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A beautiful little Italian town on a glorious lake
Can really fill up with hordes of tourists
In a nutshell
This was a part of Italy I would like to see more of.
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.
Updated Aug 8, 2012