Friday, July 6, 2012

Stresa Travel: A Guide to Lake Maggiore Ferries

One of the things that our super front of house girls, Marta, Laura and Carla, have to explain the most is the mystery of ferry travel and the seemingly endless types of ticket!

At first glance it can be difficult to decide what is the best value ticket for what you would like to do.So I thought I'd try and tell it straight: a short definition of the three main ticket types and a few popular scenarios with the best value ticket. I hope that this goes some way to helping you negotiate the timetables and tickets.

(23/02/15 Updated prices for 2015)

Lake Maggiore Ferry
The three main ticket types
  1. Standard return tickets: these tickets are for travel to and from two points with no stops on the way (senza fermate intermedie). 
  2. Special return tickets: these allow you to travel between two points with stops on the way (con fermate intermedie)
  3. Rover Tickets (Libera Circolazione): these tickets allow you to travel between two points and all the stops in between, for one calendar day. The ticket expires when you get back off the ferry at your starting point. 
I would like to visit all three Borromean Islands in one day and I want to be flexible
In this case the ticket you're looking for is a Libera Circolazione or what we call a Rover Ticket. This type of ticket allows you to travel between Stresa, Isola Madre, Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella as much as you would like and in what order you would like all day. The ticket expires when you return to Stresa. With 2015 prices this costs €16.90 per adult, €13.60 for over 65's Monday to Friday (not public holidays) and €8.50 per child 4-11 years.

Stresa Ferry Station
I would like to visit all three Borromean Islands in one day and don't mind sticking to a set itinerary
If you're willing to be a little less flexible then you can save even more if you get one of our Super Saver Tickets! They are less flexible because you need to visit the islands in a set order. With 2015 prices this costs €13.90 per adult and €7.00 per child 4-11 years. So you save €3.00 per adult ... enough to treat yourself to an ice cream! There are also discounts for over 65's.

I would only like to visit Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori in one day
This is where you can make even more of a saving. The ferry company has a special ticket which enables you to visit Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella from Stresa for just €9.60 per adult and €5.20 per child 4-11 years.

I would only like to visit one place in one day
If you just want to visit one place, with no other stops on the way, then the best value option is a standard return ticket. For example, say you want to just visit Villa Taranto from Stresa. With 2015 prices a standard return ticket costs €12.40 per adult and €6.20 per child 4-11 years whereas a Rover Ticket as far as Villa Taranto costs €20.70 per adult and €10.40 per child 4-11 years.

Stresa Ferry Station
I'm 65 years or over and I would like to know if I get any discounts on the ferries
There is a discount for standard return tickets for people aged 65 and over, Monday to Friday (except public holidays). For 2015 there are discounts on Rover Tickets Monday to Friday (except public holidays.

We're a family and we would like to know if we get any discounts on the ferries
All children under 4 years travel free of charge as it is assumed they will not occupy a seat. There is also a special family ticket. If two adults buy a full fare Rover Ticket, then one or two children 4-11 years can travel with them for free. The whole family group must travel together at all times.

I would like to do the Lake Maggiore Express
You can read more about the Lake Maggiore Express here. We suggest the best route to be departing by train from Stresa and return by ferry. Despite what is written on some websites, there is no advantage to buying a ticket before you arrive in Stresa. You can buy it once you arrive in Stresa or even the same day you would like to travel. Just come along to our travel office when you've decided when you'd like to travel. With 201 prices this costs €34.00 per adult and €17.00 per child 4-12 years.

Lake Maggiore Ferries
I would like to do the Lake Maggiore Express and visit the Borromean Islands
This, without a doubt, is the best value two days out you can have on Lake Maggiore. On one day you can take the Lake Maggiore Express and on another day you have a Rover Ticket valid on the whole lake, so you can use it to visit the Borromean Islands. It is a special two-day Lake Maggiore Express ticket and must be used on two consecutive days. With 2015 prices this costs €44.00 per adult and €22.00 per child 4-12 years, total for the two days.

I've heard about Holiday Cards - what are they?
Holiday Cards are Rover Tickets that are valid for three or seven consecutive days on the whole of the lake. In our experience it is almost impossible to travel for three consecutive days and make this ticket worthwhile. Depending on what you would like to see, the seven day ticket might be the right option for you. With 2015 prices a three day card costs €65.00 per adult and €33.00 per child 4-11 years and a seven day card costs €83.00 per adult and €42.00 per child 4-11 years. 

