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Lake Maggiore from Milan (A guide to the perfect Self-Guided Day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan)

Lake Maggiore from Milan. View of Isola Bella

Lake Maggiore is one of the best lakes in Italy and the second largest one in Italy after Lake Garda. Lake Maggiore shares its area with Switzerland with around 1 fifth of the area coming under the border of Switzerland and remaining under the borders of Italy. Lake Maggiore is a beautiful and picturesque lake located very close to Milan and can be reached by train in 1 hour from Milan.

Lake Maggiore from Milan is possible to visit comfortably as a day trip and explore its best attractions. Lake Maggiore is mainly popular for its beautiful Islands and botanical gardens on the islands itself. A weekend day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan is always a good idea where you can visit the best of Lake Maggiore including its beautiful islands like Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Dei Pescatori.

In the article, we have covered everything you need to know on how to take a self-guided day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan including options for public transport to reach Lake Maggiore from Milan, a perfectly crafted itinerary for the best attractions to visit in Lake Maggiore and how much time you need to explore each attraction of Lake Maggiore considering having one day to explore. In one day, we have covered the information on exploring the best of Lake Maggiore which are Stresa and its Borromean islands Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola Dei Pescatori.

Let’s start exploring in detail the day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan!

How to reach Lake Maggiore from Milan:

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Stresa station

To explore Lake Maggiore from Milan, first you need to reach Stresa which is a little town situated on the shores of Lake Maggiore.

By Trains:

Stresa can be reached by direct regional or intercity trains running from Milan Central Station (Milano Centrale). Intercity trains take around 55 Minutes to reach and regional trains take around 1 hour and 7 minutes. The regional trains are the best option as they are always cheaper, and their prices don’t change. You can also purchase your regional train ticket on the day of your journey at the train station or online. For intercity trains, train prices are fluctuating and comparatively costlier.

In the morning there is a regional train that runs from Milan at 7.25 AM and 8.25 AM. You can catch any of these 2 scheduled trains and reach Stresa from Milan.

By Car

If the train is not an option for you then you can drive to Stresa from Milan through highway A8. It is around 92 km from Milan and the ride will take around 1 hour without traffic.

Anyways, whether you are coming to Stresa by Train or by Car, try to arrive in Stresa before 10 AM to have more time to explore the Islands of Lake Maggiore.

Walk towards Ferry terminals from Stresa train station:

Once you arrive in Stresa, walk toward the Ferry terminal. (Pro Tip: Don’t follow Google Maps to reach the ferry terminal directly from the train station as it shows the road where pedestrians are not allowed). Once you get out of the Train station, you will see the stairs to get down to the town from the train station as the train station is situated on an elevated ground from the Stresa. Once you come down the stairs, now you can follow Google Maps and walk towards the ferry terminal. There are 2 different ferry terminals in Stresa. To explore the islands, you need to walk towards the ferry terminals where the different ferries depart to the Borromean Islands (Pin this Google map location for the Ferry terminal for Borromean Islands). The ferry terminal is 1.3 KM away from the train station so prepare to walk for around 15 to 20 Minutes.

Other ferry terminals also operate private ferries to Borromean islands but usually, there are fewer options as compared to the ferry terminal mentioned above (Pin this Google map location for 2nd ferry terminal)


Take the right ferry to Borromean Island:

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Ferry to islands

Once you reach the ferry Terminal, you will see different private companies offering hop-on and hop-off ferries to all 3 Borromean Islands with a very good frequency. One day Hop on and hop off ticket to these private companies costs around 15 Euro per person. We bought the ticket from a private ferry operator, and it was worth it since the boat driver also explained the History of the Islands during the ride and the frequency of Ferry boats was very good.

You also have an option to select the Navigation Ferry which is a public transport to Borromean Islands. However, the frequencies of these Navigation ferries are not that good. Also, by Navigation ferries, the Hop-on and hop-off tickets price is around 17 Euros per adult. Anyways, if you prefer the Navigation ferries then always check here ferry timetable in advance. They usually have different timetables in the summer and winter months. The summer timetable has increased frequencies.


If you wish to have a private boat for yourself to explore the islands, you can also reserve yourself a 2 Borromean Island Private boat tour.

Explore Borromean Islands:

Lake Maggiore from Milan

Exploring the Borromean islands is the 1st and best thing to do once you arrive at Lake Maggiore from Milan. It is always advisable to start exploring islands with Isola Madre, which is the farthest island from Stresa and after that, the Isola Dei Pescatori where you can have your delicious lunch and then finally the Isola Bella to spend the rest of the afternoon.

