Borromean Island archipelago is placed in the hearth of Lake Maggiore, in the area called Borromean gulf, with stresa on one side and Pallanza on the other.
In Fourteenth century, the powerful Borromean family native from Firenze but living in this area became the owner of these islands and started their transformation, building palaces and creating gardens, overall a breath-taking beauty heritage. The family still owns Isola Bella and Isola Madre, besides two cliffs known as Castles of Cannero, on top of which you can see the ruins of two medieval fortresses.
Our suggested tours to discover the Borromean gulf
Undeniably the most famous island, a masterpiece of human talent set as a jewel on the stretch of water of Lake Maggiore.
The gorgeous Borromean palace strikes immediately the visitor, but the magnificence of the Italian garden, positioned on ten terracings descending towards the lake boards, almost darkens its beauty. It is hard to say what touches more the tourist, probably the overall artworks which represent a Baroque triumph, offering splendour even to the less attentive visitor.
The palace and the gardens were thought as a whole of great scenographic effect, that is why the island took the shape of an imaginary vessel. Indeed, the villa was identified with the bow deck (northern part) and the garden with the poop deck (southern part) of a ship. Many important architects worked on this concept, such as Giovanni Angelo Crivelli, Filippo Gagnola and Carlo Fontana from mid Seventeenth century to mid Nineteenth century as well as Giulio Galliori, Cosimo Morelli, Giuseppe Zanoia and Luigi Canonica more recently. After centuries of works, Prince Vitaliano X Borromeo Arese (1892-1982) completed the palace by building the Great Hall (1948-1952), the northern façade and the dock in the upper end of the island (1948-1958).
The biggest Borromean Island. A huge floating botanical garden.
Thousands of plants manage to recreate their habitat and grow luxuriantly, giving birth to bizarre colour combinations, which would make dazzled even the bravest painter. By walking lazily through the garden’s boulevards, your mind runs immediately to the distant countries of origin of some plant types. You will be astonished by the view of these plants, which familiarized so well with the surroundings. Everything here seems to be moving slowly and lightly. Only the call of cheerful parrots or the rock of majestic peacocks doing circles with their tails detach the lucky witness of this beauty from the laxity instilled by the garden.
Formerly called Isola di San Vittore due to the presence of a chapel consecrated to this Saint, the island is likely to be the first one to have been inhabited. The first works to transform it into a private residence were required by Earl Lancillotto Borromeo in early Sixteenth century. During the last decades of this century, the island lived a period of frenzied building activities, thanks to Renato I Borromeo (at that time renamed Renata) and some important architects such as Pellegrino Tibaldi, Crivelli and Filippo Cagnola. Late Eighteenth century the place had the aspect which you can see today. The most recent great architectural work was the family chapel, requested by Vitaliano IX in 1858 and made by architect Defendente Vannini.
It is the smallest island, but not less charming than the other Borromean islands
It welcomes the tourist with its ancient paths, its typical restaurants, its unespected views which suddenly appear to the eyes and equally suddenly change or disappear, puzzling and delighting their guests while they walk through the tight alleys or the steep rock stairs. You will have the impression of being in an ancient world made of calm and joie de vivre, as well as fishers reparing their nets.