- Park and garden
- Castle and fortress
- Place or Historical Monument
Lake Maggiore was one of the favourite destinations of the Lombard nobility. The islands still belong to the Borromeo family, originally from Florence, with the exception of Dei Pescatori. It is wonderful to come across these four gems floating on the lake amidst the mountain setting: a true paradise for romantics and not to be missed during a visit to Italy.
To get to the islands, I took a boat from the quiet village of Baveno, where I was staying. You can also embark at Stresa, Carciano or Pallanza. Each island has its own character: Isola Bella, the most sumptuous is overlooked by the Baroque palace built by Charles Borromeo III in the 17th century. The island takes its name from his wife, the Countess Isabella d'Adda. Previously a favourite haunt for high society, the palace, as well as the adjoining magnificent Baroque gardens, are now open to the public.
Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore, my favourite island, is simpler and more authentic, harbouring a picturesque fishing village with narrow winding streets reminiscent of Mediterranean villages. Tourism is well developed here, as can be seen by the many restaurants and souvenir stalls which do not detract from the charm of the island.
Then there is Isola Madre, also known as Isola Maggiore, which is less spectacular than Isola Bella. It is the largest and quietest island, where you can wander around the oldest botanical garden in Italy. The Borromean palace of the 17th century (less impressive than the one on Isola Bella) with its famous puppet theatre is found here. You will need a day to visit all the "major" gems!