Exploring Lake Maggiore around the Borromean Islands

Isola Bella Lago Maggiore

Isola Madre, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori, the three islands forming the Borromean Islands, a charming archipelago located on Lake Maggiore

The Borromean Islands are a wonderful archipelago located in the area of the Borromean Gulf, one of the most famous and well-known areas of Lake Maggiore. The islands are precisely located on the Piedmontese shore of the lake, which also includes the towns of Stresa, Baveno and Verbania. Thousands of tourists visit Isola Madre, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori, the three famous Borromean Islands, every year.

The Borromean Islands archipelago attracts so many visitors thanks not only to the characteristic natural beauty and setting, but also to how easy it is to explore its 3 signature islands. In fact, these « pearls » are located in front of Stresa, and can be reached with the Navigazione Laghi ferryboats, which make about 40 daily trips with departures every 30 minutes.

Visit the Borromean Islands and discover the Isola Madre

The largest of the Borromean Islands is that of Isola Madre with its charming and intimate atmosphere. This natural paradise features the Borromeo family’s eighteenth-century palace, which preserves both the family’s precious porcelain as well as an extraordinary display of marionettes. This structure, considered one of the best examples of topiary art in the world, is surrounded by a magnificent garden, with rare plants and exotic flowers, in addition to a varied fauna of white peacocks, parrots and wild gilded pheasants.

Nature is the true Ruler of Isola Madre; in fact, it is particularly known for the flowering of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Visitors to the island will be delighted by the ancient pergolas of wisteria, cedar and lemon espaliers and a collection of hibiscus. Tourists are also surprised to learn that the largest of the Borromean Islands is home to Europe’s largest cypress tree, a 200-year-old specimen from Kashmir.

Visit Isola Bella, the Borromean Islands’ natural jewel

Isola Bella is the sister of Isola Madre whose name comes from Isabella d’Adda, the wife of Charles III Borromeo, and is known for its Palazzo Borromeo. Visitors are captivated by this artistic and architectural gem with its halls and rooms, stone and shell-covered caves and garden, which houses a variety of exotic plants. Of particular interest are the 10 overlapping terraces in the garden, which is a classic example of a 17th century « Italian garden« .

The Palazzo Borromeo also has great historical importance, including guests such as Napoleon Bonaparte, with a room dedicated to him, and Mussolini, who transformed the building into a representative seat for a 1935 international conference.

The characteristic Isola dei Pescatori

And finally, the Isola dei Pescatori, the only Borromean Islands which does not belong to the Borromeo family is inhabited all year round. Also known as the Isola Superiore, it gets its name from the fishing practices carried out by its inhabitants. Most of the multi-story houses on the island have long balconies, essential for drying fish. During the summer, in particular around mid-August, numerous visitors flock to this picturesque spot not only to buy local handicrafts in the island’s characteristic market, but also and above all to witness the procession of illuminated fishing boats carrying the statue of the Assumption around the island.

photo credits: interbeat from Flickr.com – license