Borromean Islands
A Worth-While Day Trip for the Inquiring Mind

Borromean Islands

Isole Borromee or the Borromean Islands are a tiny collection of two islets and three small islands on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy. Just a quick train ride from Milan, you can tour these picturesque, popular tourist islands for a day or stay on overnight at some of the islands that offer lodging. These islands were beloved by Ernest Hemingway and these days have become a favorite of the English royals. The islands are named after the Borromeo family who began purchasing them in the sixteenth century and still owns some today. Altogether, these islands only make up about fifty acres, but good things come in small packages! They are well worth adding to your Italian vacation if you are going to be visiting the region.


Isola Bella which is named after Countess Isabella Borromeo was simply an empty rock until Count Carlo III began making improvements and adding buildings in around 1629. When you are there, be sure to visit the Palazzo Borromeo which was constructed in the seventeenth century and has breathtakingly beautiful gardens where white peacocks stroll around leisurely. Each room of the palace is filled to the brim with artwork and stunning architecture. Moreover, be sure to take in the exquisite frescoes and tiles that are dotted throughout the palace. There is also a collection of grottos below the palace. These are made up of sea stone with lava rock ceilings and are a cool escape on a hot summer’s day.

Isola Madre is the biggest of the three islands and is famous for its English gardens which have been growing since 1823. There is a breathtaking palace on the island that you can also visit. Isola Madre and Isola Bella are often referred to as “sister” islands. 

Isola Superiore or Isola dei Pescatori remains the only inhabited island in the collection. The charming fishing village had a population of 57 in 2016. There are lots of restaurants to choose from where you can dine on some authentic Italian cuisine. You can also shop for souvenirs on this island. 

The other two islets that make up the islands are tiny. Isolino di San Giovanni is located just off the coast of Verbania and is not open to visitors. Malghera is a small uninhabited islet of only two hundred square meters. It has lush, native plants and flowers and a quaint beach. 

Whichever island or island you decide to visit, you’ll be sure to be delighted and impressed with all that the Borromean islands have to offer. 

Taking the train from Milan to Lake Maggiore takes about ninety minutes, so it’s an enjoyable, economical and comfortable way to get to the Borromean Islands. Once you’re there, you can take a ferry from Stresa to one or more of the islands. If you are planning on seeing more than one island, get a hop on hop off ferry pass which will allow you to come and go as you please. The public ferry is excellent and much more economical, so unless you want a private tour, you don’t have to spend the money on that. 

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