Escorted Rail Tours to Isola Bella
Stewarded by the Borromeo family
Looking at Isola Bella today, it is hard to believe it was once a rocky island, home to a small community of fishermen. However, until 1630 Isola Inferiore (as it was previously known) was a world away from the splendour that the Borromeo Family created. In 1630 Carlo III Borromeo took the first steps to changing the island. He hired an architect to design a castle-type building where the palace currently stands and a more elegant casino at the highest point of the island. Carlo also decided to name the island after his wife, Isabella D'Adda, and it became known as Isola Isabella which was later shortened to Isola Bella.
In spite of Carlo's plans it was to be his sons, Vitaliano VI Borromeo and cardinal Giberto III Borromeo, who really transformed Isola Bella. Abandoning the original architect's plans and dropping the idea of a casino, they planned the palace and gardens. Their vision was that Isola Bella should appear to be a ship sailing across the lake.
Work began on the palace and the terraced gardens and, although the palace was built by 1670 and the gardens inaugurated in 1671, work continued well into the 19th century. As recently as 50-60 years ago, Vitaliano X Borromeo was still adding finishing touches, including the tree lined "jetty" that extends towards Isola Pescatori and the "Salone Grande" (Great Room), built in accordance with Vitaliano VI's original plans.