Despite I was born in the North of Italy and specifically in Piedmont region, this year I had the immense pleasure to visit – for the very first time! – the Borromean Lands (aka “Isole Borromee” or “Terre Borromee” in Italian).
These magnificent little islands are located in the western arm of Lago Maggiore. They are a group of three small islands and two islets with a very picturesque setting and an incredible historical background. The islands are called “Isola Madre”, “Isola Bella” and “Isola dei Pescatori”.
They offer not only spectacular natural landscapes and botanical gardens, full of exotic animals too, but also a unique dive into the past while visiting the majestic Borromean palaces, where it is possible also to admire a remarkable art collection.
Together with the island tours, you can also visit “Parco Pallavicino” in Stresa, the “Rocca di Angera”, “Parco del Mottarone”, and the “Castelli di Cannero”. (For all info click here)
HOW TO GET THERE?
In order to reach those beautiful islands, I drove from Turin to Stresa and it took 1h 30min only! From Milan, for example, it would take 1h 20min by car- very easy to reach! If you look at the map, you will realize it would be also a fantastic getaway from Switzerland.
On the GPS I put “Piazzale Marconi, Stresa, Italy “ because that is the place where all the ferries will leave to reach the islands!
To get full info about how to reach this beautiful destination, please click here.
THE ISLANDS TOUR
Isola Madre > Isola dei Pescatori > Isola Bella
Once arrived in Stresa, we parked the car in Piazzale Marconi (very easy and convenient as there is a big car park there) and then we reached the ferry departures to tour the islands. Generally speaking, to do so you have basically 3 choice: a fully private boat, a small boat with about 20 people on board, or the big public boats. I happily used the CMA Stresa Boat services.
They have great private options as well as smaller semi-public boats that tour the islands all they long. They are very efficient and very well organized, so I would definitely recommend you to contact them for your island tour!
I started my magnificent Borromean Islands tour with “Isola Madre”: it is the biggest of the islands, with an incredible botanical garden full of exotic trees and flowers all over! Together with this feast for the eyes, you can also admire many colorful peacocks!
The mix between the colors of these beautiful peacocks and the eight hectares of greenery was enchanting!
One of the most majestic trees is the prominent “Cypress from Cashmir”, arrived in 1862 from the Himalayas in a bag of fresh seeds! Over the years, it became the symbol of “Isola Madre”.
Together with this sublime gardens, the visit at the Palazzo Borromeo has been truly magnificent too! So many artworks, antique furniture, and loads of historical information. Wonderful!
Every corner of the gardens was heavenly, with flowers, statues, trees all over.
ISOLA DEI PESCATORI
After the first splendid tour at “Isola Madre”, we headed to the smallest Island called “Isola dei Pescatori” – which is actually located between the 2 main islands (Madre and Bella).
This islands used to be the island of the local fishermen, so very peculiar, less fancy but with its own soul! It is lovely walking around the very tiny streets and so some shopping. There are many restaurants on the lake, so it could be also a good spot to stop for lunch.
Last stop -but absolutely not least!- has been on “Isola Bella”, my actual favorite one among the three islands! In my opinion, Isola Bella is the most charming one, with its superb Italian-style baroque garden and terraces, inside the marvelous Palazzo Borromeo.
The Teatro Massimo is the most important monument in the garden of Isola Bella. Statues, obelisks and fountains are perfectly integrated together with the vegetation of the ten scenic terraces, at the top of which rises the statue of the Unicorn, the heraldic symbol of the Borromeo family.
I couldn’t wait indeed to reach the last part of the internal path: the Teatro Massimo and its marvelous baroque terraces! Incredible.
The interiors of Palazzo Borromeo are spectacular, and the view is simply sublime! I got very lucky with the weather too, I must admit it! 🙂
I got impressed by the art collection inside Palazzo Borromeo, and the famous artwork by Antonello da Messina was divine! If you know, you know… 😉
While visiting Palazzo Borromeo, you can really admire the Baroque at its finest!
Heart of Palazzo Borromeo, the Galleria Berthier is a mosaic of over 130 paintings including masterpieces and, following a practice that is recurrent in other noble collections of the period, a number of copies of the great masters of the past of the caliber of Raphael, Correggio, Titian and Guido Reni.
LUNCH @ “RISTORANTE IL FORNELLO” – ISOLA BELLA
After such a phenomenal tour of the Borromean Islands, a fantastic meal was surely a must. We headed to “Ristorante Il Fornello” on Isola Bella: spectacular location, not many tables, very intimate and fancy. Precisely what I adore!
“IL FORNELLO” RESTAURANT (ISOLA BELLA)
As soon as we reached the restaurant, we got welcomed by a very gentle woman who gave us a table with a super cute view from a small window – althought the entire restaurant is outdoor!
Everything we ordered was simple but very delicious, which is very important! The service was good and the atmosphere very pleasant. I think the best spot for lunch!
BACK TO STRESA TOWN
At the end of the day, we headed back to Stresa town and we stopped by a fancy little bar on the lake promenade called “Gigi Bar”. I recommend it for a quick stop while in Stresa!
Overall it has been such a lovely Sunday, I would 100% recommend to visit the Isole Borromee for a day trip or even sleeping there to enjoy a memorable weekend getaway!
And you… are you lusting for the Sublime?