Approaching by boat, the monastery of Santa Caterina can be seen clinging perilously onto the rock overlooking the Lombard shores of Lake Maggiore. The carefully restored frescoes in the chapel are definitely worth a visit and the 180 degree views of the lake are spectacular, especially at sunset. It's a tranquil oasis away from the tourist bustle of many other places on the lake.
Isola dei Pescatori (the Isle of the Fishermen) on Lake Maggiore is strung out like an extended teardrop in the wake of the Baroque battleship of Isola Bella. Its attractive informality is a breath of fresh air after the formal gardens that almost choke the larger island.
Head for the Belvedere restaurant on its northern shore, where the more formal seafront gives way to gardens and terraces – of which, the Belvedere has just about the best, with a spacious veranda overlooking the lake. We arrived unannounced in a sizeable party late in the afternoon, but were swiftly made to feel welcome and served a sumptuous feast at the terrace’s grandest table. ‘Fish from the lake’ is their disarmingly simple pitch, but the mixed pickle lake fish is an eye-opener of a dish.
Via di Mezzo, Isola Pescatori, 28838 Stresa (VB)
All of the Borromean Islands are magical – but Isolo Bella is the crowning glory. The Borromean family employed only the most accomplished architects and gardeners to transform a rocky crag into the setting for a magnificent Baroque palace and Italianate gardens. A visit will provide a taste of how an aristocratic Italian family lived in the 17th century.
As well as admiring the grand architecture and decoration, the palace contains a wealth of treasure including valuable paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, Flemish tapestries and gilded ornaments. However, on our visit we were most fascinated by the collection of marionettes and the grottos on the lowest floor. The audio guide was very entertaining and informative.
We didn’t really do the gardens justice on our visit, as it was pouring with rain, however we did brave the rain to admire the terraces and the Giardino dell’Amore.
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