One of the main attractions on Isola Bella are the White Peacocks. And don't worry that you won't see any while you are there because they are all over the place. On the day we visited there were several student groups visiting the Borromean Islands and they were probably driving the White Peacocks crazy.Like most peacocks I've ever seen in zoos...more
The palazzo, or palace, is the most important attraction on Isola Bella. You can already see it when you arrive on the boat, and it does indeed look very impressive. I could not wait to visit it! However, when we arrived in the courtyard, I was quite disappointed because there was a loooong queue. Well, it couldn't be helped, we took our place in...more
A little further from the palace, there is a large park that occupies the biggest part of the island. It is not a baroque garden like on Isola Bella, but more of an English style, with lawns and trees, and a lot of nature that looks grown a little wild, not ordered in flower beds. In the middle there is something like a little piazza where some...more
The area around the palace has been transformed into wonderful gardens. They are very well cared for and display the most beautiful flowers in many different colours. There are also palm trees, and a very big Kashmir cypress which is the largest of its species in Europe.There are benches where you can have a rest and it is a joy to wander around...more
The palace on Isola Madre is a bit different to the one of Isola Bella. It is not as opulent and splendid, but I liked it the better for it. It seemed a lot more personal because there is furniture in every room, and there were also a few information signs. A highlight is the collection of historical puppets and sceneries of old puppet theaters....more
Belonging to the palace, and included in the entrance fee you pay, there are large and beautiful gardens. You get there in the end of your tour of the palace, and they are just huge and impressive. Unfortunately we did not visit much of them because I had some circulatory problems due to the weather (fortunately this got better later on Isola...more
Isola Pescatori's church is the oldest of the three churches on the islands. It is called San Vittore just as the church on Isola Bella, but it is more than five hundred years older - it dates back to the 11th century! It is the most interesting of the churches and can be seen from afar, towering above the small village on the island. When you...more
Outside of the palace, on the opposide of the small courtyard, there is the small sepulchral chapel of the Borromeo family. It is the youngest addition of the palace and was constructed in 1858. You cannot enter, but are allowed to have a look through a metal screen. The chapel is very pretty, both the exterior and the interior. Adjacent to the...more
Isola Pescatori's harbour is very picturesque and one of my favourite places on the three islands. What I found most fascinating was the statue of the Virgin Mary which was placed on one of the harbour walls. I did not see something like this before although I imagine it might be common in catholic countries. I myself am not catholic, but I loved...more
Borromeo palace and gardens are open from the end of March till the end of October. Visit in the palace lasts about 45 minutes, in the garden you can spend from 20 minutes till hours if you enjoy just relaxing in a beautiful nature. But I would not plan more than 3-4 hours to spend in Isola Bella. You can take an individual tour or a guided one....more
Actually Isola Bella is at Piedmont, not Lombarty as VT says. It is located on Lake Maggiore...You must see a Castle on the island. Tour is very nice, it is given by the family who has been serving this island for many generations. The servant is very funny, and once the tour is over he opens the exit door just a little bit and will not let you out...more
About the statuary in the gardens, Vitaliano's intention was to order statues that would celebrate the family's ancestors and their achievements. So much for the family's motto "Humilitas"! However, his brother convinced him to change his mind and to decorate the garden with allegories of the seasons, the months of the year etc.In the picture you...more
The statues that decorated gardens in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were never meant just as ornaments. They always had symbolic meanings. Here in the Teatro Massimo, for instance, the unicorn at the top is a symbol of purity, and at its sides there are statues representing Art and Nature.more
The Isola Madre has more exotic birds than Isola Bella, but on both islands you will find the impossibly beautiful white peacocks. Their colours make them stand out, whatever the colour of the background. Their tails look so much like the lace of a bride's gown that one almost forgets that these are the males of the species.more
Our idea of a garden or a park is likely to consist of a green lawn, shady trees, maybe the bend of a stream. We forget that our tastes have been modelled by 250 years or so of English gardens, a concept that Kenneth Clark described as "the most pervasive influence that England has ever had on the look of things in Europe".The Italian gardens that...more
Other statues represent Earth, Water, Air and Fire, the four elements that formed the world according to Greek philosopy. In Christianity they became symbols of the four ways of reading the Scriptures: earth symbolized the literal meaning, water the moral meaning, air the allegorical and fire the mystical.more
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.
From Stresa, you can take a boat to the Borromean Islands. There are different boat companies, but Navigazione Laghi is the biggest and as far as I know the only one going to all three islands. You can just hop on and hop off.There are different tickets available, we used the Free Circulation Ticket which costs 16,90€ and allows you to use the boat...more
If you are travelling around by train, Stresa is the nearest train station to the Isole Borromee. Coming from Milan, as we did, you can either take a fast EC train, or a slower regional train. Because of budget reasons, we opted for the regional train. A one way ticket for one adult is 7,40€ and the journey takes about an hour. You can buy a ticket...more
Isola Bella is connected to Stresa, Arona, Pallanza, Locarno, Laveno by the boats of the Navigazione Lago Maggiore company. I should mention that Isola Bella is not close to Rome (what is shown on the map of this page), it is by the Lago Maggiore, about 98km from Milano. When you take a boat to Isola, you see the nice landscape of a lake with green...more
Shops will be one of the very first things you will see when you go to the Isole Borromee - in fact stalls who sell tourist tad, all along the waterfront on Isola Bella. If you desire any souvenir with any connection to Italy, you will probably find it here, along with overpriced postcards, fridge magnets, t-shirts, bags, mugs and whatever of Lago...more
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.
One of the highlights of our day on the Borromean Islands was wandering through the hidden alleys on Isola Pescatori... The whole centre of the island is a labyrinth of picturesque alleys that are just waiting to be explored!As most visitors spend their time on the waterfront, the alleys are much quieter. Although there are some restaurants and...more
While you walk along the lakefront, most attention is focused on the side of the water because that is where the harbour and the stop of the boats is, as well as all the souvenir stalls. However, you should have a look at the other side, too, as there are some interesting local houses. They are quite large and I found them very pretty. Most of them...more
Isola Bella's church is located right on the waterfront. I still include it in the Off The Beaten Path category, because hardly anyone went there - everybody seemed so engaged by the many souvenir stalls and the harbour (plus the toilets which are just next door) that the church almost went unnoticed!Construction of this church began in 1665, but...more
Isola Madre is the largest of the three islands, and it is also the one that is furthest away from the shore. Therefore, it is less crowded because not all visitors go here, which is an advantage for sure!In the middle ages, there was a castle here which belonged to the defenses of Lago Maggiore, and there was also a parish church called San...more
Isola Pescatori is the smallest of the islands and it is very different because it has no palace. It is home to a small former fishing village and has a small harbour, an old church and delightful alleys and cobble-stoned lanes. Although there were many tourists here, too, it did not feel as crowded, and I enjoyed the atmosphere a lot. It was a joy...more
Isola Bella is the island that is closest to the shore, and from Stresa it can be seen very clearly. Until 1630, this island was called Isola Inferiore (the lower island, because it was closer to the shore), but then it caught the attention of the House of Borromeo and Carlo III decided to construct a palace here. He named the island after his...more