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When we arrived on Isola Pescatori, we felt quite hungry and were looking for a restaurant to have lunch, but we were a little shocked. There were several restaurants at the water front, but none of them looked appealing to us: They were all totally crowded with tourists, had a very high noise level, and the prices were over the top and nothing we would like to pay. Moreover, the menus were not that appealing as well, as we were looking for something that could easily be made vegan.
We walked along the waterfront and discovered a sign pointing out a restaurant called "Chez Manuel", and after having a look at the menu which was displayed as well, we decided to go there. It was a great choice!
The restaurant is much smaller than the ones along the lakefront. The prices were ok, too, and service was very friendly. They have a more "posh" area upstairs, but we chose the rather informal area downstairs, which was located in a small arbour without a roof, although there is a roof which was raised later when it started to rain. The area is held in a yellowish style and it rather felt like sitting in someone's garden!
The menu is a "menu turistico" which means it has many "Italian" dishes of the kind you get in Italian restaurants all around the world, not local dishes of this region, but this is the case anywhere on the islands. I chose a rucola salad which was delicious, and my mom chose spaghetti which were equally good. Together with drinks and the tip the bill came to 23€. We were really happy that we went to this small restaurant! As I said, it is touristic like all restaurants on the islands, which includes that staff can get by in several languages and there is no coperto, but I still found it much more friendly and authentic than the huge restaurants along the lakefront, mainly because it was so small and relaxed.
Updated Aug 9, 2012
The entrance to the harbour area at Carciano is formed by a small wooden bridge, and when we arrived and crossed the bridge, we were approached by a man in a white uniform who had positioned himself at the other end. He spoke to us very quickly and wanted to sell us a boat ticket to Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori, talking so much that I could hardly understand him. At first I thought this was the boat ticket I had planned to buy, but then I realized that I had planned to visit all three Isole Borromee, including Isola Madre, and not only two of them. I said so, but he told me that Isola Madre was not good anyway, but that the other two were much better.
All this seemed very strange to me, but when I saw a sign saying Navigazione Laghi at the other side of the small harbour and recognized the emblem from the website I had researched before, I was sure that the ticket this man tried to sell me was not the ticket I wanted, but that I wanted a ticket of the other company, and despite the protest of the "captain" we quickly walked away, earning many words and angry glances.
I am quite sure that the boat ticket he tried to sell is not bad, I later saw the boat he had shown us, and if I understood it right they take you to Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori for 10€, which is a good price. If you actually only want to visit these two, the ticket might be good, but make sure this is really what you want. I enjoyed Isola Madre a lot and was glad I went there and was not caught unaware and persuaded to buy the ticket for only two islands.
As we started our boat ride at Carciano and not at Stresa, I don't know if these men are waiting for tourists in Stresa, too.
My advice is to do your own research and compare the prices and different boat companies before you go, and then decide on the basis of what you want to do and see!
Fun Alternatives: Navigazione Laghi is the biggest boat company at Lago Maggiore and they go to all the three Isole Borromee, as well as many other destinations on the lake, as far as Locarno in Switzerland. A free circulation ticket costs 16,90€ and allows you to roam around the lake as much as you want for one day.
Written Aug 9, 2012