Isola Madre:

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Isola Madre

Once you get down at the ferry terminal in Isola Madre, head towards the ticket office which is just before the entrance of the gardens. The entrance ticket to Isola Madre and its botanical gardens costs 18 euros per adult and 10.5 euros for kids (from 6 to 15 years old). However, during your day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan you can buy a package of entrance to Isola Madre and Isola Bella together. The Package ticket for 2 islands and their palaces costs 32 Euro per adult and 18 Euro for kids (from 6 to 15 years old).

Isola Madre has only one restaurant and the remaining property of the island is occupied by its botanical gardens and Palace.

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Palace of Isola Madre

Isola Madre translated as Island of Mother is popular for its beautiful palace of the Borromean family and its botanical gardens which have a huge variety of trees from all over the world. The palace on Isola Madre was built in the 16th century by the Borromeo family specifically in Era of Carlo Borromeo. The palace has elegant furniture and thoughtful interiors that add to the Royal feel of the Palace. 

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Flower garden

The most popular attraction at Isola Madre is its English-styled Botanical gardens which are home to some of the rare plant species from all over the world including Cypress from Kashmir in the Himalayan Mountains. The Cypress of Kashmir has become a symbol of Isola Madre which was first bought from the Himalayas in 1862 and is now the largest specimen of Kashmir Cypress in Europe. The gardens of Isola Madre also have a variety of flowers decorated beautifully at the entrance. You will find so many beautiful spots with lake views for your souvenir photos while you roam on the island.

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Rare birds

In the gardens of Isola Madre, you will find some beautiful birds roaming freely in the Gardens like multi-coloured parrots, silver and golden pheasants, white peacocks, etc.  

As soon as you arrive on the Island, head to explore its palace first and then explore its botanical gardens.

Exploring Isola Madre including Palace and botanical gardens would take around 2 hours maximum.

As soon as you finish exploring Isola Madre, head back to the ferry terminal and catch the ferry to Isola Dei Pescatori which is the second island of your day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan.

Isola Dei Pescatori:

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Isola dei Pescatori

Isola Dei Pescatori is translated as the island of Fisherman. The Isola Dei Pescatori was also owned by the Borromean family but since the fishermen were living on the island, it was left for them in its original form without any reformation by the Borromean family.  The Isola Dei Pescatori is said to be the first island of Lake Maggiore to be inhabited by local fishermen.

Exploring Isola Dei Pescatori does not need any entrance ticket as it is a 100-meter-wide island owned by the locals. The island is popular for its picturesque alleyways and lakeside restaurants serving delicious fresh lake fish. The island of Isola Dei Pescatori is the most picturesque one of all 3 islands of Lake Maggiore.

By the time you reach Isola Dei Pescatori from Isola Madre, you will surely be Hungry. Head to any lake-side restaurant and try mixed grilled lake fish accompanied by a delicious variety of pastas to choose from. We went to a lakeside restaurant Ristorante Pizzeria la Rondine and tried Mixed Lake fish Accompanied by delicious fish-flavoured pasta (Google map location). The food was delicious, and it was a special experience to have delicious food amid the beautiful views of Lake Maggiore.

After your lunch, explore the picturesque corners of Isola Dei Pescatori and shop in its tiny shops for souvenirs and clothes. You can also take a round stroll to the island to explore the hidden viewpoints of the lake.

Exploring Isola Dei Pescatori including your lunch will take around 2 hours.

Once you are done exploring Isola Dei Pescatori, head toward the ferry terminal and catch the ferry to Isola Bella which is the third and final island of your day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan.

Isola Bella:

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Isola Bella

Isola Bella is one of the most popular and beautiful islands of Lake Maggiore and a must-visit place for your trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan.

Isola Bella translated as Beautiful Island is named after Isabella d’Adda, the wife of Carlo III Borromeo. The island of Isola Bella is a magnificent work of architecture that is built on a single rock. At first, the island of Isola Bella was inhabited by fishermen but later during the era of Borromean expansion, the island was taken over by the Borromean family and started its reformation in the 17th Century. The shape of the island you see today took almost 2 centuries to build.  

Isola Bella is popular for its palace, beautiful terrace, gardens with rare species of plants and beautiful white peacocks roaming freely on the terrace. To enter the gardens and terrace of Isola Bella, 1st you need to head towards the palace. At the end of the palace, you will find the entrance to the Gardens and terrace.

