Steamboats and the Belle Époque on Lake Maggiore

When steamboats started crossing Lake Maggiore in 1826, they were an instant success.

As one 19th-century chronicler explained, they were first introduced by a company whose shareholders soon split into two separate shipping lines: Sardo-Ticinese (backed by Swiss shareholders) and Lombarda (backed by Lombard ones).

The first steamboat to sail from Locarno – where it had been built the previous winter – was the “Verbano”, launched under Edoardo Church.

“The boat is beautifully made, and comfortable inside: it easily has room for over four hundred people, and a large quantity of cargo. During the summer, it runs across the lake twice a day, in less than six hours […] It fights against and overcomes feisty winds with only the slightest delay” (translated from G. Casalis, “Dizionario geografico storico-statistico-commerciale degli Stati di S. M. il Re di Sardegna”, Turin 1841).

Over the decades, Maggiore’s fleet grew quickly: in the early 1920s there were 18 paddle steamers, 6 screw steamers, and about ten motor vessels (motorboats and hydrofoil would come later).

Here is a gallery of posters that tell the story of the Belle Époque on Lake Maggiore.

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 1st 1906 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 15th 1904 schedule, Officine d’Arti Grafiche Chiattone, Milan

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

The Cannero Castle, schedule from June 1st 1909

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

April 1st 1909, Officine d'Arti Grafiche Chiattone, Milan

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 1st 1907, colors by Michael Huber, Milan

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

View of Isola Bella, schedule for May 1st to September 30th 1912

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 16th 1902 schedule, Officine Wild & C., Milan

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 1st 1908 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

The Navigazione Lago Maggiore fleet with steamboats lined up on the water. The Borromeo Islands and Swiss mountains in the background. May 1st to September 30th 1913 schedule, Officine d’Arti Grafiche Chiattone, Milan

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

The Borromeo Gulf with Pallanza, June 1st 1897 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

Map of Lake Maggiore, April 14th 1895 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

The Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo ("Sancarlone"), municipality of Arona, May 1st to September 30th 1914 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

Impresa di Navigazione on Lake Maggiore, June 1st 1885 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

Sanctuary of San Caterina del Sasso, April 1st 1908 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

July 15th to September 30th 1892 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

April 1st 1901 schedule

Manifesti-orari battelli navigazione Lago Maggiore - Poster schedule for Lake Maggiore steamboats

June 15th 1903 schedule

Steamboats and the Belle Époque on Lake Maggiore

province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Novara, Varese

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