Discovering Maggiore Lake: the wonderful Borromean Islands (Italy)

photo credit: Sway me via photopin (license)

When I was a child, one of the typical summer day trips was to Maggiore Lake, starting from Stresa and reaching the three Borromean Islands by boat.

Maggiore Lake is the second largest Italian lake, after Garda Lake, and its shores are situated in Piedmont, Lombardy and Switzerland.

Every year, this pre-alpine basin attracts many tourists from Italy and from abroad thanks to its beautiful landscapes, its charming coastal towns and the archipelago of the Borromean Islands (Beautiful Island, Mother Island and Fishermen Island).

The best starting point to discover this amazing area is Stresa, a little town situated on the Piedmontese shore, not far from the city of Novara, which is often referred to as “the pearl of the lake” for its favorable geographic position and its charming historic centre. From here, you can use the public ferry boat service to quickly reach the three islands.

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The Borromean Islands take their name from the noble family who has been living here since XIVth century and who still owns Beautiful Island and Mother Island!

Beautiful Island (Isola Bella)

This is the most famous and the most spectacular one. It’s also the nearest to the shore and its name stems from Isabella (nickname “Bella”), who was the wife of Carlo III Borromeo, the noble man who purchased it in the XVIIth century. It’s entirely dominated by the glamorous baroque Borromeo palace, which can be visited with a guided tour. Outside the palace you can also visit the huge terraced gardens full of exotic plants, flowers, statues, water effects and artificial caves. One of the most beautiful elements of the huge garden is the statue of a unicorn, which was the emblem of the Borromeo family. In the garden you can also see many white peacocks that add their unique charm to the place, making the visitor feel like being in a fairy tale. The noble family used to host friends and relatives here for the holidays, but also important people were invited to enjoy the place: for example you can still see the room were Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina stayed in 1797.

photo credit: isola bella 104 via photopin (license)

Mother Island (Isola Madre)

This is the biggest one and it also has a beautiful palace, now hosting the Puppet Museum, and a big botanic garden, where you can admire plants from all over the world. Here you can also see white peacocks, parrots and pheasants wandering around in the green.

photo credit: Isola Madre via photopin (license)

Fishermen Island (Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore)

On this island there is a little village built around San Vittore church, dating back to the XVIth century. It was once inhabited by the fishermen of the lake and it’s till populated by around 60 people, who are mainly employed in the tourist sector. It’s here, in effect, that you can find restaurants, local handicrafts and souvenir shops, while the other two islands are now uninhabited.

photo credit: Isola Superiore via photopin (license)

For more information about the tourist attractions of this wonderful archipelago, visit


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