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Isola bella palace

The Palace of Isola Bella has over 20 rooms, over 130 unique paintings, elegant furniture, and ancient household artefacts. The palace becomes interesting when you enter the unique grotto or cave-like rooms where the floors and walls are built with pebbles from the lake. The rooms were built on the theme of water and the rooms are decorated with the designs of shells, turtles, swans, dolphins and mermaids. The window of the grotto directly overlooks the beautiful Lake Maggiore and offers a stunning panorama of the lake.

Lake Maggiore from Milan. Isola Bella Palace grotto

After you exit from the palace, you can enter the beautiful gardens and terrace of Isola Bella. The terrace and gardens of Isola Bella are the most popular spots in Lake Maggiore. The Terraces of Isola Bella are built in a way to form the shape of a Ship where the different floors of the terrace represent the different floors of a huge ship sailing through the blue waters of Lake Maggiore. Each of these terraces offers magnificent views of Lake Maggiore from all sides. Each of the floors is connected by stairs and surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees that are rare to find in Europe such as citrus and camphor. The flower gardens planted around each of the terraces elevate the beauty of Isola Bella.

Lake Maggiore from Milan

The main highlight of the Isola Bella is The White peacocks that roam freely around the terrace. It is said that the white peacock represents the ancient gods, and they are brought to the island to elevate the beauty of the island and to represent the ancient gods. People are curious to see these magnificent birds roaming freely. If you are lucky, you may witness the magical sight of these birds expanding and rattling their feathers.

Important note: Consider that the Gardens and terrace of Isola Bella are typically closed in Winter months (from November to February).

To explore Isola Bella and its terraces, you would need around 2 to 3 hours. By the time you finish exploring Isola Bella, it must be evening, head back to the ferry terminal and catch the ferry to Stresa.


Lake Maggiore from Milan. Stresa

Stresa is a beautiful town located on the coast of Lake Maggiore and well connected to nearby cities like Milan and Turin. Stresa was built and developed by the same wealthy Borromean Family. Before the era of the Borromean family, Stresa was a small fishing village. Later, the Borromean family took control of the area and developed the town into a popular resort destination. In the present day, Stresa is a holiday abode for many wealthy people around the world.

By the time you reach Stresa, it must be evening, and you must be tired. Therefore, once you get out of the ferry terminals, walk towards the city centre, particularly to the Piazza Cadorna where you can find some shops for your souvenir shopping, snacks, clothes, etc.

If you have some time left after the shopping, you can roam around the beautiful streets of Stresa around the coasts of Lake Maggiore.

Finally, you can Head back to the train station to catch the return train to Milan and end your day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan. In the evening, there are direct trains run from Stresa to Milan at 17.23, 18.23, 18.36, 19.23, 20.36, 21.23. You can catch any return train back to Milan depending on your pace.

Note: Always check train timing before planning a trip on the Official Trenitalia page.

Best Time to visit Lake Maggiore from Milan:

Lake Maggiore from Milan

The best time to visit Lake Maggiore is anywhere between March to October. However, it’s better to avoid peak summer months like July or August since it gets too crowded during those times. To avoid crowds, it is always better to visit Lake Maggiore from Millan during shoulder seasons like March, April, May and October.

Avoid visiting Lake Maggiore during the Winter months since in the winter, you can still explore the lake, but you cannot enter the gardens and palaces of the Isola Madre and Isola Bella. The Gardens and palace of Isola Bella and Isola Madre are typically open for visitors from March (or Mid of march to the end of October). For the year 2024, Isola Madre and Isola Bella planned to remain open for visitors from 16th March to 3rd November.

Guided Day trips to Lake Maggiore from Milan

If you don’t want a self-guided trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan, you can also join a Guided tour operated by private touring companies where the transport will be provided by private vehicle. We have mentioned some best-guided tours of Lake Maggiore from Milan for a comfortable and top-notch experience: -

You will be accompanied by other visitors and together you will be transported to Lake Maggiore in a private air-conditioning vehicle.  You will be directed by a Knowledgeable guide who will give you all the information about Lake Maggiore.


If you don’t like to travel with other people, then you can choose a private tour with a private vehicle from Milan accompanied by a driver who is also a guide.


We hope that you liked this article and that it will help you to plan a perfect Self-guided day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan. Please let us know in the comment section if you have any queries about exploring Lake Maggiore. We will be very happy to help you. Also, check our other blogs for the best destinations to visit in Italy and Europe.


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