Isola Bella is named after Isabella d’Adda, the wife of Carlo III Borromeo. In 1632, Carlo Borromeo embarked upon a project that would see a rocky outcrop on Lake Maggiore inhabited by a few solitary fishermen transformed into one of Italy’s finest palazzi.


Works slowed due to the outbreak of pestilence that developed in the dukedom of Milan in the mid 17th century and were really begun under Carlo Borromeo’s son, Vitaliano VI. Vitaliano conceived the idea of landscaping the gardens to give the impression that Isola Bella was a ship, emerging from the lake.


Palazzo Borromeo


To create the terraces, a huge amount of earth was shipped over to the island by boat. Orange trees, lemon trees, cypresses were planted.


A baroque palazzo was built on the north side of the island, decorated with different types of marble, alabaster and lapis lazuli.


The Grand Hall, Isola Bella


Isola Bella Grand Hall


Isola Bella


Vitaliano VI and his architect Filippo Cagnulo, planned a grotto in a series of six rooms on the lower ground floor. The north-facing grotto directly overlooks the lake, providing a refuge from the summer heat.


Grotto, Palazzo Borromeo



Absolutely every surface is covered in pebbles and shells. This painstaking work took a hundred years to complete.



The grotto connects the palazzo with the garden, which is decorated with statues, balustrades and vases.


Isola Bella, the garden


Isola Bella, Palazzo Borromeo Garden


In all, Isola Bella took almost four hundred years to complete, involving the work of hundreds of qualified architects, engineers, plasterers, painters, cabinetmakers and gardeners.






Magic Stone Rooms
Magic Stone coffee table by Rooms


Petit Hermès by Roberto Ruspoli
Petit Hermès lithograph by Roberto Ruspoli


Laurel side table, Luca Nichetto
Laurel side table by Luca Nichetto for De La Espada


Acropolis table lamp, CTO Lighting
Acropolis table lamp by CTO Lighting


Estelle cushion, Lindell & co
Estelle cushion by Lindell & co