Can I and should I buy any of the above tickets before I arrive in Stresa?
The simple answers are no and no! All the tickets above can be bought anytime after you arrive in Stresa, right up to the time of travel. Seats or specific ferries are not reserved, so you can even decide last minute and not be disappointed.

On the ferry!
What about the hydrofoil?
None of the above offers or tickets are for travel on the hydrofoils (marked in red on the ferry timetables). To travel on the hydrofoil you will need to book at our travel office in Stresa, or at the ferry station. There is a supplement that must be paid by everyone travelling, even free children.

**Please note that none of the above tickets include any entrance tickets or meals. They are purely transportation tickets**

Phew! It's quite a lot to get through but I've tried to keep each explanation short and to the point. To buy tickets or for any further questions about the ferries just come into our Travel Office on the lakefront opposite the ferry station car park. We speak English, French and German and we are official ticket agents for the Lake Maggiore Ferry Company.

To download full timetables and fare structures visit

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci


  1. just found your blog. we are coming to stresa in may and are very excited. thanks for all the info. k and p

  2. Hi there - thank you for your comment. We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog. Don't forget to check our main website for more information about visiting Stresa We hope you enjoy your visit. Sarah

  3. Hi,
    My friends and I want to do "the lake Maggiore Express" in one day and all three Isole Borromee in another day. We want to travel between the islands on our own.(flexible time). I beleive there is a joint 1-day ticket for the Isola Bella palazzo and the Isola Madre gardens costs 17€ for adults. .So how much twould that be?
    What's the earlier train we can catch from Milan to Stresa and when is the last train from Stresa to Milan? The itinerary found on the internet doesn't help much. I was told that there are about 12 trains from Milan to Stresa and when I looked at the timetable the first train is around 1:00 pm which makes impossible to do the trip we want.

    1. Hi Eria, As it would seem you are staying in Milan and I will need to explain a few things about doing the Lake Maggiore Express from there, can I ask you to send me an email to . You don't need to repeat all the information above, it is just so I have an email address to reply to instead of doing it all here on the blog comments. Thanks, Sarah

    2. Hello again, I've seen your email in my inbox this morning and I'll get back to you today. Thanks, Sarah

  4. hi Sarah,
    I'm thinking of taking my husband to Stresa for the day (we live in the French Alps very near La Thuile in Italy), and I wondered what time we should get there in order to be able to visit the islands on a rover ticket? How long is the journey between islands and what time do the ferries stop in the evening? Would be very keen to have a good (but relaxed - ie not silver service type posh restaurant)recommendation for a delicious Italian lunch...Thanks so much! Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for your message - what a wonderful place you live in! I actually worked one winter season in La Thuile in 1998 and loved the area.

      At the moment the ferries leave Stresa for the Islands about every 30 minutes and the ride to Isola Bella is only 10 minutes. From there it is a 5 minute hop to Isola Pescatori. Then from Isola Pescatori to Isola Madre it is about 20 minutes. I would estimate about 1.5 hours each for Isola Bella and Isola Madre. Isola Pescatori is a very small village so you can really decide to spend as little or as much time there as you wish. It is also an ideal lunch spot! My personal favourite place is Ristorante Belvedere and their website is Good food and service but not too posh!

      So, as you have quite a drive to start the day I would say if you aimed to be here by 10.00 you would be fine. There's a ferry at 10.00 and the next one is 10.30 so either of them would be good to start your day.

      I hope that helps but if you've any more questions then please ask.


  5. Hi, I wish to know can I pre-book ferry ticket from Locarno to Stresa via internet. Pls provide website if is available

    1. Hi - thank you for your comment and question. You cannot book your ferry ticket from Locarno to Stresa - the ferries are very big and have no problem for capacity.

      The only service you can book is the hydrofoil as it has limited seats (you can book the hydrofoil at

      A one way Stresa to Locarno ticket costs CHF36.70 and the supplement for the hydrofoil is CHF5.70.

      If you have luggage (other than an ordinary day-pack) then please check out conditions of carraige for luggage at

      Please note that the ferry (and the hydrofoil) do not operate everyday but you can check timetables here: (scroll down and you can download PDF versions)

      I hope this helps and you have a great trip!

