Isola Bella – Lago Maggiore

Whether inspired by the Gothic spires of the nearby Duomo of Milan or obsessed to formulate an imaginative pyramidal Italian version of Versailles, the Borromeo family’s island showcases, Isola Bella and Isola Madre, make for Lake Maggiore’s unrivaled architectural and botanical wonders. Isola Bella’s grandiose palazzo and over-the-top gardens are in stark contrast with the more reserved Isola Madre, an Arcadian showcase for some of Europe’s most extraordinary species of trees, flowers and shrubs where for the past several centuries its magnolias, myrtles and rhododendrons have all ‘exceeded their maximum growth. A former Tuscan family exiled to Lombardy during the Quattrocento, the Borromeo family rebuilt their fortune and power during the following several centuries, acquiring vast swaths of land around Lake Maggiore. In 1632 Count Vitaliano Borromeo began developing islands in the lake, turning once unembellished natural escarpments into palatial picturesque environments, reflecting the Borromeos’ incomparable social stature. Thus, among several of their endeavors, Isola Bella and Isola Madre were transformed into grand residences, while a third island, Isola Pescatori, was left as a fisherman’s island.

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