Jaimie Monahan - Lake Maggiore

Tenero-Contra, Switzerland to Sesto Calende, Italy

37 miles (59.6 km)

24 hours, 2 minutes on 28-29 August 2017

Observed and documented by A. Thormahlen / A. Burta

First unassisted swim of Lake Maggiore length



  • Name: Jaimie Monahan
  • Age on swim date: 38
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: New York, NY, USA

Support Personnel

  • Adela Burta – pilot/observer
  • Silvano Deho - pilot
  • Arik Thormahlen – crew/observer

Swim Parameters

Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.

Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.

Route Definition

Length of Lake Maggiore from Tenero-Contra, Switzerland to Sesto Calende, Italy (roughly north to south).

  • Route Distance: 37.0 statute miles (59.6 km)
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: small beach at northern edge of Tenero-Contra marina [map]
  • Finish Location: small beach just west of northern terminus of Sestro-Calende bridge [map]


Location Latitude Longitude Km
Tenero-Contra (Switz.) marina 46.178855 8.840092 0
  46.178894 8.839834 0.0
Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore 46.102935 8.736792 11.6
  46.083412 8.719625 14.2
  46.030700 8.712673 20.1
Spiaggia del Fortino 45.906255 8.595772 36.6
  45.890486 8.590622 38.4
Fornetto-vigane 45.778778 8.560753 51.1
  45.731827 8.597488 57.0
  45.726075 8.605299 57.9
Sestro Calende bridge 45.723589 8.626671 59.6

Swim Data

  • Start: August 28, 2017, 11:00 (Central European Standard Time).
  • Finish: August 29, 2017, 11:02.
  • Elapsed: 24 hours, 2 minutes

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp 20C 24C
Air Temp 21C 30C
Wind 3 kt 7 kt

Other Notable Events: Had to wait for a couple of ferries when passing through commuter ferry route near Arona, but overall an uneventful swim with near perfect conditions.

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Observer Log

Download PDF


Lake Maggiore is Italy’s largest lake by length, and second to Lake Garda by volume. It starts in Switzerland’s Tenero canton in the North, just below the Alps, and on its Italian side, is bordered by the Piedmont region on the west and Lombardy on the east side.

We planned a course to start on the beach of a small marina in Tenero-Contra, then swim the lake down into Italy, finishing at a small beach next to the Ticino bridge in Sesto Calende at the bottom of the lake. Highlights along the way include the Borromean Islands, the resort town of Stresa, and the picturesque villages of Cannobio and Arona.

With the amazing mountain views and lush vegetation along the lake, this region has been a popular resort area since the time of Napoleon, with easy access by the Simplon railroad and a popular destination for writers and artists like Lord Byron, Goethe, Gustav Flaubert as part of the “Grand Tour” popular in the 19th Century. Stresa in particular was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway after spending time there during the war, and is captured as a setting in his biographical novel, “A Farewell to Arms.”

Lago Maggiore’s water is extremely clear and warm during the summer months. Many triathlons, swim-run events, and shorter swim races occur between May and October timeframe. At least three swimmers have attempted a full crossing of the lake, and in July of 2013 Italian adventure swimmer Federico Troletti swam a reported 60km in 20 hours, 47 minutes wearing a wetsuit. Working in conjunction with local swim organizers and the Italian swim community, we have not found records of any other successful swims of this route.

After our original pilot fell through, we were able to arrange a new boat with two skippers on less than a week’s notice through website ClickandBoat.com (Air BNB for boats.) The boat we chose was perfectly equipped with full galley/head/shower/sleeping cabin and a wonderful team of pilots, Silvano and Adela. Boat la Francy can also be chartered directly via boatlafrancy.com.

We met Silvano and Adela at the Marina in Sesto Calende and we took a very comfortable nap while we motored up to the swim start at a small marina in Tenero Contra (about 2.5 hours.) Once we were there I got changed and sunscreened up on a nearby dock, then jumped into the water and swam to a small beach to start the swim. The water at the top of the lake had some cool patches due to run-off from the mountains, but otherwise it was a beautiful warm day and warm clear water. There was minimal wind and boat traffic on a Monday (I would recommend doing this swim on a weekday as the summer weekends have a lot more recreational boat traffic, windsurfing, etc.)

We swam until sunset and the night was warm and mostly clear. We made good time down the lake and didn’t see many boats in the night. After daybreak there was some ferry traffic going to/from Arona with ferries departing every 15 minutes or so, we had to stop a few times. After we got past that point, it was smooth sailing down to Sesto Calende. Getting close to the finish at Ticino bridge we picked up a couple of boaters who heard about the swim and came by to see us finish. Coming down to the bridge the lake got quite narrow and I felt a push from the current in the last few minutes.

Arik got in to swim me into the beach and we dodged some spiky local plants to clear land on a small muddy beach. Overall a great swim! Looking back I think next time I would have preferred to land on the sandy beach on the other end of the lake, and it would have been nice to time things to swim past the legendary Borromean Islands during the day instead of night. Other than that it was a perfect day and we were so well taken care of by Adela and Silvano. This area is great for vacationing before/after the swim too, tons of amazing hotels and restaurants and very good value compared to many other holiday destinations. Interested swimmers please feel free to contact me with any questions.


Click to enlarge.


Near the start.

Swimming by the gorgeous Castelli di Cannero, stunning remains of the Rocca Vitaliana fortress built in 1521 by the Borromeo family. This castle was build over the remains of the notorious La Malpaga, home of the notorious Mazzarda brothers, who terrorized the region in the 1400’s.


Near Arona.