Visit to the Borromean Islands with guided tours in the mansions and the Museums
on Lake Maggiore
Mansions and museums - what to see
From Stresa, the most famous tourist destination on the whole Lake Maggiore, we
leave by boat towards Isola Bella, for the guided tour of the Mansion Borromeo,
still fascinating the tourists with the luxury of its rooms and the abundance of
its decorations. The garden on Island Bella is one of the most ancient ones in
Italy. We continue to Fishermen Island with the old village, with narrow lanes
and delicious restaurants and in the end we visit the Mansion Borromeo on Island
Madre, which displays ancient furniture and a puppet theatre. The nearby town
Arona had a great military importance in the past. Close to Arona is the
colossal statue San Carlone. There are two museums you should visit, the parasol
Museum in Gignese, which displays a fine collection of parasols, and the
Landscape Museum in Verbania-Pallanza where you can see a collection of
paintings and statues.
the most famous resort of the whole Lake Maggiore, situated on the southern
shore of Borromeo Gulf, are wonderful hotels, among which the oldest one on the
lake and the lake promenade with extensive views over the gulf, the surrounding
mountains and Islands Bella and Madre.
From Stresa you get the best view of the terraced garden of Isola Bella, with
its obelisks, statues and plants trimmed in geometrical form.
From Stresa you can start your visit to the three Borromean Islands, Bella,
Pescatori (Fishermen) and Madre and also go on cruise by private boat in the
Gulf Borromeo. You can also take the cable-car to enjoy wonderful views of Lake
Maggiore and the surrounding mountains.
Only in Stresa the pastry-cooks are allowed to bake the "margheritine",
dedicated to queen Margaret of Savoy, the first queen of Italy, who lived here
as a child. Margherita is famous all over the world for the pizza Margherita!
This is the main tourist destination on Lake Maggiore. The Island Bella is
situated in the Borromeo Gulf, close to Stresa From the most famous tourist
resort on Lake Maggiore you can admire the ten sloping terraces shaping its
On the northern part of the island there is the Borromeo Mansion, a
representation mansion, which was begun in the 17th C to receive the most
important guests and impress them with the luxury of the rooms and the abundance
of the decorations. Even if you would never guess it from the outside, the
interior decoration is worth seeing: there are richly decorated rooms, adorned
with stuccoes, pictures, tapestries and furniture. The rooms are in different
styles, as it took long time to build such an imposing mansion on an island.
Some rooms are named after the distinguished guests they accommodated, like the
Napoleon’s room and the Berthier’s gallery, while other rooms recall their use.
There are two picture galleries and the famous grottoes, the most surprising
rooms in the mansion.
smallest of the Borromean Islands is very romantic and it preserves its medieval
look. Also on the nearby Island Bella there is a fishermen village, but here it
is not overlooked by the huge Mansion Borromeo and the terraced gardens, here
the village is the protagonist, together with the wonderful views over the
mountains and the other islands in the gulf.
We shall walk along the "ruga", the main street, to look about in the little
lanes, visit the church S. Vittore and taste a "lavarello" (a lake whitefish) in
one of the several restaurants. Your local guide will help you to find the
hidden sights of the island.
if the island is famous for its botanical garden and its mild weather, a visit
cannot be considered complete without entering the ancient house of the Borromeo,
the feudatories of Lake Maggiore. Facing south and not north, like the mansion
on Island Bella, with smaller rooms, which are therefore more comfortable, this
house is fit to be lived in and it can be considered as the first of the several
villas built on the shores of the lake.
Visiting the different reconstructed rooms you will see ancient furniture,
paintings, china, wonderful artistic Venetian chandeliers, old mosaic floors,
different objects and most of all the puppet theatre, pride of the Borromeo’s
collection, with its backdrops, marionettes, prompt-books and tricks for special
from Stresa or from another resort on the lake like Baveno, Arona or Pallanza,
you can go on cruise by private boat to see the lake from the lake: that’s the
opportunity to admire the concealed villas and gardens, the different appearance
of the lake, the mountains, the Borromean Islands and the towns situated on the
shores of the lake.
