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Isola Bella (Lago Maggiore)

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Title: Isola Bella (Lago Maggiore)  
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Subject: House of Borromeo, Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella, Bella (disambiguation), Cesare Nebbia
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Isola Bella (Lago Maggiore)

Isola Bella
Location Lago Maggiore
Archipelago Borromean Islands
Area 0.20 km2 (0.077 sq mi)
Length 0.40 km (0.249 mi)
Width 0.32 km (0.199 mi)
Region Piedmont
Province Verbano-Cusio-Ossola

Isola Bella (lit. 'beautiful island') is one of the Borromean Islands of Lago Maggiore in north Italy. The island is situated in the Borromean Gulf 400 metres from the lakeside town of Stresa. Isola Bella is 320 metres long by 400 metres wide and is divided between the Palace, its Italianate garden, and a small fishing village.


  • History 1
  • The island today 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


The palazzo
The gardens

Until 1632 the island—known only as l’isola inferiore or isola di sotto[1]—was a rocky crag occupied by a tiny fishing village: but that year Carlo III of the influential House of Borromeo began the construction of a palazzo dedicated to his wife, Isabella D'Adda, from whom the island takes its name. He entrusted the works to the Milanese Angelo Crivelli, who was also to be responsible for the planning the gardens. The works were interrupted around middle of the century when the Duchy of Milan was struck by a devastating outbreak of the plague.

Construction resumed when the island passed to Carlo’s sons, Cardinal Giberto III (1615–1672) and Vitaliano VI (1620–1690); the latter in particular, with the financial backing of his elder brother, entrusted the completion of the works to the Milanese architect Carlo Fontana and turned the villa into a place of sumptuous parties and theatrical events for the nobility of Europe.

The completion of the gardens, however, was left to his nephew Carlo IV (1657–1734). They were inaugurated in 1671.

The island achieved its highest level of social success during the period of Giberto V Borromeo (1751–1837) when guests included Edward Gibbon, Napoleon and his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, and Caroline of Brunswick, the Princess of Wales. It is said that Caroline, having fallen in love with the place, did her best to convince the Borromeo family to sell her Isola Madre or the Castelli di Cannero islands; her request being turned down, she established herself on the banks of Lake Como at Cernobbio in the Villa d’Este.

The island today

Isola Bella is a popular tourist attraction, with a regular ferry service from Stresa, Laveno, Pallanza and Intra. It plays host to the annual Stresa music festival.


  1. ^ The geographically “lower” island with respect to its northern neighbour, Isola dei Pescatori, the isola superiore. See Pro Loco di Isola dei Pescatori (Italian)


This article was originally translated from the Italian WorldHeritage’s Isola Bella, as retrieved 13:17, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
  • Storia dell'Isola Bella (Italian) (Cited by the Italian WorldHeritage article.)

Further reading

  • Attlee, Helena (2006). Italian Gardens - A Cultural History (paperback). London: Frances Lincoln. pp. 240 pages. ISBN 978-0-7112-3392-8. 

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