Isole Borromee Isole Borromee
  • Love, protection and respect
    that has lasted for six centuries

The history

For around six centuries the history of the Borromeo Family has been interwoven with that of Lago Maggiore.


The purchase of the Rocca di Angera in 1449 and of the first area of land on Isola Madre in 1501 marked the beginning of a unique relationship with these locations, which still have a great value today.

1439 - Rocca di Arona 1439 - Rocca di Arona


Acquisition of Rocca

Filippo Maria Visconti transferred the Rocca di Arona, together with the entire Comune, as a fiefdom to Vitaliano I Borromeo. For a good four centuries the fortress remained in the hands of the Borromeo family, and it was even the birthplace of future Cardinal San Carlo Borromeo.

1519 - Castles of Cannero 1519 - Castles of Cannero


Lodovico Borromeo and the acquisition of the castles

Lodovico Borromeo expelled the Malpaga family from the castles of Cannero, on the border with Switzerland. In the archive documents we read that on 6 October 1519, the day before the day of Santa Giustina Borromeo, he began the construction of the fortress, called Vitaliana in honour of the founder of the family.
In a very short time the fortification was completed and subsequently, having become useless from the military point of view, it was abandoned in the century that followed. The castles stand on two rocks a short distance from the shore and are currently in the process of restructuring: they will soon be open to the public.

1538 - Saint Carlo Borromeo 1538 - Saint Carlo Borromeo


Born of Saint Carlo Borromeo

In the Rocca di Arona, in the room known as the Room of the Three Lakes, subsequently dedicated to him, San Carlo Borromeo, cardinal and archbishop of Milan, who was to be proclaimed a saint in Rome on 1 November 1610, was born.
Much loved in his diocese for his numerous good works and for the abnegation and the spirit of sacrifice he showed during the plague of 1576-1577, he was an important figure for the history of the Church, of which he was a great reformer and one of the protagonists of the Council of Trento.
There is also a huge statue of him in Arona, the so-called Sancarlone, erected shortly after his death.

1564 - Federico III Borromeo  1564 - Federico III Borromeo


Born of Federico III Borromeo

A Milano nasce Federico III Borromeo, cardinale e arcivescovo di Miliano. Era il cugino San Carlo, a cui era molto legato. Venne citato da Alessandro Manzoni nel romanzo I Promessi Sposi.
L’autore dedicò molte pagine alla sua persona, descrivendolo come presenza pastorale benevola e austera, nobile di natali e di animo.

1620 - Vitaliano VI 1620 - Vitaliano VI


Vitaliano VI

Vitaliano VI Borromeo, considered the creator of the palace and garden of Isola Bella, was born. Very cultured and intelligent, he corresponded with heads of state and worthies from all over Europe. His extensive correspondence, conserved in the Borromeo archive on Isola Bella, contains numerous letters in which he describes the project in minute detail, even drawing the architectural details in the margins of the written texts.

1631-71 - Garden of Isola Bella Borromeo Archive 1631-71 - Garden of Isola Bella Borromeo Archive


The italian-style garden

The garden of Isola Bella was created, decorated at its highest point by a statue of a unicorn, the symbol of the family. The garden is a perfectly conserved example of Baroque style. It is adorned with numerous statues, obelisks and fountains, which stand on terraces sloping down to the lake. Parterres of flowers are alternated with scenographies of stone that create genuine theatrical sets.
Seen from a distance, its shape is reminiscent of the stern of a galleon ploughing through the waters of Lago Maggiore.

1657 - Carlo IV Borromeo 1657 - Carlo IV Borromeo


Born of Carlo IV Borromeo

Carlo IV was to join his surname with that of his first wife, Giulia Arese. An eclectic character, his second marriage was to be to Camilla Barberini and he would become Viceroy of Naples for the Habsburgs. He acquired the fiefdom of Maccagno on Lago Maggiore.

1797 - Napoleon Bonaparte 1797 - Napoleon Bonaparte


Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte stayed on Isola Bella for two days with a retinue of around sixty people. He was not welcomed in person by Count Borromeo, who was angered because the French army had destroyed the Rocca di Arona, one of his estates. The letters of the administrator of the palace telling the Count of the events speak of dirt, broken furnishings and the great rudeness of the emperor’s entire entourage. Luckily Napoleon found his stay on Isola Bella boring, as he did that on Isola Madre, where he went pheasant hunting. His room in the palace still exists, with the original bed where he slept intact.

1848 - The Five Days of Milan 1848 - The Five Days of Milan


The Five Days of Milan

After the Five Days of Milan the Milanese nobles that had participated in it were fined by Radetzky. Among them was Vitaliano 9 , who had actively participated in the revolt. The price to be paid was very high for the finances of the count and the whole family.

1858 - Chapel of San Vittore 1858 - Chapel of San Vittore


Chapel of San Vittore

The construction of the Family Chapel on Isola Madre, designed by architect Defendente Vannini, dates back to this year. It is a small church opposite the palace, the façade of which is decorated with terracotta panels.
Some members of the family are buried in the crypt.

1906 - Simplon Tunnel 1906 - Simplon Tunnel


Giberto Borromeo and the Simplon Tunnel

The Simplon railway tunnel was inaugurated. Giberto Borromeo, senator of the Kingdom of Italy, was president of the Italian committee for the Simplon, which was built in just eight years (between 1898 and 1906) between Brig in Switzerland (Canton Vallese) and Iselle, near Domodossola in the current province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, and was to remain the longest railway tunnel in the world – almost 20 kilometres long – until 1982.

