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!


  1. Great photos! This evening there was a mass on the beach and after the service they let off chinese lanterns and had a pyro-technic display. There are going too be fireworks later tonight - you can't say that life is dull here... x

  2. Oh Clare, that must have been beautiful! I hope you took photos. I miss Italy. I had such a lovely time.xx


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