Isola Madre

A precious jewel, in the center of the Borromean Gulf

A simple definition? The perfect synthesis of an earthly paradise!

The gardens are a perfect mix between the English  garden. As you stroll along the paths, you can admire a wealth of plants that are known for their ornamental value, with gorgeous flowers and the queens of our lovely lake: an island collection of acidophilic plants which is one of the oldest in Italy and one of the most interesting in Europe. Many of the camellia hybrids started to blossom here centuries ago, and continue to provide beauty throughout the island today.

This is a tranquil place where the sounds of nature provide the backdrop to a botanical lushness that is unlike anything else found on Lake Maggiore.
Lovely Silkie chickens graze the earth looking for a delicious meal beneath the shade of ancient trees; magnificent specimens of colorful pheasants playfully chase each other around on green lawns; visitors strolling the broad pathways are surprised by elegant peacocks who show off and fan their magnificent white or multi-colored trains next to ducks who have waddled up from the lake for a short visit: this is just a taste of what you’ll find when you decide to leave behind the chaos and stress of busy places and enjoy a few hours of peace and quiet.

Due to the milder climate here – compared to most other areas on the lake – Isola Madre has always been an ideal place for plants to grow and thrive.
Over time, this island has witnessed changes to its appearance as well as use, and today – despite being lesser known than its “younger sister” – it’s one of the most interesting attractions on Lake Maggiore.

Starting in the XIX century, the Borromeo Family decided to convert what was once an area used for cultivating vegetable and fruit trees into a botanical park. Ever since then, gardeners have planted specimens hailing from all over the world, safe in the knowledge that the island’s micro-climate would encourage their growth.

Today, a walk through the gardens gives visitors the chance to admire the fantastic plants – some centuries-old – that have been introduced into the surrounding environment and landscape.

The pathways which lead visitors towards the highest part of the island, culminating with Villa Borromeo, are lined with these plants and also include broader spaces that have been devoted to specific collections. Breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding landscape are interspersed with cool and shady spaces beneath the garden’s giant trees. All the paths lead to the villa, which has been open as a museum since the end of the 1870s, after having been carefully restored.

In the villa, which is decidedly more modest than the Palace on Isola Bella, historical rooms provide the backdrop for prestigious furnishings. XVIII century furniture, glass chandeliers from the island of Murano, ceiling coffers and lovely mosaic floors can be found in the rooms which lead to the heart of the collection: the Marionette Theater. This theater, which is presented in three different rooms, used to entertain hundreds of famous guests while they were visiting the island. Scenography creating interesting optical effects, marionettes with ornate clothing, special effects, musical instruments, and much more have been carefully arranged for visitors to admire.

The villa is surrounded by the botanical park, which has been included as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Italy and is a source of great local pride: its botanical abundance and views of Lake Maggiore are certain to amaze even the most skeptical visitors.

Discover this attraction with our “Green spaces” cruise

Travelling along the shore, you’ll discover what characterizes the green spaces of Lake Maggiore as we pause to explain the history behind the most important gardens.


Discover the area

Isola Bella

Enchanted by art and nature

Isola dei pescatori

Discover history and traditions

Villa Taranto

Captain Neal’s challenge

Villa Pallavicino

A park overlooking the lake

Rocca di Angera

A medieval fortress at the end of the lake


The pearl of Lake Maggiore

Santa Caterina

A hermitage clinging to the rock


The trendiest city on the lake

Villa Ducale

High society, culture, and spirituality

Landscape Museum

The Verbano and its surrounding landscape depicted by renowned painters