Isola Madre is one of the largest islands of Lake Maggiore, while only 220m wide and 330m long. It is renowned for its botanical gardens which house rare vegetation species coming from varied climates and for their continuous spectacular flowering all year long.
Its Palazzo Borromeo was built in the 16th century by Count Lancillotto Borromeo and later extended by Renato I Borromeo in the Renaissance style. It is surrounded by 7 amazing terraced gardens, which cover the whole island. These gardens were created in the English style for count Vitaliano Borromeo in the late 18th century and have basically remained unchanged since then. Included amongst its famous visitors are Napoleon Bonaparte, who enjoyed hunting in these gardens and Gustave Flaubert, a 19th century French writer, who called Isola Madre 'an earthly paradise'. Following the 'Africa Avenue', which benefits from temperatures four degrees higher than the northern part of the island, we arrive at the camellia garden, which is named after its beautiful 19th century espalier of camellias.
Interesting colorful arrangement of Coleus (Solenostemon)
Here is a gorgeous Davidia Involucrata. The flowers produced by the two large bracts look like handkerchieves hanging from the branch - hence the name 'Handkerchief Tree'.
A picturesque view of Pallanza from the small 18th century dock
Because the roots of the cypress (Taxodium) creepily stick out and create hunchbacks on the land, this area is called 'The Hunchback Meadow". In the upper part of the meadow are Himalayan tree Rhododendrons which so enjoy the conditions offered by the island, that they now form woods.
Many peacocks and pheasants are freely wandering on the lawn !
Along the path leading to the Palazzo is a beautiful Gynerium Meadow where the silvery flowers of the Pampas Grass floats in the air like silky feathers.
By the entrance of the Palace, is this impressive cypress from Tibet (Cupressus Cashmeriana 'Glauca"), which is the largest in Europe. With some painstaking care, it has survived the tornado that hit the island in 2006.
Sitting on the highest point of the island is the square shaped 'Palazzo', which gives a true reflection of the lifestyle of the time through its reconstitution of living areas, its collection of liveries, porcelain and dolls. On display is the 'Little Marionette Theaters' dating from the 17th to the 19th century.
Located in the center of the chapel square is a waterlily pool offering a real symphony of colors, where the blues of the lilies contrast with the green Nile Papyrus and the red and pink begonias.
The family chapel, built in 1858 is beautifully decorated with terracota.
Rivaling with colors, is the 'Avenue of the Palms' along the Palazzo. Its facade, covered with a Bougainvillea Glabra 'Cypheri' is the largest espalier on Lake Maggiore. So breathtaking !
An inviting spot to relax
and admire the contrast of the blue sky with the Nerium Oleanders
In 2002, Isola Madre was included in the prestigious English Royal Horticultural Society circuit, confirming the importance of its botanical garden. Whether amateur of romantic settings, ardent lover of botanics or lazy vacationer, do not miss a visit to Isola Madre. You will have a memorable visit ! To know more about Isola Madre Aside from Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore has a few other jewels to offer to its visitors, Villa Taranto and Isola Bella. They are all worth a visit !