Isole Boromee guide

The Borromean Islands

Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola dei Pescatori—The garden-covered Isole Borromei islands in Italy's Lago Maggiore (Lake Maggiore)

Lago di Maggiore
Lake Maggiore. (Photo by Mbdortmund)

Unlike many princely Renaissance families who have slowly faded away, the Borromei are still doing quite well, thank you, and still own vast swathes of lake property.

In fact, arguably the top sight on any of the lakes in Northern Italy are the Isole Borromée, a trio of lake islands just offshore the pretty resort town of Stresa:

The Borromean Islands

  • Isola BellaIsola Bella - "The Beautiful Island," a terraced pyramid of gardens around a whimsical little pleasure palace packed with paintings, tapestries, elaborately decorated rooms, and World War II memories... » more
  • Isola MadreIsola Madre - "The Mother Island," a lovely botanic gardens strutting with peacocks and other exotic birds around an historic villa with quirky collections... » more
  • Isola Superiore dei PescatoriIsola Superiore - More poetically called Isola dei Pescatori ("The Isle of the Fishermen"), the lived-in island has a pair of hotels (Hotel Verbano is the best) and some restaurants and souvenir shops... » more

Tips & links


Isole Borromeo (Borromean Islands)
Near Stresa, Lago Maggiore
tel. +39- 0323-30-556
Open 9am–5:30pm
Open last Sat in March–last Sun in Oct

Tours of The Borromean Islands

Take a tour: If you'd prefer to take a day trip of Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands from Milan with an expert guide, consider booking one through our partners at

Hotels nearby

Hotels on the Borromean Islands

Hotels in Stresa (Booking) » More hotels in Stresa (Booking)

Isola Bella tourist info: For info on the Borromeo Islands, contact them directly at tel. +39-0323-30-556, You can also get info in the tourist offices of Stresa (ferry docks, Piazza Marconi 16, tel. +39-0323-31-308, and

How to get to the Borromean Islands

First get yourself to Stresa.

By the Stresa waterfront in the center of town is a dock where you can grab a ferry the leaves frequently, roughly every half hour in summer (tel. +39-800-551-801,

The rides are brief: 5 min. from Stresa to Isola Bella, another 5 min. to Isola Superiore, 20 more minutes to Isola Madre (with an intermediate stop in Baveno).

A nice hike to finish off the day
At the north end of Stresa, at Piazzale Lido 8, is a funivia (cable car), which glides up the steep lakeside hills, pauses at an Alpine garden, and ends up 20 minutes later at Mottarone, a 4,920-foot plateau high above the lake. (tel. +39-0323-30-295;

To get back to the lakeside, you can (a) ride the cable car back down, (b) hike, or (c) plan ahead by renting a mountain bike from the station at the bottom, take it up with you to help explore, and then simply coast back down.

Best advice: The ferries back from the Borromean Islands stop at Stresa's "Mottarone Funivia" stop before chugging down to the main dock, so hop off here, check out the high Alpine plateau, then take the fast descent by bike. Back by the lakeside, return the bike and stroll back into town in a pleasant 20 minutes along a lakeside path: stunning lake views to one side; to the other a procession of villas and mini-palaces—some stately, some crumbling, some weirdly festooned with modern sculptures.
One-way ferry tickets around this part of the lake cost between €1.90 and €4.40—but unless you're staying on Isola Superiore and commuting, buying individual tickets is silly. Instead, get the "Tre Isole" ("Three Islands") combo ticket for the Stresa-Pallanza run, which lasts all day and costs €12. (If, for some reason, you don't want to visit Isola Madre, there's a "Due Isole" ticket for €9.80).

Combined admission to the Borromeo Islands

You can get admission to just one island (Isola Bella is €13, Isola Madre is €11), both islands together (€18), or to both islands plus the Rocca Borromeo in Angera (€21.50 for all three; €8.50 for the castle by itself).

Grab the audioguides

Definitely take the audioguide to learn more about each site—and grab the little pamphlet-map at the entrance kiosk on Isola Madre to help you identify all the plants (it provides not just scientific names and such, but also interesting tidbits and facts about each).

Useful links & resources

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Isole Borromeo (Borromean Islands)
Near Stresa, Lago Maggiore
tel. +39- 0323-30-556
Open 9am–5:30pm
Open last Sat in March–last Sun in Oct

Hotels on the Borromean Islands

Hotels in Stresa » More hotels in Stresa (Booking)

Useful links

Train tix

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