Arona guide


Small Lago Maggiore (Lake Maggiore) town dominated—literally—by St. Charles Borromeo

San Carlone
Il Carlone, the 76-foot staue of San Carlo Borromeo in Arona. (Photo courtesy of Distretto Turistico dei Laghi)

Partway up the western shore of Lake Maggiore, the sprawling modern town of Arona was once ancient stronghold of the Borromei and boasted a vast castle to rival that of Angera directly across the lake, but the fortress was razed by Napoleon.

The only lasting monument in Arona to the great family rises high above town: a disconcertingly colossal 17th-century bronze statue of San Carlo Borromeo known as Il Carlone—the Big Charlie.

Attack of the seven-story saint

Il CarloneNow, every Renaissance family of any standing in Italy produced at least one pope or saint, and the Borromei had Charles. San Carlo Borromeo was an archbishop and social welfare champion who carried out Counter-Reformation ideals in the late 16th century.

He was also an arts patron (he founded Milan's Pinacoteca Ambrosiana). In due course, and a couple of healing-the-blind-type miracles later, this popular bishop was sanctified soon after his death.

The great statue dedicated to this great man stands 76 feet high atop a 40-foot pedestal (making it the second highest statue in the world, after the Statue of Liberty), one gargantuan hand raised to bless the lake and his hometown below.

The view from inside Il Carlone's head.
The view from inside Il Carlone's head. (Photo by Alessandro Vecchi)
You can clamber up a rickety and tight ladderlike stair into Big Charlie's giant head to lean on the inside of his lips and peek out his pupils past the 17th-century church just below (decorated with San Carlo paintings) to the lake beyond and, on the far shore (just visible to the left in that pictire), the Rocca Borromeo in Angera.

Tips & links


Tourist Office Arona
Piazzale Duca d'Aosta
. +39-0322-243-601

» More hotels on Lake Maggiore (Booking)Arona tourism info: There is a tourist office in Arona at Piazzale Duca d'Aosta, tel. +39-0322-243-601, Also useful:

How to get to Arona

If you don't have a rental car, the easiest way is by train; Arona is about an hour from Milan on a regional line, with 1–3 departures per hour. Note that the fastest trains leave from Milan's central station, but there is more frequent (and only slightly slower) service from Milan's Porta Garibaldi station.

How to get to Arona by boat: If you are already on the lake, Arona is a major stop in the Lake Maggiore ferry system (—though in winter this is reduced to just local ferries (one that only crosses between Arona and Angera; another that only tools around the central lake between Stresa, the islands, and Verbania/Intra, etc.) but doesn't connect these localized lake regions.

How to get to Arona by bus: Arona is connected by S.A.F. (tel. +39-0323-552-172, to other towns on the western shore of Lake Maggiore roughly twice per hour, including Verbania-Pallanza (45 min.) and Stresa (25 min.). There's also twice daily service from Milan's Lampugnato stop on Metro line 1 (65 min.).

How to get to Arona from the Milan Malpensa airport: Arona is just an 30– to 40-minute bus ride from the Milan-Malpensa airport ( with the S.A.F. Alibus (tel. +39-0323-552-172,—though the bus only runs once every two hours, and only between late April and September. Off-season, you can take the Malpensa Express train ( to Busto Arsizio and catch an Arona-bound train or bus from there.

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Tourist Office Arona
Piazzale Duca d'Aosta
. +39-0322-243-601

Statua di San Carlo ("Il Carlone")
Via Verbano, Arona
tel. +39-0322-243-601
Open: Apr–Sep, daily 9am–12:30pm, 2–6:15pm;
Oct, Sat-Sun 9am–12:30pm, 2–6:15pm
Mar + Nov–Dec, Sat-Sun 9am–12:30pm, 2–4:30pm

Hotels in Arona
 • Castello del Pozzo [€€€–€€€€]
 • Hotel Ristorante San Carlo [€€]
 • Hotel Giardino [€€]
» More hotels on Lake Maggiore (Booking)

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