ISOLA BELLA ON LAKE MAGGIORE
AN EXTRAORDINARY TRANSFORMATION FROM A ROCKY OUTCROP INTO A REFINED PLACE OF BAROQUE DELIGHTS WITH A SUMPTUOUS PALAZZO AND AN INCREDIBLE GARDEN ON THE LAKE
With its manifold floral displays and invaluable art treasures, Isola Bella is a truly astonishing place to behold. Metamorphosed from a rocky outcrop into a garden full of flowers and plants, the island now looks like a majestic vessel floating proudly on the azure waters of Lake Maggiore, just as its founder Vitaliano VI Borromeo intended. Visiting this wonderful site will allow you to immerse yourself for a day in a bygone era, where Baroque taste blends impeccably with the lush landscape of its park, creating an atmosphere that is unparalleled, as its name suggests.
The Palazzo on Isola Bella is a treasure trove of Baroque art suspended on top of the water. Visiting its interiors, you will pass through elegantly furnished salons with splendid views of the lake, surrounded by paintings by renowned artists, fine period furniture, marble effects, neoclassical stuccoes, antique sculptures, suits of armour and gold and silk Flemish tapestries.
Isola Bella’s grounds are a veritable paradise, with statues and architectural decorations intermingling with geometric patterns and botanical flourishes. This enchanting place is preserved from the passage of time by trusted gardeners who carefully prune, nurture and tend to all the green areas. By the entrance to the garden, a large camphor tree almost two hundred years old welcomes visitors who, after passing through the grand gate, find themselves standing before the splendour of an Amphitheatre which scenically occupies the central part of the island. The Baroque-style Italian garden then reveals parterres and terraces placed at different heights, alternating statues, obelisks, stone steps and balustrades that create a dramatic design, symbolic of the power held for centuries by this noble family.
Visitors can stroll along the garden paths and ascend to the very top of the largest terrace, to all extents and purposes the true ‘command deck’ of the island, from which they can gaze upon the vast expanse of the lake before them and revel in the enchantment of a garden so beautifully shaped by human hand.
THE HISTORY OF ISOLA BELLA
It has taken almost four hundred years and the teamwork of hundreds of skilled architects, engineers, plasterers, painters and cabinetmakers over the centuries to achieve the extraordinary transformation of Isola Bella from a rocky outcrop lapped by the waters of the lake into this delightful site.
Up until 1630, Isola Bella was a mere reef inhabited by fishermen, with two small churches and a few vegetable gardens. The Borromeo family, who had owned Isola Madre since 1501, focused all their attention on Isola Bella during the first two decades of the 17th century along with Julius Caesar III and Charles III, initiating the grand project that would lead to the creation of the palace and garden. The venture was then taken up by Vitaliano VI Borromeo, who expanded and refined the project and is today considered to be the true founder of Isola Bella.
The ongoing work that has led to the current layout continued without interruption throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until 1948, when the new hall, the northern façade and the large pier were commissioned by Vitaliano IX Borromeo.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES ON ISOLA BELLA
Opening dates: Isola Bella is open every day from April to October.
Visiting hours: Every day from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (last admission). Please check the website for details.
Isola Bella has a bookshop where you can purchase books and guides, postcards, prints and souvenirs, and a cosy, panoramic cafeteria.
Following painstaking renovation work, the old fishermen's houses in the village of Isola Bella have been restored to their former splendour. They are spacious apartments where you can spend a weekend or several days relaxing, and are excellently placed for discovering the many tourist destinations overlooking Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta. The flats can accommodate up to 8 people and are all equipped with a kitchen, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi.