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Borromean Islands: Isola Bella

Delicately nestled on Lake Maggiore between the towns of Stresa and Verbania, the Borromean Islands are true gems of architecture and nature. With their sumptuous palaces, lush gardens, and charming lively alleys, these small Italian islands offer a spectacular setting right at the foot of the Swiss Alps. They’re a must-see on any trip to Lake Maggiore! In this guide, I’ll take you to explore the three islands you can visit: Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, and Isola Madre.

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To visit the Borromean Islands, you’ll need to hop on one of the shuttle boats departing from Stresa. There are also transfers from Verbania, but the trip is longer.

The shuttles leave from two different ports: Piazzale Lido, just 5 minutes from Isola Bella, or the one near Piazza Marconi, which is further from the islands but closer to downtown Stresa. Whichever port you choose, parking is available nearby.

Several ferry companies offer crossings roughly every 20 minutes from 9:30 AM to 6 PM between mid-March and late October. You can book your tickets in advance here to avoid potential queues. I recommend getting the three-island pass: you can easily tour Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, and Isola Madre in one day.

You can take the shuttle between islands whenever you like, no need to book specific times!

Also, note that there’s an additional embarkation fee of €0.50 per island per person. And heads up, tickets for visiting the palaces and gardens aren’t included.

How Much Time Do You Need to Visit the Borromean Islands?

You can visit the Borromean Islands in less than a day. We spent about 6 hours visiting all three islands, taking our time at each. Plan for a bit over 2 hours on Isola Bella, more than an hour on Isola dei Pescatori for lunch and a stroll, and another 2 hours on Isola Madre.

Discover the Borromean islands

Isola Bella

Borromean Islands: Isola Bella

Isola Bella is a stunning island featuring the Palazzo Borromeo, a fascinating palace built by the Borromeo family starting in the 17th century, and a botanical garden with geometric shapes and impressive statues.

Inside Palazzo Borromeo, each room reveals more surprises as you go along. In the Berthier Gallery, over 130 paintings of all sizes cover the walls. The New Hall, finished only in the mid-20th century, offers spectacular dimensions with its dome rising over 15 meters high. The Grottos enchant with their unique atmosphere, plunging us into an underwater world. Palazzo Borromeo is a true Baroque masterpiece that I loved exploring!

After touring Palazzo Borromeo, the visit continues in the Italian baroque garden. This garden is unique because it’s built on several levels, offering overhead views of the lake and multiple terraces filled with colorful flowers and plants that change with the seasons!

In the botanical garden, you’ll also find Isola Bella’s iconic monument: Teatro Massimo, which stands out with its statues and fountains designed to mirror the Grottos of Palazzo Borromeo.

I also recommend wandering through the island’s small alleys, where charming restaurants and shops are nestled. I had my eye on the Il Fornello Bottega con Cucina restaurant for its terrace and lovely lake view, but we decided to have lunch on Isola dei Pescatori instead.

Practical Information

You can buy your tickets for the palace and gardens online at This will save you from the long queue at the entrance! I recommend the combined Isola Bella/Isola Madre ticket (€32 instead of €39).

From mid-March to late October, the palace is open every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM (last entry at 5 PM) and the gardens until 6 PM. During the low season, it closes at 5 PM.

The entrance ticket for the palace and gardens costs €21.

Isola dei Pescatori (Isola Superiore)

Isola dei Pescatori (also called Isola Superiore) is the smallest of the three Borromean Islands, but it’s the liveliest! There are many restaurants ready to welcome you and delight you with local specialties. Wander through the small alleys winding between the typical buildings and you’ll find your perfect spot!

I also enjoyed browsing the small shops that sell all kinds of local products, jewelry, and accessories. It’s the perfect place to find a lovely souvenir of your trip to Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands.

Isola Madre

Lastly, Isola Madre is home to a magnificent garden where tranquillity reigns. Larger than Isola Bella’s, I particularly loved its lush nature and peaceful atmosphere. There are plant species brought back from distant travels that have acclimated over time to Lake Maggiore’s lovely climate. It’s truly a unique place!

I quickly toured the palace there, which also belongs to the Borromeo family. This palace is much more modest and smaller than Isola Bella’s, and I found it less interesting. However, the exterior remains very beautiful, especially in spring when wisterias bloom on its facades!

Good to know: there’s a small café on Isola Madre with a lovely sunlit terrace, perfect for an afternoon break.

Practical Information

Opening hours: from 10 AM to 6 PM (last entry at 5 PM) from mid-March to late October. During the low season, the island closes at 5 PM.

The entrance ticket for the palace and gardens costs €18.

Book your stay near the Borromean Islands

Which is the most beautiful Borromean Island?

Each island has its own unique atmosphere, and all three Borromean Islands are worth visiting! However, if you only have time to visit one, I recommend Isola Bella: it’s the most spectacular of the three, thanks to its stunning palace and unique gardens.

That’s all for this visit! Feel free to contact me on Instagram @thebeachmuse if you need any information or advice for your visit to the Borromean Islands and Lake Maggiore ☺️

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