1935 - Stresa conference 1935 - Stresa conference


Stresa conference

The Stresa Conference, which between 11 and 14 April 1935 saw French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval, British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and the Head of the Italian Government Benito Mussolini sit around the table, was held in the rooms of Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella.
The purpose of the agreement was to reaffirm the principles of the Locarno Treaties and to declare that the independence of Austria “would continue to inspire their common policy“.
The three parties declared themselves ready to react to any future attempt by Germany to amend or infringe the Treaty of Versailles.

1948-58 - Completion of Palazzo Borromeo 1948-58 - Completion of Palazzo Borromeo


Completion of Palazzo Borromeo

As soon as he returned to Italy after the end of the Second World War, Vitaliano X Borromeo decided to complete the work on the Salone, which had been left incomplete, although a number of projects had been prepared in the past years. The decoration was executed following the original designs, but the magnificent dome that loomed over the building in the early projects was never built.

1978 - Opening of Palazzo Borromeo to the public 1978 - Opening of Palazzo Borromeo to the public


Opening of Palazzo Borromeo to the public

The Palazzo on Isola Madre, which had been abandoned for a long time, was restored and opened to the public. Part of the furnishings are original and part have come from other residences of the Borromeo family. Displayed inside it are objects of everyday life, such as the plates and the liveries of the staff.

Borromeo Archive Borromeo Archive


Borromeo Archive

The Borromeo Archive on Isola Bella contains almost five million documents, datable from 1300 to 1940. Most of the documentation regarding the history of the territory of the Borromeo fiefdom – which extended around practically the entire lake – is contained here. Notarial registrations, cash books, correspondence by the family members, musical scores and plenty of other materials are all held here at researchers’ disposal.

2008 - Reopening of Galleria Berthier 2008 - Reopening of Galleria Berthier


Reopening of Galleria Berthier

Prince Giberto VIII and Princess Bona Borromeo reopened the painting gallery of Isola Bella, also known as the Galleria del Berthier, to the public. The gallery is an example of a perfectly conserved 17th-century painting collection. 300 paintings and all the furnishings of this extraordinary wing of the Palazzo, the heart of the family art collections and evidence of the original furnishings of the house, have been restored. Photo Gallery.


Acquisition of Rocca

Filippo Maria Visconti transferred the Rocca di Arona, together with the entire Comune, as a fiefdom to Vitaliano I Borromeo. For a good four centuries the fortress remained in the hands of the Borromeo family, and it was even the birthplace of future Cardinal San Carlo Borromeo.

Storie nella storia

Terre Borromeo

A story of love, protection and respect that has lasted for six centuries.

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Sapevate che l'etimologia del nome Borromeo ha il sapore di una leggenda?
Vaghi racconti ci narrano che un certo Lazzaro – il primo presunto esponente della casata Borromeo – si recò a Roma nel 1300 per compiere il pellegrinaggio dell’Anno Santo.
Al suo ritorno gli venne assegnato il nome di “Bon Romeo”, ovvero “buon pellegrino che è stato a Roma”, e da questo soprannome sarebbe derivato il cognome della famiglia.
Un'altra storia ci racconta che la famiglia Borromeo proviene dal borgo di San Miniato al Tedesco, che abbandona nel 1370, per costruire, nei secoli, un patrimonio di bellezze di cui l’Isola Bella è l’espressione più compiuta.
Scoprite di più nelle nostre Storie nella Storia!
Did you know that the etymology of the name Borromeo has the flavor of a legend?
Vague stories tell us that a certain Lazzaro – the first presumed exponent of the Borromeo family – went to Rome in 1300 to make the pilgrimage of the Holy Year.
On his return he was given the name "Bon Romeo", or "good pilgrim who was in Rome", and this nickname is where the family surname would have derived from.
Another story tells us that the Borromeo family came from the village of San Miniato al Tedesco, which the family abandoned in 1370, to build, over the centuries, a heritage of beauty, of which Isola Bella is the most complete expression.
Discover more in our Stories through History!

#terreborromeo #lakemaggiore #lagomaggiore #borromeoexperience #famigliaBorromeo #isolabella #isolamadre
Dal latino extraordinarius, composto da extra «fuori» e ordo-dĭnis «ordine».
Significa non ordinario, inconsueto, che non rientra nella normalità, grandissimo, singolare, eccezionale.
Tutti aggettivi adatti per descrivere l’unicità del progetto che Vitaliano VI concepì realizzando l’Isola Bella e che vi raccontiamo nella mostra “Vitaliano VI. L’invenzione dell’Isola Bella” a Palazzo Borromeo.
Ritratti, medaglie, documenti e opere mai esposte al pubblico testimoniano come prese vita uno dei più straordinari esempi dello stile barocco nell’Italia nord-occidentale.
La visita è compresa nel biglietto di ingresso a Palazzo Borromeo sull'Isola Bella. Aperta fino al 1° novembre 2021.
Main sponsor: @aon_italia
From the Latin “extraordinarius”, composed of extras "out" and ordo-dènis "order".
It means not ordinary, unusual, that it does not fall within normality, great, singular, exceptional.
All of these adjectives are suitable to describe the uniqueness of the project that Vitaliano VI conceived by creating Isola Bella, as you will discover in the exhibition "Vitaliano VI: The Invention of Isola Bella" at Palazzo Borromeo.
Portraits, medals, documents and works never before exhibited to the public all showcase how one of the most extraordinary examples of the Baroque style in northwestern Italy came to life.
The visit is included in the entrance ticket to Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella. Open until November 1ST 2021.
Main sponsor: @aon_italia

📸 @ruxylle 

#terreborromeo #lakemaggiore #lagomaggiore #borromeoexperience #isolabella #vitalianoVI #palazzoborromeo