The best time for photos of Isola San Giulio is morning till noon when the island is light up by sunlight. When we arrived at Orta San Giulio in the afternoon the day before, the island was covered in shadow which made a big difference for photos. Our hotel's breakfast room faced directly toward the island so it gave a beautiful view.
On the other hand, breakfast was a bare minimum. There was no hot food, only croissants, dried fruits, cereal, and very sour yogurt. I wasn't too thrilled about breakfast.
Then to the back street because it was so early that only two of us were on the street (occasionally a local or two going to work) so it saved us a lot of time waiting for people to clear out for photos.
After some quick photos, we walked up those flights of stairs to the parking lot to get our car. There, you can see the island at a higher angle.
We took the car and drove to Stresa, one of the popular towns on Lake Maggiore. The drive took a little more than half an hour and as we were near Stresa, we saw a lot of bigger 4 and 5 hotels and resorts; the area was a lot more busy than Lake Orta. I didn't have a specific address in Stresa so I just plugged in "Stresa" and then as we get close, we'll find a parking lot, that was the plan. We indeed found a parking lot right at the pier where we could take the ferry boat to our destination: Isola Bella.
Parking was €1.80 per hour and the machine took my 4-digit pin credit card so I pay as much as possible with the card to reserve the coins for “emergency” use. At the pier, you can see Isola Bella where it’s famous for Palazzo Borromeo and its magnificent garden.
There were a lot of private tour operators at the pier offering boat rides to both Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori (Fisherman’s island). The most affordable way was the public ferry where there’s a ferry station to purchase ticket there. At €9.20 for two adults roundtrip and we could take any of the ferry on the timetable back, it offered the flexibility since we don’t know how long it’ll take us to tour the island – Palazzo Borromeo and its garden. I didn’t realize it until I saw on the ticket, we were actually not at Stresa pier; 2e were at Carciano pier LOL! Stresa pier is another 6 minutes away by car. Anyways, it worked out, we were able to find parking here.
The admission to the palace and garden was €17 and totally worth it for the awesome architecture details we saw! I didn’t look into the pictures of the palace before the trip but I did saw the photos of the garden and that was what attracted me to the island. It turned out, the palace totally blew my mind off. I didn’t expect such an extravagant, lavish, and jaw-dropping beautiful palace in such a small island. I thought it is a mansion like other “palazzos” in Italy. Remember, we stayed at Palazzo Seneca in Norcia at the beginning of our trip.
Palazzo Borromeo is like those big palaces where royalties lived back in the days…that type of palace. I couldn’t imagine how rich Count Vitaliano Borromeo was to build such a masterpiece.