A delightful destination with a botanical garden
About 400 metres offshore from Stresa, on Lake Maggiore, lies Isola Bella. It is part of the Borromean Islands, which are named after the family that still owns them.
Up until 1632, it was a rocky cliff home to a fishing village. It was Carlo III Borromeo who commissioned the construction of the grandiose Borromeo Palace, dedicated to his wife, Isabella D’Adda. Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the palace — which was designed like a large ship with the building forming the prow and the terraced Italian garden the stern — was popular among the European nobility.
In the palace, which is open to the public, you can explore the halls and rooms on the main floor, built between the 17th and 19th centuries, including the ballroom with its high dome and the room dedicated to Napoleon, who stayed here, in the Empire style. On the first floor you can find the Tapestry Gallery, so-called because it is home to huge 16th-century Flemish tapestries in silk and gold, featuring the recurring theme of the unicorn, the symbol of the Borromeo family. The ground floor houses the Grottos: rooms completely covered with black and white stones, tuff chips and shells, creating a cool space for guests.
At the end of your visit, you can head to the Diana’s Atrium and from there to the Teatro Massimo, the scenic terrace viewpoint with statues of mythological creatures.