Thursday, May 5, 2011

Borromean islands, Beauty in Style

The Borromean Islands are a group of three small islands and two islets on Lake Maggiore. It is only a one hour drive from Milan to Stresa, I thought that this major local tourist attraction would be a good finale to my parents Italian holiday.  What better view than of water of Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains, very picturesque setting.

We pulled into the Stresa public car park parting the congregation of boat tour guides and were instructed to park in a certain spot.  Like seagulls to a potato chip, as soon as I opened my door I was attacked with offers of boat trips to the beautiful islands. Presuming I was being led to purchase tickets for the ferry, I instead bought 3 tickets for a private boat ride to the islands.  For 25€ each, (children free), we managed our own little boat and trips between the 3 islands.  Felt a bit like I was in a James Bond movie, (minus the swim suit, pistol and Martini.)
Private boat ride

Enjoying their boat ride
The name of the islands derives from the Borromeo family, which started acquiring them in the early 16th century (Isola Madre) and still owns some of them (Isola Madre, Bella, San Giovanni) today.
Isola Madre, the largest of the three, is also noted for its gardens, which are maintained from about 1823 in an English style. Its palace, though uninhabited, is splendidly furnished with 16th to 19th century Italian masterpieces and paintings.

Isola Madre

Hidden pathways in the gardens

Nature at work

Peaceful setting

View of Lake Maggiore and mountains every where you look

Children playing with the tame bird life

Chapel next to old residence

Beautiful flowers

Isola dei Pescatori or Isola Superiore is now the only inhabited island in the archipelago. It has a fishing village, many restaurants, a few galleries, some private residences and of course, tourist shops.

Lunch with a view

Isola dei Pescatori

Isola Bella, named for Isabella, countess Borromeo, was originally a large barren rock but now stands an attractive summer palace and an exquisit terraced garden.   This was a lovely place for the children to explore and would of been a lovely place for a picnic, (apart from the fact you can not sit on the grass and there was no picnic area).

Isola Bella

Ballroom was perfect for climbing on the couch and dancing for a crowd, (thought my prince)

Atrium had great acoustics for squeals (thought my prince)

The floors and ceilings were the most ornate inlaid designs and mosaics

Princesses legs would not work anymore when we reached the garden, she decided it would be best to sit on the stairs and collect rocks....
Rocks to feed to the hungry white peacock!

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