You can push on to the opposite shore to admire from the lake the hermitage of
Santa Caterina del Sasso, that in the past could only be reached by boat. This
is the only way to see the buildings mirrored in the water of the lake.
Covering a difference in height of 1300 meters, from the shores of Lake Maggiore
in few minutes we reach the top of Mottarone, a mountain that separates Lake
Orta from Lake Maggiore. On a day with blue sky we can enjoy an excellent
all-round view over the Piedmontese and Lombard lakes, Mount Rosa, the valley of
River Po and the Apennines.
From the intermediate station you can reach the botanical garden Alpinia,
dedicated to the flora of the Alps. From the balcony of the garden you can enjoy
one of the ten more beautiful views in the world: you can see the Gulf Borromeo
and the Islandd Borromeo.
once well-fortified little town is situated at the southern end of Lake
Maggiore, in a strategically favourable location, just in front of the Fortress
of Angera, a medieval castle that still today belongs to the Borromeo Family.
They are famous because of their Manor houses and Gardens on Islands Bella and
Arona was the first fief that the Borromeo received on Lake Maggiore, because
the town had a castle, the Fortress of Arona, that had a huge military
importance to control the trades on the lake. The Borromeo family is still in
possession of the castle, only ruins of which survive. Around them was created a
park open to the public with views of the town and the lake.
In the ancient town the main street is lined with shops. The lake-front has
views of the Lombard shore and of the castle of Angera.
Close to Arona is the statue San Carlone.
Continuing northwards, along the Simplon road, lined with villas in different
styles and secular parks with different flowerings according to each season, in
few minutes you can reach Stresa.
huge statue was dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan and
protagonist of the Counter-reformation Church. It is situated in Arona, a little
town at the foot of the lake. The fortress of Arona is the birthplace of
Charles, who was born in 1538. The fortress had to defend the access to the lake
from the enemies.
You can climb up to the head of the statue and even sit on the nose!
museum reminds the visitor of the main occupation of the inhabitants of Lake
Maggiore. They had to emigrate and work as parasol-sellers and parasol-menders
moving from town to town. The parasols were used by the noblewomen who needed to
protect their pale complexion from the sun.
Visiting this Museum you can learn about the history of this object, that was
very fashionable in the past, you can see the materials and the different
is housed in a mansion of the 17th-18th century, a few minutes walking from the
lake-front of Pallanza, a sunny little town on the Gulf Borromeo.
In the second half of the 19th century many Lombard landscape painters derived
inspiration for their works from the landscape of Lake Maggiore.
In the Museum are different sections: among the paintings there are frescoes of
the 15th and 16th century and paintings from the 15th to the 20th century. Most
of the works were painted by Lombard-Piedmontese painters from the second half
of the 19th to the first half of the 20th century.
There are sculptures executed by Paolo Troubetzkoy, Giulio Branca and Arturo
Martini. In the archaeological section there are Gallic-Roman finds found in the
necropolis situated at the mouth of Ossola Valley into Lake Maggiore (dating
from the end of the 2nd century B.C. to the end of the 1st century A.D.).
is situated at the border with Switzerland. The centre of this old trading town
has preserved much of its old character with narrow and winding lanes and old
houses. You can reach it either by liner or by bus and on Sundays takes place a
market, which is very popular among the tourists.
You can visit the church, that owes its existence to a miracle occurred in an
ancient inn. Inside the church is a masterpiece of a local Lombard painter of
the 16th C., Gaudenzio Ferrari. There is a very nice promenade, flanked by
houses that lie in tiers, where the coffee houses’ tables invite you for a
Why a guided tour?
One remains impressed by the quantity of the paintings and the objects that on
finds in the Mansions Borromeo on Island Bella and Madre or in one of the
Museums on Lake Maggiore. Your tourist guide, with her competence, will guide
you selecting the most significant works and will lead you along the rooms
allowing you to live again the atmosphere and the charm of the past times. On
Fishermen Island she will show you the hidden spots and details that otherwise
you would miss. In Stresa, Arona and Cannobio your guide will go along the most
interesting streets and will help you to better appreciate the beauty of these
resorts on Lake Maggiore, so that they can remain impressed in your memory.