The group of Borromean Islands is a magical place to say the least, these islands are in fact the beautiful jewels of the lake, creating emotions that combine together for an amazing experience as far as architecture and landscape are concerned. The Borromean Islands (Isol Boromei in the local dialect) are located in Lake Maggiore, in an arm of the lake called Borromean Gulf. They include three bigger islands (Isola Bella, Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori), a little islet (San Giovanni) and a bigger islet (la Malghera).
A ship floating on the blue waters of Lago Maggiore, that is what Isola Bella looks like and it is exactly what its founder, Vitaliano VI Borromeo, had in mind. It is an extraordinary place, thanks to the perfect combination of architecture and nature. The island is mainly occupied by the garden of Palazzo Borromeo, a beautiful model of Italian garden, that marries beautifully with Baroque architectural elements, with an incredible variety of exotic plants. The palace showcases the living rooms and bedrooms on the noble floor, built between XVII and XIX century, on the lower part of the palace we can see the caves that captivated the attention of Stendhal. Until 1639 Isola Bella was a cliff inhabited by fishermen, with two little churches and a few vegetable gardens. The Borromeo family focused their interests on the islands and started the majestic project. Vitaliano I Borromeo was the first person to have a project in mind of an incredibile palace on Isola Bella.
L’Isola dei Pescatori o Isola Superiore
It is the only island of the group that is permanently inhabited, in fact there is a little village, where the houses have the typical characteristics of the typical local fishermen’s houses, with long balconies to let the fish dry. Isola dei Pescatori’s 57 inhabitants live off fishing and tourism. The little square, the narrow alleys in the centre of the village and the lakefront full of stores and restaurants give a unique and timeless character to this island. The island, that has been inhabited for at least 700 years, has a church dedicated to San Vittore and a tree-lined panoramic viewpoint on the opposite side.
The biggest island in the Verbano area, Isola Madre is occupied by some buildings, but mostly by gardens. It was once called Isola di San Vittore, and later Isola Maggiore. Isola Madre is well-known worldwide for its elegant botanical collections, rare and original plant-related essences from every part of the world. Besides the luxurious English garden, we find the old palace, where the prestigious furniture of the Borromeo family are kept, and the family chapel, with a beautiful terracotta façade. The palace of Isola Madre is furnished with pieces from the different homes of the Borromeo family. The Venetian living-room is particularly beautiful, with its trompe-l’oeil walls that remind those of a gazebo in bloom. Do not miss the section dedicated to the puppet shows of the Borromeo family.