      Viaggi Tomassucci

  6. Hi - What a great site. Will bookmark it for sure. We are hoping to come to the area for a week with our 3 young children in late May. We are currently looking at staying in an apartment in Isola Pescatori. I thought this looked idyllic and loved the idea of the ferries (we had a great time in Venice last year jumping on and off the river taxis). But I'm wondering if it will be difficult for us relying so much on the ferries, as they do not run as frequently as some of the river taxis in Venice. I see your website says you can get a weekly pass - would you recommend this for us....

    Many thanks, Lucy

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Dear Lucy,

      Many thanks for your kind comments. Just incase you haven't seen it we also have our main site

      Isola Pescatori is an idyllic place to stay - especially in the evening when the day-trippers have all gone home. However I just want to make you aware that the ferry service finishes around 7pm and the taxi boats are only available in the evening if you have booked in advance (this could be pricey).

      With the weekly pass I always advise people to work out what they might like to do each day and then tot up the tickets to see if the weekly pass is worth the money or not.

      If you send me an email at I will send you the full price chart for 2013 so you can get an idea what the ferries cost for separate journeys. I'm afraid the 2014 prices haven't been published yet.

      Best regards, Sarah

  7. Hey,

    I wrote an email to, but for sure, I'm writing here, as well :)

    Im Zsofi, come from Budapest and one of my dream was to travel to Stresa and visit Isola Bella :)
    Now Im reading forums, the official website of Stresa and I was finding your blog which is very useful :)

    I would have some questions - hope you can help me :)
    1. Is there a direct line from Malpensa Aeroporto to Stresa?
    2. I will arrive in the afternoon in May - will be enough to visit the Borromeo Islands, mainly Isola Bella?
    3. On the second day I d like try this Lago Maggiore Express. How does it work? Can I pay a ticket for the full trip or do I have to pay at the transfer points? Do you have a time table from Stresa to Stresa (I prefer the trip Stresa-Locarno-Domodossola-Stresa) or if you recommend, I m very open for it :)

    Thanks in advance!
    Best Regards
    Zsofi (Sofia) Hemeder

    1. Dear Zsofi, I see that Luca has replied to your emails regarding airport transfers. An afternoon - say 3 hours - would certainly be enough to visit Isola Bella and Isola Pescatori. Yes, the ticket for the Lake Maggiore Express is one ticket that covers all the different parts of the journey and it can be purchased at our travel office. You can download the timetables on our website here: . We look forward to seeing you in Stresa.
      Kindest regards,

  8. Hello. I would like to know if there are any other boat travel options...other than Ferry or way, from Locarno to Stesa? Thanks for your help..Linda

    1. Hello Linda, The only way from Locarno to Stresa by boat is the ferry or hydrofoil. Otherwise you would need to catch the Centovalley railway to Domodossola and change train to get to Stresa. Please ask if you have any further questions. Kindest regards, Sarah

  9. Hi!
    Nice website with a lot of info.....but I did not see the prices for cars, e.g. from Laveno to Intra.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hello Riccardo,
      You can find the fares for the car ferry Laveno-Intra here
      If you have any further questions then please ask.
      Have a good evening,

  10. Hi!
    As we plan to visit Stresa on September 4th /we have to arrive there by train at about 12.30 p.m./ - please tell me the following:
    We'd like to visit the Borromeo Islands - if it is possible the three of them and to see the beauty of each one - which ticket is better to be bought Rover or Super Saver Ticket? What is the idea of the Super Saver Ticket - to go to the first island - to visit it - to go the other one, etc.
    Did I understand right?
    At what time we have to be on the last ferry?
    Please advice ...
    Thank you in advance,
    Diana Gerasimova

    1. Dear Diana,
      The difference between a Rover Ticket and a Super Saver is that with a Rover you can visit thengs in the order you like, with a Super Saver you need to visit in a specific order. But with both you visit the three Islands.

      Now, are you planning to visit all three on the 4th September afternoon? I would allow 1.5-2 hours each for Madre and Bella and an hour for Pescatori. It would be a rush to visit all three and have lunch in one afternoon.

      Madre and Bella close at 17.30. You can downlaod the timetables here

      Many thanks,

  11. i will arrive at Stresa train station at 9.40 and need to leave Stresa at 17.00 same day. Can i leave my lugguge bag at the station and take the tour to Isola bella & pescatori? from where I can buy the tickets?

    1. Hi - I think you have also sent us an email so I will reply to you by email. Kindest regards, Sarah