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“Go early as very crowded”
Review of Isola Bella

Isola Bella
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Lake Maggiore Day Trip from Milan
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Owner description: One of three magical islands on Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella charms visitors with its magnificent Baroque palace and terraced gardens that slope to the lake.
Brentwood, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
304 reviews
108 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 132 helpful votes
“Go early as very crowded”
Reviewed October 1, 2012

Isola Bella, one of the 3 Borromean Islands in Lake maggiore, has a Palace, impressive formal Italian gardens and tourist shops and restaurants too but it does get very crowded so I would recommend visiting early in the day. If you are interested in grand houses and their contents then get on a tour or rent an audio guide. We enjoyed our time there but preferred the tranquility of Isola Madre.
The islands are all served by frequent boat services from Stresa and all 3 islands can be visited in one day on a discounted ticket from the 'official' boat service. There are many other smaller boats offering the ferry service but, as the salesmen were so pushy, we avoided those so we never did find out which offers the best deal!!

Visited September 2012
1 Thank tjmutch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Level Contributor
48 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Wonderful way to spend a few hours!”
Reviewed September 29, 2012

As part of a tour group, we took a launch over to Isola Bella to spend a few hours. The driver circled the island for a quick view before we docked at one of the stone ramps. I was amazed that only one extended family was living here at one time or another. At the time of our trip, early September, we were informed thy family members were in residence. We were greeted by a lovely tour guide who was employed by the family. She had a beautiful accent and was extremely knowledgable. Most of us were disappointed that we couldn't take interior pictures, only views of the horizon or grounds from the gigantic windows. We walked thru perhaps 10-12 rooms, then thru the grottos beneath the house, then we were allowed free rein in the gardens. There was no upper story access as the family was living there, but not sure if we could have gone there even if they weren't, as we were told that Isola Bella is a private residence which allows tours.
The gardens were extensive with views all around. Possibly due to the time of year, there were not many blooms, but the plants were still interesting, as was the upper garden with the views and statuary.
I think that we had about three hours total on the island, which was sufficient. Did stop at their little gift shop for a few postcards. Reminds me of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, USA.

Visited September 2012
2 Thank jorn09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cardiff, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
172 reviews
128 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 293 helpful votes
“Save this one till last!”
Reviewed September 22, 2012

Isola Bella
We visited all three Borromean islands on Lake Maggiore (see my reviews on Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori for info on the other two) and this was my favourite! Totally over-the-top – an exercise in impressing other people! The opulence of the palace décor and contents is awesome (as intended!) Take in 16 century Brussels tapestries with their grotesque creatures, the bed in which Napoleon slept and the music room which holds valuable instruments and where the Stresa conference was held and where Mussolini almost joined the Allied cause against Hitler! You can pay extra to visit the Borromean painting gallery (densely packed with more than 2,000 paintings!) and throne room (we didn't} and for an audio guide to the palace (2.50 euros) Look out for the House of Borromeo's symbol (the unicorn) and for their motto (ironically “humilitas”!)
You emerge from the sumptuous palace and grottoes into the spectacular and immaculate Baroque Italian gardens, arguably one of the most famous in Italy There are ten terraces of statues, fountains and basins, the topmost giving spectacular views over Lake Maggiore and excellent photo opportunities (especially if the white peacocks are displaying – they weren't when we visited). Unfortunately the gardens were hit by the 7-minute storm which decimated the Villa Taranto gardens and seem to have hit two of the topmost obelisks on Isola Bella, as well as causing some other damage, so that the gardens were temporarily closed :-( However, they have now reopened and only one or two areas were closed off to the public when we visited .

Warning – there is little to do or see on Isola Bella except visit the tourist shops and cafés UNLESS you buy a ticket for the palace and gardens

Tip: We too bought our ticket at the ferry terminal which gave a day's unlimited ferry travel and access to the two paid islands, saving time queuing up on the island and making considerable savings, especially if you are planning on taking the Lago Maggiore Express the previous or following day. Ask for the 2 day programme (40 euros for travel ) and then buy a joint ticket for Isola Madre and Isole Bella (18 euros – they have to be visited on the same day) This saves 8.90 + 6 euros = 14.90 euros pp!

Visited September 2012
1 Thank Margaret151151
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
South Australia
Level Contributor
712 reviews
415 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 260 helpful votes
“A Big Disappointment”
Reviewed August 31, 2012

We read so much about the island and it all sounded wonderful and a "must do" on our stay at Lake Maggiore, but what a disappointment. The residence itself we found to be pretty ordinary and the rooms nothing really to get excited over. We actually found the grottos/caves a bit bizarre and the gardens not nearly as picturesque as we thought they would be. The best part of our visit was the ferry trip to and from the village where we we're staying - it was very relaxing being on the water and taking in the views.

Visited August 2012
Thank Valerie037
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
45 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Nice island!”
Reviewed August 12, 2012

If you like architecture and Big Palaces with big gardens ... that's a good place to visit if you're around de Lago Maggiore!
Cruise from Stressa takes less than 10min. Just a little bit expensive, 15euros round trip + 13euros per person to visit the Palace. Nothing to see if you don't go inside the palace!
There's nice restaurants and one cafeteria in the gardens!

Visited August 2012
1 Thank AdrianoLucio
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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