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Stresa is a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants on the shores of the Lake Maggiore and situated on the road and rail routes to the Simplon pass in the region of Piedmont in Italy. Since the early 20th century, the main source of income has been the tourist trade. Like other locations on the Lake Maggiore, it benefits from spectacular views as well as areas of historical and architectural interest.

The name of this town first appeared in documents in 998.

In the 15th century it grew into a fishing community and owed feudal allegiance to the Visconti family. It subsequently came under the control of the Borromeo family.

For centuries, Stresa has been a popular retreat for Europe’s aristocrats, who have endowed the town with a number of villas. Tourism increased substantially after tunnelling of the Simplon Pass allowed train service from north of the Alps to pass through Stresa, in 1906.

One famous visitor in 1948 was Ernest Hemingway who set part of his novel Farewell to Arms in the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees and in 2002 Stresa hosted the 10th International Hemingway Conference.

Stresa is also known for hosting two political conferences in the 20th century:

  • In 1935, in which the UK, Italy and France decided to form the Stresa front to combat and contain Nazi Germany and re-affirm the Treaty of Locarno.
  • In 1958: the foundations for what was later to become the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Economic Community were laid down in Stresa.

Stresa hosts one of the most important classical music international festivals, Settimane Musicali, that occurs every year during the summer.

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