Claudia Ruschena
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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.

Islands photos


Stresa,Hotel Iles Borromées In 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!

The Mansion Borromeo on Island Bella

Island Bella, Mansion Borromeo

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 gardens.
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.



The Fishermen Island

Fishermen's Island 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.


Residence Borromeo on Island Madre

sailing towards Island Madre Even 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 effects.


Cruises on lake Maggiore

departure for a cruise Leaving 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.


The cable-car from Stresa to Mottarone

 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.




Angera seen from Arona This 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 Madre.
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.


San Carlone in Arona

This 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!


The sun-shade Museum in Gignese, near Stresa

This 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 styles.


The Landscape Museum in Verbania-Pallanza

Museo del paesaggio, fresco of Saint Rochus It 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.).



Cannobio, landing-stage It 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 pause.

Why a guided tour?

Claudia Ruschena tourist guide

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.




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©2016 Claudia Ruschena Guida turistica - cell. phone ++39/338/6358857  E-mail :