The Borromean Islands, one of the most beautiful and aristocratic regions of Italy

“I am in the most beautiful place in the world.” This is how the French poet and aristocrat Montesquieu described the Borromean Islands, a group of islands located in Lake Maggiore, northern Italy, in the Piedmont region. Belonging to the Borromeo family since the 17th century, they are among the most aristocratic and beautiful in the trans-Alpine country. Hemingway has also fallen in love with its natural splendor, as have Napoleon, the Queen’s wife in the United Kingdom, Caroline of Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel, and more recently George Clooney, who owns a villa in Como, an hour’s drive away.

With the advent of spring the call Borome Stajion Borromeo Station attracts art lovers in every sense. Namely, this group of islands has magnificent palaces in the Baroque and Rococo style, private collections with paintings of Flemish and Italian Renaissance art, luxury hotels with spas and restaurants recognized in the Michelin guide. But, above all, the English-style gardens stand out, with more than 2,000 exotic species, some of which are impossible to admire in other corners of Italy or in our country.

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To get to the three main islands, Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella, you have to take a boat from the cities of Stresa, Intra or Verbania. There is a service every half hour. You can also choose to take a private boat and take a cruise through the Borromean Islands, which can extend to other islands in Lake Maggiore. Or make the jump to Lake Orta, where the Isola de Orta San Giulio is located, just a few kilometers from Val Grande National Park, bordering Switzerland.

The experience is unique. There is nothing more sensual and enjoyable than observing snowy mountains surrounded by spring vegetation while tasting spritz accompanied by Piedmontese and Tuscan cured and smoked meats, as prepared by many hotels in the area, such as Il Giardinetto Hotel & Restaurant, in Orta, or Hotel La Palma in Stresa.

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Isola Madre, an outdoor botanical garden

The Wisteria Staircase in Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Madre

Darius Fusaro

Starting at Intra, the first island on the itinerary is the largest, Isola Madre, with an eight-hectare outdoor botanical garden surrounding Borromeo Palace and its art gallery, complete with 19th-century Italian masterpieces. Constructed on five levels, it forms an authentic English-style botanical oasis where, in addition to contemplating thousands of exotic plant species, the visitor can stroll among brightly colored peacocks, pheasants, macaws and macaws.

The palace, whose construction began at the beginning of the sixteenth century and continued until the nineteenth century, was the residence of Count Lancelotto Borromeo, one of the sons of John III Borromeo and Cleof Pio de Carpi, the first owners of these islands. The Count even decided that, despite being in northern Italy, on a lake that freezes in winter, he was going to allocate land on the island for the cultivation of olives and the introduction of citrus and typical Ligurian fruits, which he commissioned to design the famous landscapes and gardeners. Some of the palm trees that decorate the gardens also date back to that period, which is unusual in these weather conditions.

A stroll through the elegantly decorated rooms of the palace takes you back to Italy of the Sforza dynasty

The palace with its Baroque decoration is a museum in itself and is open to the public. A stroll through its elegantly decorated rooms takes you back to the Italy of the Sforza dynasty, which employed Leonardo da Vinci and other great Milan artists. It was the role of the captain and defender of the freedom of the patriarch of Poromus during the first elections of the Ambrosian Republic that allowed him to acquire great wealth and buy the main islands.

Authentic luxury accommodation

The islands do not have their own accommodation, so the best stays are those offered by Hotel La Palma in the heart of Stresa. she has endless pool Which practically merges with the lake. The walls of the rooms at this luxury hotel are signed by Hermès and the furniture is by Cassina. Its panoramic spa lets you enjoy the benefits of a Scottish shower and relax in the salt room.

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The infinity-edge pool at the Hotel La Palma, in the heart of Stresa

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In Stresa there is also the Villa and Palazzo Aminta, a luxury hotel complex ideal for relaxing in the most elegant and exclusive surroundings. This villa has lush gardens bathed in the clear waters of Lake Maggiore and serves a romantic moonlit dinner at the prestigious I Mori Restaurant. Rooms are decorated with Venetian terrazzo floors, marble columns and exquisite tapestries on the walls. The perfect atmosphere for tasting the signature dishes or even tasting the wines of the region.

Stresa, for its part, is worth a visit to enjoy some of its gorgeous villas, such as the Ducale, from the end of the 18th century, and the only 20-minute cable car ride to the top of Mount Mottarone, at 1,492 meters where a small ski resort is intriguingly hidden.

Fans of the seventh art in Stresa will learn about some scenes from the movie “The Correspondence”

Lovers of the seventh art, especially the great Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, the author of the acclaimed book and an Oscar winner Paradiso CinemaIn Stresa, you will learn about some scenes from the film Correspondence (I will love you forever), with Jeremy Irons and Ukraine’s Olga Kurylenko as champions.

Isola dei Pescatori

Despite being called the twin island of Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori couldn’t be more different from its sister. We are faced with the only inhabited island of Borromeans, which has managed to preserve its rich folk culture despite the fact that only about 50 people live there. It’s an old fishing village with narrow, cobbled streets of the most scenic, with flowers in the windows and balconies where its residents lay the fish to dry in the sun. An ideal place to sample the varieties freshly caught in the lake and mostly cooked on the grill, visit the handicraft shops and enjoy the panoramic view over Lake Maggiore from its splendid vantage point.

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Panoramic view of Isola dei Pescatori, Lake Maggiore

Panoramic view of Isola dei Pescatori, Lake Maggiore

Getty Images / istockphoto

Every year on August 15, Madonna del Assunta is celebrated, a procession of fishermen’s boats around the island, all lit up like twinkling lights before a popular street dinner is held with a tasting of typical products, such as trout, lobster and grilled meat with Vegetables, pancakes, chocolate, almond or lemon.

beautiful island

Another must-visit gem is Isola Bella, whose name is due to the wife of Carlo III Borromeo, Isabella Dada. Its massive Baroque palace, built in 1632 and undergoing constant repairs and extensions until the 19th century, is much more architecturally imposing than the Isola Madre Palace. We are faced with a veritable royal palace in miniature, with halls and rooms so decorated that Italian art critics preferred to use the term kitsch to refer to it.

Isola Bella Palace Park

Isola Bella Palace Park

Darius Fusaro

Overwhelming would be the best adjective to describe the park and its ten interlacing terraces, with water features and sculptures by artist Carlo Simonetta. The pyramids with sculptures and flowers, whose gravitational force managed to conquer the admiration of Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine. Moreover, in 1935, Mussolini chose this palace as the venue for one of his international conferences.

The visit couldn’t be over without first visiting the cave below the palace, which is decorated with stunning mosaics in full color and in abundance of detail.

In short, Borroneas contains an infinite number of secret magic, whether natural or man-made, it is able to assert without any doubt that it is a paradise still unknown to many Europeans and one of the most wonderful corners in all of Italy.

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