The "pearls" of Lake Maggiore - Isola Madre, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori are located in front of Stresa and can be reached by Lake Navigation boats. About 40 trips with departures every 30 minutes or so connect the towns of the Borromeo Gulf from Stresa to Intra passing through the Borromee Islands, Baveno, Pallanza and Villa Taranto.
Isola Madre is the largest of the Borromean Islands and the most characteristic for its quiet and intimate atmosphere. The ancient palace, which preserves prestigious furnishings and an exceptional display of puppets, is surrounded by a splendid garden of rare plants and exotic flowers in which peacocks, parrots and pheasants of every variety live freely, creating the charm of a tropical land. Isola Madre is particularly famous for the flowering azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, but also for the pergolas of ancient wisteria, the largest European example of Kashmir cypress over two hundred years old, the espaliers of cedars and lemons, the collection of hibiscus, the Ginkgo biloba.
Isola Bella is a natural jewel that man's hand has made even more precious: its flowering gardens and artistic beauties enrich the landscape. The garden of Isola Bella, a typical example of a seventeenth-century "Italian garden" developed on terraces, is a true unspoilt paradise where rare exotic plants and flowers of great beauty are preserved. The ancient baroque palace offers visitors an elegant and sumptuous environment that preserves numerous works of art: tapestries, furniture, statues, paintings, stuccoes but also the curious mosaic caves, a place of coolness and pleasure.
Isola dei Pescatori (Fishermen's Island) is the only one of the islands that does not belong to the Borromeo family and is inhabited all year round. Its main characteristic are the multi-storey houses, built to make the most of the little space available: they are almost all equipped with long balconies essential for drying fish and in fact owes its name to the fishing activity practiced by its inhabitants.
Villa Pallavicino became a private residence in 1855, when the area was purchased by Ruggero Bonghi, statesman and man of letters. There followed the transfer of ownership to the Duke of Vallombrosa and in 1862 the purchase by the noble Genoese Pallavicino family, who enlarged the estate, built roads for vehicles, decorated the park with statues, transforming it from a simple dwelling into the splendid nineteenth-century neoclassical-style villa that still stands on the hill today. But it was Marquise Luisa who completed the work, in 1952, welcoming animals here from every corner of the world to build an exceptional zoo.
In 1956 the Pallavicinos decided to transform their marvellous garden into a wildlife museum that was open to the public.
Since 2017 the Parco Pallavicino has been part of the circuit of the Terre Borromeo.
A harmonious blend of English style park and Italian Baroque botanical garden with statues, fountains, water features and well-kept flowerbeds is called the most beautiful botanical garden in the world by The Needs magazine. Created by the Scottish archer of the Queen of England and a keen botanist Mr Neal Boyd Mc Eacharn, who has followed his dream of creating one of the most renowned botanical gardens in Europe.
The garden covers an area of over 20 hectares and represents a very complicated system of first deforestation and then repopulation with countless rare plants from all over the world, as well as a majestic irrigation plan. The garden counts about 1,000 non-native plants and about 20,000 varieties and species of particular botanical value. In the splendid building of ecclectic taste of the former porter's lodge of the Botanical Gardens, are exposed precious and delicate natural paintings: the Herbarium Britannicum of Captain Neil Mc Eacharn which includes 43 showcases in which you can admire species of wild flora of the United Kingdom.
Other main attractions of Villa Taranto include the terraced gardens, the bronze statue of the Fisherman, the lotus flower basin, the labyrinth of the Dahlie, the fountain of the Putti.
An eighteenth-century villa known throughout the world as a center of contemporary art, thanks to the Milanese collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo.
Villa Panza opens its windows onto a magnificent Italian garden and houses a collection of more than 150 extraordinary works of American contemporary art, collected since the 1950s and represents a place of cultural union between Europe and America in its full expression.
The villa boasts an astonishing gallery of site-specific environmental artworks, almost a temple consecrated to the element of light with the largest concentration of works perpetually exhibited by Dan Flavin, works by James Turrell and Robert Irwin. There are always international exhibitions in progress, as well as a calendar of educational activities for children. The 33,000 sq.m. park, enriched by Land Art works and the Restaurant "Luce" allow you to spend a whole day here.
Beautiful 19th century villa, designed by Bernardino Branca, inventor of the famous Fernet liqueur and closely linked to the events of his family. After various reconstructions, today's villa boasts two large halls, one in the basement and accessible from the garden and the other on the main floor, to be used for conferences and concerts. The park and the balconies of the villa overlook the lake and you will find yourself in an intimate, romantic and exciting environment.
It is now home to the Current Art Research Centre, which regularly hosts exhibitions and shows.
17th century Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, also known as Favorita, is one of the most important residences in the entire province of Varese. Preserved as a treasure chest inside an imposing terraced park which also houses an ancient frescoed shrine, it reveals all the rococo flavour of a "Villa di Delizia"(a pleasure villa).
The view from the windows is sublime on the monumental Italian garden: an original setting of stone carved terraces that climb up the hill to the large green lawn of the "theatre", with the fishpond and a steep path towards the panoramic belvedere.
The unique panoramic position itself is worth a visit to the Alpine resort of Stresa, where the Alpine Garden is located: it covers an area of about 40,000 square meters, creating an incomparable balcony, with a splendid view of Lake Maggiore, the Borromean Islands and the surrounding peaks.
Its enviable position, on the slopes of Mount Mottarone, above Stresa, at about 800 metres above sea level, is the secret of a created special microclimate which make survive the represented here botanical species. They are more than 800, coming from the Alpine and subalpine planes of the Italian Alps, but also from abroad: you can also observe species from the Caucasus, China and Japan.
The garden can be reached by the panoramic funicular railway that from Lido di Carciano (in Stresa) goes up to Mottarone, getting off at the intermediate stop in the Alpine area.