Wanted to report back. Thanks for all your suggestions. We have tried out most of them.
Stresa is a fab town, with plenty to keep us occupied. Our apartment was right in the centre about 2 mins walk from the fab Gelato place you recommended Novelsituation. We had one every day and made our way through the flavours!! Had dinner at Mamma Mia but didn't book so we had a table inside and it was soon hot but good food, should have booked.
The restaurants in the square were good but we found if you walked down some of the streets we found some good places which has more locals at.
The Friday market in Stresa was good in car park on other side of the main square. Also has a great little bakery which locals use open at 6am (not that we were out of bed then) daily. We bought heaps of chesse, meat and fruit and veg, not cheap but fab quality. Bought a roasted chicken was 13 Euros but DH said it was free range and corn-fed (can you tell he doesn't do the weekly shop) was delicious, made a nicevchange from pizza and pasta. Lots of stalls selling cheap tat, handbags etc. but few others selling nice shoes etc. Good mix. Finishes at 12 noon.
Great Carrefour supermarket just behind the main square, everything you need to stock up if self catering. Open from 9-12 then 3-7. Sun only 9-12.
DS' (and I) did swim in the lake bloody cold but water beautiful, clear and very clean. Little beach area just in front of nice kids playground.
Did the trip up Mottarone, really nice walk along the promenade from Stresa takes about 15 mins. Beware of rip off restaurant at top, food not great and a bit pricey they charged us 4 euros for the bread. Take a picnic!
Did trip on Railway to Monteldessa then to Locarno, get ferry round to Ascona much nicer town to have lunch at and wander around and then back on Ferry (this bit took 3 hours, go on a Wed on hydrofoil much faster) long day trip but so worth it. Amazing scenery through the Alps, DD's got a bit bored but we loved it.
Overall had a fantastic trip and it's a gorgeous place for a very relaxing holiday with kids. The Italians are so friendly and love kids, we will definitely come back again.
We spent two days on The Borromean Islands, which were absolutely stunning.
And also another garden island further round the lake http://www.isolebrissago.ch/en was worth a visit; it's in the Swiss end of the lake - we drove to Lugano (nice big Swiss town at end of lake) and caught a ferry to Isole Brissago from there. The island was very very private and quite 'lost', the DC loved exploring its gardens for a few hours. Cafe on it too.
Ate out every night in Stressa, but I can't rememeber the names of them - we just picked the busiest looking restaurants with lots of outdoor tables. They were all child friendly, basic Italian fare.
Thanks for your reply and for your great recommendations. We shall try them out, especially the place for gelato (DS1&2 will love that).
I have been reading about the Borromean Islands and they sound really interesting and something else to add to our itinerary. We are all foodies and any place with a good restaurant/food will be high on our agenda, oh and if it involves getting a boat there it will be an adventure for DS1&2!
Sounds like we probably wont' be able to do it all and a return journey will be needed!
Hope that work gets a bit less stressful for you and that you enjoy the Easter break!
We were half board in our hotel (La Palma) so didn't eat out a great deal. We had one evening meal in Mamma Mia which was very good (pizza, pasta etc). It's very popular and you have to book in the evenings. There were families with small children there when we were there and the waiters were charming to the little ones.
We had some leisurely lunches in the canopied restaurant in the main square in the shopping area (not sure of its name). We also had delicious pizza for lunch sitting al fresco at Villa Taranto.
L'Angolo del Gelato was the best gelato.
This year we are going to spend more time on the Borromean Islands. Il Pescatore in particular has a number of restaurants which look interesting and we plan to go for several lunches there.
I can't wait to go back either... Having a very busy time at work and enjoying the escapism of thinking about Italy. You won't be disappointed - Stresa is just wonderful.
Ah that might be the small beach area I have seen on TripAdvisor. Am sure it will satisfy my little ones.. There is meant to be a Lido somewhere and I think I did read about a local pool.
27-30 is perfect for us (where I originally come from it's regularly 40 in summer). Don't even mind some rain, thought being near the mountains that is what I am expecting. Will pack for all eventualities!
Did you find any good local restaurants? My DH loves the sound of the Sky Bar so we will definately do that!
Many thanks for your help, can't wait to go now....
There is a small beach area attached to one of the lake front cafes. People were swimming in the lake but we didn't. The weather was very warm for all of our stay (12 days) with just a few heavy evening showers. It was regularly 27 - 30 degrees and as pale-skinned Scots we did find it hot. Later in the evening you would need a light cover up, though.
Thanks for all your helpful information, some great tips for things to do. Sounds like there will be more than enough to keep us busy.
As I said we have rented an apartment not far from the lake but it doesn't have a pool. Do people swim in the lake or can you? Was thinking the water might be cold but my DS' would be more than happy to just paddle, play in the shallows.
Have been looking at the average temps for August and it seems to be about 26 (though I realise that it can be hotter or indeed cooler), did you find it hot at all?
We went to Stresa last July with two teenagers (15 and 13 then). Everyone had a brilliant time. Have just booked a week in early August. We did a lot of day trips from Stresa, and particularly enjoyed trips to Zermatt and Macugnaga. We went up in the cable car there and the views of Monta Rosa were incredible. Villa Taranto (gardens) is paradise on earth. This is easily reached by the regular ferry service. The Borromean Islands are also a must visit. One evening go for Prosecco in the Sky Bar of La Palma Hotel (on lake front). This rooftop bar is unmissable for the views. Would thoroughly recommend Stresa and Lago Maggiore.
We have booked a two week holiday (first two weeks of Aug) and I just wondered if anyone else has been there? If so what was good or bad about the place.
Any recommendations: things we must do good places to eat out things we should avoid
Also judging by the weather forecast for August it seems the average daily temp is about 26 degrees. If this is the case I wonder if being near the lake it will get cooler in the evening (rented an apartment about 100 m from the lake).