In 1632, Count Vitaliano Borromeo began the construction of the monumental Baroque palace and its fantastic terraced gardens, which are dedicated to his wife Isabella D'Adda - what a wonderful memory to her!
A visit to the house is usually taken first, admiring the fine paintings, furniture and tapestries followed by walking through the delightful gardens.
Luino, on the Lombardian side of lago Maggiore, is just a few kilometres from the Italian-Swiss frontier. Its a popular place to visit for its large and colourful market - easy with its boat and rail connections. Don't forget to take time to wander along the promenade too for lovely views of the lake.
The beautiful Borromean islands, situated in front of Stressa, are the main attraction of this area. The Borromean archipelago - Is. Bella -Madre - Pescatori - with their palaces and ornate gardens make a wonderful day out on the lake. With a boat ticket for the day you will have time to visit all three.Check out the website for opening times, costs and audioguide facilities etc..
The island is a private property and visitors must pay a fee. It is possible to buy a combined ticket that includes visits to the park and the palace of the Isola Bella as well as the visit to the park and palace of Isola Madre. Travellers who do not want to visit the island, and just make a stop here to take a few pictures of the lake, will find that the only place which is accessible without a ticket is a short lane leading to a cafe. Even this, however, is worthwhile, because the view is stunning.
The only house on this island is the Palazzo, built by the Borromeo family of course. Its architect was Pellegrino Tibaldi, and the work started in 1585.
The palace has two main entrances, the one I show in my second picture is called Kashmir entrance, because of the big tree in front of it. It is a Kashmir cypress (Cupressus Cashmeriana) from the Himalaya. Now this tree is not as strong and beautiful as it used to be, because it was seriously damaged by a whirlwind in the summer of 2006.
If you have a cold, I recommend to postpone a visit to this island to when you feel better, because if your sense of smell is impaired you will miss part of the pleasure. The colours and the scents you will find will depend of course from the time of the year. If you visit the park in springtime, you will be able to enjoy the wisterias: follow the directions to these steps to find them.
It's the first island the boat stops at leaving from Stresa, as it's the closest. In my opinion, it's the most beautiful! There is a huge villa with incredible park that is open only from mid March to October, so if you want to visit the exquisite gardens, keep that in mind. Out of season most of the facilities will be closed, but still it's extremely beautiful to see and look around!
Intra is the most populated town on lake Maggiore and industrial but it was a good place to go shopping wihout being at touristic prices. It has a large ferry service here - including car and coach transers acrosss to the Lombardian side to places such as Luino and Laveno
Isola Madre is the widest of the Borromean islands and is just like a floating botanical garden. I hear they are more impressive than Isola Bella, very luxuriant and tropical - unfortunately we didn't get very far on the island - there was an entrance fee to go the gardens and we were running short of time as we stopped off at different places around the lake.- so thats something for another visit.
Somewhere along the lakeside, there is this very old ruined fortress, it looks like cut off in half at the top, and it is right beside the majestic ultra fancy de luxe hotel, and on the other side there is super luxurious villa that looks like a castle, which makes the contrast so strong!
Among the birds you will meet here, the ones that will get more noticed are certainly the peacocks. After all, their mission in life is being beautiful, and making sure that everybody notices. You will find normal peacocks and also white ones. If you want to take pictures, you can rely on the collaboration of these birds: they will be happy to pose.
Those who created this garden had a taste for the exhotic not only with regard to plants, but also with birds. For me "The Little Blue Bird" was the title of a play, because I had never seen a blue bird before coming here. In this island I have also met for the first time a Chinese pheasant.
Another wonderful island belonging to Isole Borromee, the next stop of the boat after Isola Bella. It's a fishermen's island and it's full of little narrow streets with lake view of course, fishermen's nets and cute cafes and restaurants. In the winter there are mostly works undergoing around entire island, and there is not more than 10-15 people permanently living there. In the summer it's a completely different story! :)
On the islands Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori there is a huge population of CATS! They are the true masters of the islands. They are protected there, kind of saint animals, and people leave them food, water and sand vessels on every step. You can find them in a great number on the windows, trees, in front of the door, behind every corner! You feel like inferior species in the Felineland! But they are so gracious and beautiful, and cute! :)
There is this palace at Isola Bella which is in front of the lovely yard reaching out the lake, where the trees grow out of the water and there are some docks. The palace behind is accessible all the year round, unlike the beautiful gardens on the other side of the island (pity!)