The Borromean Islands, Stresa
Isola Bella is undoubtedly the most famous of the Borromean Islands and when you see it today you can hardly imagine it as the tiny fishing village it once was. In 1632, Count Vitaliano Borromeo began its transformation with the construction of the palace (completed in 1670) and the ornamental gardens. The Palace itself is full of ornate rooms which remind you of a past full of grand receptions and sumptuous feasts. The most curious part of the Palace are the grottoes; the walls are adorned with a mosaic of shells and pebbles and are a welcome retreat on a hot day!!
After visiting the Palace, you exit into the magnificent gardens which are made up of no less than 10 terraces which slope down towards the lake. As well as the rare and exotic plants which provide the gardens with colour from March to October, there are interesting features such as the open-air theatre and the "Piano della Canfora" which houses a 150 year old laurel tree.
Isola Madre is the largest of the Borromean Islands and boasts a tranquil and enchanted atmosphere. It's gardens are a pleasure to explore: filled with azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, ancient wisteria they are truly beautiful.
The gardens are also home to the largest Cashmere Cyprus in Europe and pheasants and peacocks roam freely around. The 16th century villa houses a collection of period rooms, dolls and porcelain. There is also an exhibition of small puppet theatres dating back to the 17th and 19th centuries.
Read all about Sarah and Luca's afternoon on Isola Madre on our blog.
In contrast to the other Islands, Isola Pescatori (also known as Isola Superiore) has retained it's original charm. The Island has remained a quaint, picturesque fishing village with the traditional fishing boats anchored along the shore.
The ancient Church of S. Vittore is definitely worth a visit whilst you are there and then there is nothing better than taking a seat in one of the many excellent fish restaurants for lunch or dinner. Read all about what it is like to have dinner on Isola Pescatori on our travel notes blog.
**New for 2014** you can now visit the gallery, house and secret garden of loal artist, Andrea Ruffoni. Read all about Luca and sarah's visit on our blog.
How to get to the Borromean Islands: The Borromean Islands are easily reached using the local ferry service from all resorts around the Borromean Bay (Stresa, Baveno, Pallanza, Intra) with departures approximately every 30 minutes during high season. From other parts of the lake you can reach there are ferries, but they are less frequent. Timetables for summer 2014 can be found at www.navigazionelaghi.it and are usually published in the Spring. There are also taxi boats that depart on demand from near the ferry stations at all resorts around the Borromean Bay - we advise you agree the fare with the boatman first.
Opening Times and prices: For 2016 Isola Bella and Isola Madre open their gardens/palace/villa from 18th March to 23th October everyday from 09.00-17.30 (last entry). Isola Pescatori is a village and so is always "open".
*Children 6-15 years, under 6's free
***Must be used on the same day
The Centovalley Railway/Lake Maggiore Express
A great value day out to the Swiss end of the lake and a favourite of our train enthusiast, Luca.
The Borromean Islands
An absolute must for all visitors to Stresa! A day's island hopping is not to be missed.
Mottarone Cable Car and Alpyland
Escape the summer heat at the top of Mottarone with a ride on the cable car, a visit to the Alpine Gardens and for the brave a ride on Alpyland bob run!
There are plenty of walks in the area for all abilities. Our photo shows part of the Chestnut Route.