Villa Taranto, Pallanza, on Lake Maggiore, Italy

The actual Villa Taranto is now used by the
the Prefecture of the new Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.

The tourists who flock to Lakes Garda and Como are missing the delights on offer in Lake Maggiore. One amazing place we visited was the garden of Villa Taranto. David and I couldn't believe our luck as we wandered through this botanical wonderland. We barely met a soul! This little-visited oasis is a treasure, not to be missed. The villa, and its surrounding land, was originally bought by Captain Neil McEacham, a Scotsman. He designed a typically English garden to remind him of home. When he died, he gifted the gardens to the Italian state, so his work would live on after him.

 David strolls through the beautiful gardens, with only the 
twittering of the birds to disturb the silence

As his garden developed, McEacham began to collect plants from all over the world, resulting in over 20,000 varieties of trees and shrubs. There are over 300 varieties of Dahlias alone!

Winding paths weave through the so-called Dahlia Maze

We looked into a hothouse and saw some enormous leaves. They were huge, more than 2 metres across! They were the leaves of an Amazonian waterlilly, unfortunately, the flowers are noctunal, so we only saw closed ones. It must be a magnificent sight when they are open.

The waterlilies, from the upper reaches of the Amazon, 
more normal waterlilies can be seen in front of them.

Captain Neil McEacham lies in a small chapel, set among the gardens.

There was a large pond of stunning lotus flowers. Some in bud...

...and others blown, but still beautiful

The Fisher, a bronze statue by the Neapolitan artist Vincenzo Gemito,
stands guard over this terraced garden with its waterfalls and brightly coloured plants,set among the most perfect lawns I have ever seen.

The Villa Taranto Gardens, are spectacular in their beauty, and anyone visiting the area should really make an effort to visit them. They are quite unique.


Isolas Madre and Pescatore, Lake Maggiore

 Isola Madre in Lake Maggiore

Having explored one of the Borromee Islands, we wanted to look at the others, so we set off for Isola Madre. This, the largest of the islands, has been owned by the Borromeo family since 1500. It is dominated by the 16th century palace, and its surrounding botanical gardens. Access to the gardens is through the palace, only after completing the tour. Not wanting to trail through room after room of the palace, as we did on Isola Bella, we decided to have an ice-cream instead. As always, in Italy, it was delicious!

Jessica enjoys her ice-cream

Jessica makes sure her Grandpa gets the ferry times right

We caught the next ferry and headed for Isola Superiore, 
also know as Isola Pescatore (Fishermen's Island). 

Isola Pescatore is the home of a traditional fishing village, and is the only one of the islands that is not owned by the Borromeo family. Although still inhabited by fisher families, the prime economy of the island nowadays is devolved from tourism. The island is tiny, neasuring 350 metres by 100 metres, and is considered part of the nearby city of Stresa.

We walked through the quaint, narrow streets of the island

We lunched in the Casa del Caffe Vergnano, a small establishment 
in the middle of the island, that has been running since 1882.

After lunch, we visited the church of San Vittore, 
it dates back to the 11th century

It is very easy to travel around by ferry on Lake Maggiore. Once you have your ticket to your ultimate destination, it is possible to hop on and off at will at the stops between. It's such a stress-less way to travel!


Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, Italy

The terraced gardens of Isola Bella

From Clare's apartment, we often gazed across Lake Maggiore to the Borromee islands. We just had to go to see them for ourselves. The first one we visited was Isola Bella. This could be taken to mean 'beautiful island', as its  Palazzo and ornate well-kept gardens are lovely to behold. In fact, the island was named after Isabella Borromeo, member of a  dynastic family who have owned large tracts of land, in and around Lake Maggiore, since the fourteenth century.

The palace, on the left, with the church, dating from 1665, in the foreground

Building began on the Baroque palace and sumptuous gardens in 1632, by Count Vitaliano Borromeo, and completed by his son, Carlo, who named it after his wife. The Baroque palace, and its Italianate gardens, is a testament to past splendours.

The palace has beautifully manicured gardens

On our visit to the palace, we walked through room after room of luxury and opulence. There were exquisite Murano glass chandeliers, Flemish tapestries, and walls covered in rococo paintings. One extraordinary feature was the collection of faux grottos in the basement of the palace.  These were to escape from the heat of the summer, and had walls covered in intricate patterns of pebbles and seashells.

One of six grottos under the palazzo

The magnificent gardens have been developed over the centuries, and contain many rare plants and exotic flowers. The gardens are truly amazing. White Peacocks and their families, strut among the sumptuous vegetation, and ancient statues look down imperiously from on high.  As Charles Dickens said, in 1844, "For however fanciful and fantastic the Isola Bella may be, and is, it still is beautiful."

White peacocks strut freely around the gardens

We saw this mother peahen with her chick

The pyramid-shaped terraces are bedecked with statues, 
and a unicorn (the symbol of the Borromeo family) stands proudly 
at its apex, ridden by love.

If you look carefully at the above photo, you will see David in a bright blue shirt, standing on a terrace to the right.

Jessica peers over one of the balustrades of the terraces

I think this is meant to be Thor, with his hammer.

Jessica, checking on the ferry timetable; just to make sure her 
granny and grandpa knew what they were doing!

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