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Open Please note: a Covid-19 vaccination is required to visit. Open daily, 1 Jun–1 Nov. Please see website for changes and late opening summer evenings.

ISOLA BELLA AND ISOLA MADRE

Partner Garden
Free access for RHS members at selected times

Stresa
Lake Maggiore
Verbania 28838

20 acres, Isola Madre; 7 acres, Isola Bella

Tel
00 39 323 933478

Visit website

Admission

Non-member adult €25. Tickets can be booked via the website or at the venue Mon–Fri.

RHS members

Free access (Member 1 only) – applies when open.

Facilities

  • Free carer entry
  • Gift shop
  • Group rates
  • Guide dogs only
  • Restaurant
  • Toilets

Features

  • Arboretum
  • Colour themed borders
  • Glasshouse (open to public)
  • Gravel garden
  • Herbaceous border
  • Mediterranean/Italian garden
  • National Plant Collections
  • Rock garden
  • Sculpture
  • Sub-tropical garden
  • Water garden
  • Wildflower meadow

About the garden

Owned by

The grand Italian baroque garden of Isola Bella may be one of the most famous and best preserved in Italy. Built in different periods, it is a coherent pyramidal shape that culminates in the great statue of the Unicorn ridden by Love. Divided into 10 sloping terraces, it is decorated with ponds, fountains, architectural perspectives and statues dating from the second half of the 17th century representing personifications of rivers, winds and seasons. Many of the 'rooms' are enclosed by walls and balustrades on which can be detected the points from which jets, fountains, waterfalls and water features spring.  

The particularly mild weather has enabled the growth of a vast variety of plant species, which have found their habitat within the garden. Among azaleas and rhododendrons, grapefruit, bitter orange espaliers and orchids, stands the figure of a large camphor tree that is more than 200 years old. During the winter season, exotic plants are placed in the 19th-century greenhouse, included in the tour of the grounds. The finishing touches from March to October never leave the garden devoid of charm and colour.    

Extending over eight hectares, this is the largest of the Borromean Islands. Its botanical heritage and strongly exotic flavour have made it, in the words of Gustave Flaubert, “the most voluptuous place ever seen”. Isola Madre has belonged to the Borromeo family since 1500. The gardens are the very soul of the island, and over time have given this corner of heaven an image that is constantly new, from an orchard where grapes, figs, olives, chestnuts and cherries are grown, to an Italian-style terracing with a display of orange, lemon and citron trees. Starting in the 1800s, the works progressively transformed the vast farmland into an English botanical garden, crowned by the construction of the first greenhouses in 1826.  

It covers an area of about eight hectares – almost 20 acres. Isola Madre is not only renowned for the spectacular flowering of its azaleas in May, but also for its botanical gardens that are home to rare plant species originating in the most diverse latitudes. Indeed, the mild climate has favoured the settlement of rare botanical species from all over the world – maple, banana, palm trees, camellias, protea, eucalyptus. Animals with colourful plumage and luxurious vegetation make this island an Eden surrounded by water, the perfect destination for those who love nature and hidden beauty.

Plants of special interest

  • Agapanthus
  • Begonias
  • Bluebells
  • Cacti & succulents
  • Camellias
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Conifers
  • Cornus (for winter stems or spring bracts)
  • Cyclamen
  • Fruit blossom
  • Fruit bushes/trees
  • Fuchsias
  • Herbs
  • Irises
  • Lavender
  • Lilies
  • Magnolias
  • Maple
  • Orchids
  • Primulas
  • Rhododendrons/azaleas
  • Roses
  • Shade-loving plants
  • Spring bulbs
  • Topiary
  • Waterlilies
  • Wisteria

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.