"Isole Borromee - fantastic and fanciful" Isola Bella by ettiewyn

Isola Bella Travel Guide: 39 reviews and 135 photos

Isola Bella with Isola Pescatori in the background

When we stayed in Milan for a few days in August 2012, we wanted to do a day trip, and when I met VTer AnnemarieC in London, she recommended a trip to the Borromean Islands (Isole Borromee) to me, which are located at Lago Maggiore. I checked many possibilities, as so many day trips are possible from Milan, but in the end I decided to go to these islands - sometimes you just stick with your first idea! I also thought it would be nice to go to the Italian lakes for a day, especially as I was travelling with my mom and we wanted more of a relaxing day, not one packed with museums and churches.

This page is not only about Isola Bella, but also about its two neighbouring islands, Isola Pescatori and Isola Madre. I suggest that you start reading with the Favourite tips, as they first provide an introduction to each of the islands, while the other tips go more into detail.

Fantastic and fanciful - this line I picked from a quote by Charles Dickens, and that is what he called Isola Bella. I think it is just so appropriate, because that is exactly what Isola Bella is - a fantastic and fanciful place with its large palace and its splendid garden. The same goes for Isola Madre, which has an older palace and large parks and gardens that are equally stunning. Isola Pescatori, though, is substantially different, having the atmosphere of a small fishing village, with hidden alleys and corners and local people still living there and going about their daily business, although the business is now tourism. The other two islands belong to the House of Borromee (Isola Bella in parts, Isola Madre in total), the Borromee family once built the fancy palaces there and still own them today. You can read more about this in my tips.

I really enjoyed our day on the islands, I especially liked Isola Pescatori and Isola Madre. However, I think visiting there in August is not a good idea. During the first half of the day it was unbelievably crowded, and the islands are so much defined by tourism that I think it is just not an authentic Italian experience. However, if you can accept this, it is still delightful to visit here: The castles and gardens are simply beautiful, the lake adds to this with its great scenery, going around by boat is good fun, and on Isola Pescatori you can even get away from the crowds if you walk around within the village and get away from the busy lakefront.
Unfortunately we had picket a grey day with hardly any sunshine, therefore my pictures don't really reflect the beauty of the islands.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful scenery, public transport is easy
  • Cons:Very, very crowded during high season, an expensive day trip if you add all the costs together, not authentic because it is so touristic
  • In a nutshell:It is a good and easy day trip from Milan, but make sure before that this is really what you want!
  • Last visit to Isola Bella: Aug 2012
  • Intro Updated Aug 17, 2012
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Reviews (22)

Comments (6)

  • riorich55's Profile Photo
    Oct 26, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    I guess I will put my tips and pictures from Isola Madre and Isola Pescatori on the Isola Borromee VT page. We should probably have VT create pages for both of those. Isola Bella has it own page. Starting today on at least information on Isola Madre which was the first of the islands we visited.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Sep 9, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Lovely little page about your island adventures in Italy.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Sep 1, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    Wonderful description of the islands :-) Thank you for the tour!! It is a bit sad that you had such a strong storm and cloudy weather, but as long as you enjoyed it :-) Oh and like you, I might like Isola Pescatori most :-)

    • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
      Sep 2, 2012 at 12:38 AM

      Yes, I am sure you would prefer Isola Pescatori, just as I did :-) Thank you for visiting this page of mine! My philosophy is that as long as it doesn't rain so heavily that I can't take pictures, I am ok with the weather ;-)

    • Trekki's Profile Photo
      Sep 2, 2012 at 3:38 AM

      This is a wise philosophy :-)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Aug 24, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    Hi Mirjam, I remember seeing these islands from the train window on my way to and from Milan, but I have never stopped there. I especially like your photos of the hidden alleys on Isola Pescatori.

    • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
      Aug 25, 2012 at 12:40 AM

      Thank you, Don! Those pictures are probably my favourite ones, too!

  • slothtraveller's Profile Photo
    Aug 23, 2012 at 3:49 AM

    Hi Mirjam, these islands look like a great place to take your mum- my parents would definitely enjoy them also. Great photos here too, especially of Isola Pescatori.

    • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
      Aug 23, 2012 at 5:53 AM

      Hi Steve, thank you! I am glad you enjoyed the pictures, I was a bit disappointed of them because of the weather... My mom really enjoyed our day there, so yes, it was a good choice!

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    What a beautiful place, thanks for letting me know!


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