Isola Bella, one of the main islands of Lake Maggiore, used to be a bare strip of land lost in the middle of the lake, a home for fishermen, just like the neighboring island 'Isola Superior'.
But thanks to the Borromeo family, the bare rock has been patiently replaced by a collection of wonders. Almost unreal. First, its palace built in the 17th century with its incredibly high ceiling rooms, marble statues, tapestries, neoclassical stuccoes and extravagant grottoes decorated with millions of shells and pebbles. Napoleon enjoyed this exceptional spot with Josephine de Beauharnais: one of the rooms carries his name (Sala di Napoleon).
Second, its grandiose Baroque gardens organized in 10 different terraces, stacked on the top of each other and creating an amazing pyramid of vegetation, statues, fountains and basins.
Capped by a Unicorn, this pyramid is an extraordinary display of 17th century obelisks and statues representing the seasons, winds and rivers. Almost oppressive !
The whole structure was artificially designed to resemble a vessel sailing the turquoise waters of Lake Maggiore, the bow being represented by the Palace and the stern by the gardens.
Some lazy deities passively overlooking the formal front garden, undisturbed by the flow of visitors.
Beautiful geometrical stair ornaments.
A harmonious view of a side terrace, almost looking like a "traditional " garden alley.
Not a wall or balustrade without flowers or terracota containers.
Here is a view from the top of the pyramid of one of the lower formal gardens. On the opposite side of the lake is the village of Verbania.
Another lower terrace with its intricate hedges outlined by colorful summer flowers.
Isn't it splendid ?
We can clearly see the pyramidal effect of the multi-level terraced gardens.
Along one of the alleys. the charming company of a few peacocks.
A few shady steps, where flowering containers alternate with the ancient vases, leads us to the lower level of the "vessel".
A very pleasant stroll by the water, embellished by the red hibiscus and yellow lantanas. What a nice contrast with the peaceful waters of the lake.
An army of gardeners must be working on the site to maintain so many plants in such amazing condition !
The end of the vessel
A majestic exit to a theatrical display of architecture, landscaping and colours.