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Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore

Isola Bella - the name means 'beautiful island' - is one of the three Borromean Islands situated in Lake Maggiore in northernmost Italy. This tiny island lies approximately four hundred metres from the shore of the medieval fishing port of Stresa on Maggiore's western bank in Piedmont; an area of Italy renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and tranquillity.

1 result matching: Trips to Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore

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Lake Maggiore
Save up to £150pp
4.2 stars(63 reviews)
8 days from
£1,449 pp £1,299 pp
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Save up to £150pp
8 days from
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  • DestinationItaly, Switzerland
  • Starts / EndsSt Pancras International
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportRail, Coach
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Our customers love our Isola Bella tours
Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta and the Alps
03 Oct 2023
4 stars
“Overall it was a really good holiday. The Itinerary was good. On the first day we set off fairly early on Eurostar but then had to wait at Gare de Lyon for more than 2 hours and finished up dining at 9 pm. I think that this was due to unforeseen circumstances but perhaps could have been handled better. The holiday we wanted to go on was cancelled, and we took the last two places on this tour, resulting in our hotel room not being up to the standard we are used to from previous Rail Discoveries holidays. On the way home we used the same stopover hotel and had free time before returning on Eurostar. Personally , I would have liked to have returned earlier to catch our train home. We had to spend an extra night in London , which was expensive for basic food and accommodation and did not enhance our holiday.
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Initially, Isola Bella was little more than a barren strip of rocky land inhabited by local fisherman but in 1630 the Borromeo family, influential members of Piedmont's aristocracy, began the construction of a grand residence (a 'palazzo') and gardens on the island. Utilising Isola Bella's long and narrow formation, the design of the construction was intended to resemble a ship with the palazzo situated in the narrower north end of the island (effectively the prow of the 'ship') and the gardens in the wider southern area.

The Borromeo family's transformation of the island took forty years to complete, but the result is nothing short of breath-taking, and today Isola Bella is one of Lake Maggiore's most unmissable destinations. Regular ferry services bring visitors to admire the grand four-storey palazzo; an outstanding example of Lombard Baroque architecture which once hosted Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte as guests, and the magnificent tiered Italian gardens where, from the uppermost terrace, the beauty of Lake Maggiore's mountainous landscape  can be fully appreciated.

Borromeo Palace has been preserved in all its opulent glory for visitors to explore. Its grand rooms variously feature gilded and ornate plasterwork, crystal chandeliers and original furnishings, paintings and other artworks. Of particular note are the music room, in which a collection of valuable instruments is displayed, the Neoclassical-styled ballroom and the Tapestry Hall which is hung with exquisite Flemish tapestries dating from the sixteenth century. Beneath the lower floors of the house, several of the island's natural grottos have been painstakingly decorated with sea shells and pebbles and were designed to provide a cool refuge from the heat of summer.

Isola Bella's vast formal gardens are set over a series of terraces which descend to the island's shore. White peacocks stroll freely over immaculately-tended lawns, whilst elsewhere the gardens contain beds of exotic plants and colourful flowers and groves of mature trees each area divided by neat hedges. The gardens are dotted with beautiful ornamental sculptures and statues and also feature an amphitheatre decorated with reliefs and carvings depicting the Borromeo family and its achievements. On lower terraces visitors will discover the romantic Giardino dell'Amore ('Garden of Love') and a picturesque lily pond.

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