The weather was dismal, raining like cats and dogs as we left Milan however, Carlos, our guide, was very positive, saying that we need only to venture into the rain to walk through the gardens of the Palace Borromeo, which, even when raining, is worth doing.
How right he was! The one and a half hour bus trip up to Lago Maggiore was a wonderful expose' of the history of Lombardy, narrated, of course, by Carlos, whose knowledge was amazing. The driver was excellent, as well, especially in the very slippery conditions.
Once we arrived at Stressa, Lake Maggiore still raining, we quickly got on to our boat and headed out into the lake to Isole Bella we had a fascinating tour of the Castle Borromeo, where our guide, Emmanuela, took us through this amazing place. She, like Carlos, was absolutely brilliant with her knowledge of the castle and Borromeo family. This tour lasted about an hour and covered the bottom two floors of the Castle - and caves underneath - because the family still use the upper floors. So, these are, of course, out of bounds. We were then able to venture out into the gardens and walk around the stunning gardens - huge lemons, grapefruit and ancient azaleas and other trees - for about an hour. In the rain! But - totally beautiful!
We then went back to our boat and went across to Fishermans' Island Isole Pescetore for lunch, at a family owned restaurant that Carlos had recommended and booked for our group. On the way over to the island we took a vote and decided to have a two hour lunch rather than one because of the weather! What a wonderful experience lunch was and not at all expensive the quality of the fresh lake fish offered was amazing and enjoyed by all who partook.
After lunch we returned to Stressa for an hour of free time. Due to the weather still raining, most of us found a wine bar or cafe and chilled out until our bus arrived and we started back to Milan.
My wife, Susan, and I cannot speak highly enough of Carlos and Emmanuela and the tour company, Zani Viaggi. We highly recommend this trip. If you can do it on a sunny day it will be a fantastic experience, if not a sunny day, it is still worthwhile on a wet one.