzo delle Beccherie.
Another popular attraction is the extensive Saturday market with its colourful, picturesque stalls stretching out across the streets and historic centre for the whole day : the most popular products are the bread, focaccia, cakes and pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers and honey-based products. Tourists also love the stalls selling shoes, leather jackets and the excellent quality handbags as well as clothes, pyjamas, fabric, buttons, belts and hats of all kinds.
Purchases and aperitifs over and done with, it is worth taking a long, relaxing walk on the lakeside footpath, lined with chestnut trees, magnolias and oleanders. Along the way you will come across the old port, which is characterised by an imposing column made of Montorfano granite and the former embarkadero, a striking construction in Liberty style dating back to the end of the 1800s. The new port, on the other hand, always seems to be busy and crowded with people because it is the departure point for both Italian and Swiss destinations on Lake Maggiore.
Before returning to Darbia, you might also like to stop by the gardens at Villa Taranto or alternatively at the public park of Villa Giulia, a splendid mansion and venue for events, overlooking the lake. You could also stop on the way here and visit an important religious building, the evocative “Madonna di Campagna” church or you might prefer to plunge into the uncontaminated nature at the Nature Reserve in Fondotoce, a charming green area featuring cane thickets and an abundance of wildlife, situated at the mouth of the river Toce and accessible on foot or by bicycle.
Because of the impressive beauty of the lake and the many opportunities offered by Intra, I decided to include it among the places to visit. The following words expressed by the French poet Stendhal while holidaying in this area come to my mind:
“If by any chance you have a sensitive heart, you should sell the shirt off your back if necessary in order to see the surroundings of Lake Maggiore”