Arona is one of the most important commercial and tourist towns on Lake Maggiore - certainly the most important along the lower lake. Its population of 15,000 makes it the most inhabited city on the lake, especially if the various towns forming Verbania (whose conglomerate includes some 30,000 with Intra, Pallanza, Suna and other hamlets) - which were only united in 1939 - are considered separately. Arona is also the largest harbour on the lake, the official headquarters of Navigazione Lago Maggiore, and the most important junction for road and railway communications.
Arona and its surrounding area have been inhabited by man from time immemorial. It was certainly the seat of Roman fortresses, was dominated in the Middle Ages by the Torriani and Visconti, and lastly was dominated by the Borromeo in the first half of the 15th century. Indeed, its position strategically influences both the section of lake and the area providing access to the Sempione pass, once used by the Romans.
The old town centre has many characteristic buildings such as the Church of Santissimi Martiri (originally Roman with a baroque façade). The martiri (martyrs) - who included San Graziano - are celebrated every year on 13 March when religious event Tredicino is organised in the city. 15th-century Palazzo di Giustizia with its portico and pointed arches is in the lower part of the city. Neoclassical Villa Ponti is home to exhibits and conventions and belongs to the city today; Napoleon Bonaparte once stayed here and it was the headquarters of Mondadori publishing house during the last World War.
Every year, Arona hosts the most important economic events on the lake: the Fiera di Arona (Fair of Arona) was created in 1962 as a trade fair, and as a result of its increasing importance (over 150,000 visitors attended the last editions), is now called the Fiera del Lago Maggiore (Fair of Lake Maggiore).
Bishop of Milan San Carlo Borromeo was born in Arona; a huge copper and bronze statue – the “Sancarlone” - commemorates him just outside of the town centre and is worth visiting. It can also be seen from the lake and the shores of Angera. Read the sheet.