Within the popular Piedmont region in Northern Italy along the borders of Switzerland and France lies a city named Stresa and one of the most sought after lakes in the country, Lake Maggiore. Situated within predominantly mountainous region, the area closest to Lake Maggiore also includes expanses of water, ancient sites, world class resorts and rice paddies as well. Cultural and natural hot spots, Lake Maggiore and Stresa welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. While much of the region offers unique things to see and do including gardens, museums, markets, other small towns, family activities, water activities, shopping etc, by far some of its most picturesque and popular destinations are the islands of Lake Maggiore called the Borromean Islands.
Stunningly beautiful and historically unique, these islands have been a favorite of local visitors for generations. Most popular as a resort for the nobles of Lombardy long ago, many of these beautiful and large villas dating back to the 1700’s remain; a tribute to the history and significance of the islands for generations.
Situated on the western site of the lake, the Borrromean islands lie in a wide gulf surrounded by mountains. Made up of 3 islands, the islands include Bella, Madre and dei Pescatori and were named for the aristocratic Borromean family who owned the islands in the 1500’s and 1600’s. While the Borromean family created literal paradises on the islands of Bella and Madre including luxurious residences, stunning gardens and more, the small island of dei Pescatori, home to an ancient fishing community, remained much as it had been for generations. Today each island presents its own unique experiences and appearances. From the characteristic old village of dei Pescatori to the 20 acre park and the grand English Style botanical gardens of Islola Madre, these islands welcome thousands of visitors each year.
Bella is the most popular of the islands. Famous for its Baroque palace and elaborate gardens, much of which dates back more than 400 years, visitors have the opportunity to both see and immerse themselves in the opulence of the past of Lake Maggiore.
Madre, the second of the “sisters” which also includes Bella and is home to the famous Palazzo Borromeo. Constructed between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Palazzo is filled with beautifully decorated rooms, terraces and of course, gardens. Visitors to this island are encouraged to take time to explore not only the villa itself on Madre but also the English Garden which dates back to the 19th century. Host to many unique species as well as topiary art and more. Once an orchard which was begun in the 17th century, Count Vitaliano IX Borromeo, a passionate lover of botany, transformed it into the garden you see today over a span of 50 years.
Isola dei Pescatori is the only island which is inhabited still today continuously. One of the most picturesque islands, this island is still home to around 50 people and is noted for its well preserve architecture and way of life.
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