When international friends come to visit I usually like to not only take them around Milan, but to show them something outside of the city as well. Italy is so beautiful and there is lots to see even very close to Milan. Lakes are a classic (1 hour drive from Milan) but this time I decided to spice it up a bit by taking my visitors to a place not by the lake but actually on the lake.


Me on the highest point of the gardens


Light breaking over the hills as seen from the highest point of the gardens

Isola Bella (translated: beautiful island) is a small island on Lago Maggiore. Until 1632 it was a rocky terrain occupied by a tiny fishing village until Carlo III of the Borromeo family dedicated the island to his wife, Isabella D’Adda, by constructing a palace as well as opulent gardens on it.

Throughout the years construction of the palace was interrupted several times. Carlo the III never got to finish his project, which was later continued by his sons and concluded by his nephew Carlo the IV. Finally the gardens were inaugurated in 1671. (almost 40 years of construction!! Damn!)

Throughout history the island must have been host to many sumptuous parties and theatrical events for the nobility of Europe. In the 1800s even Napoleon and his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais were guests of the castle. I love to imagine how these festivities must have looked like…

It is the kind of place that will make you believe that fairytales in fact are true, with unicorns everywhere and the basement decorated with shells and little pebbles allover (we are talking literally, walls, floor everything!) it is one of the most magical castles I have ever visited.


Ale, Camila and me inside the the castle


Peeking into the garden from the bottom floor of the castle

But even more stunning than the castle, are the gardens. There are white peacocks freely roaming around the perfectly kept in shape lawns and the flowers are simply unreal. Visiting that place always makes me feel like a princess waiting for someone to bring me my afternoon tea while I converse with a white baby peacock! Absolutely ridonculous!


Please note the unicorn on the very top of this structure!


Crazy intertwined fishtail statue


If you want to travel back in time a bit.. Definitely visit Isola Bella, you will forget not only where you are but also what year it is!

As I was there with two lovely ladies who make films and are living in Los Angeles (check their work here and here) we obviously had to get a little creative and took a lot of pictures.. These are some of the ones I took of Ale.


Ale in the late afternoon light


My favorite picture of Ale. We took this one just as the gardens were about to close so there was none around anymore



Our view waiting for the ferry to take us back to mainland

Visiting Isola Bella

  • By car it will take you about an hour to get from Milan to Stresa where you get the ferry to the island (ferry costs around 12 euros per person for a roundtrip if I remember correctly)
  • The island will be open for visitors from 24th of March to the 22nd October 2017
  • Every day from 9:00am to 5.40pm (last entrance) – but I highly recommend you to enter before. The gardens close at 6pm and soon after that is the last ferry back to the mainland
  • Seeing the castle takes about an hour and then, the gardens.. Depends on how long you wanna stay in magic land…  🙂
  • We went in September which is probably a good time to go as it will be less crowded and less hot than in August and all the flowers are still in full bloom anyways

For more information about visiting the island, click here to be directed to the official website.

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