Friday, July 15, 2016


Earlier in the year when my good friend Philippe suggested we take a bike trip to the Italian lakes I was immediately on board. We had a free morning before our first ride in the afternoon on Lago Maggiore so we decided to take the ferry to visit Isola Madre.  This is the largest of the Borromean Islands and has been on my travel radar for a long time. We took the morning ferry from Verbania and began our little adventure.

The weather was magical as we began our journey. I have visited Lake Lugano and Como in the past, but this was my first time to visit beautiful Lago Maggiore.

Our first stop was "Villa Taranto".

The Villa's gardens, which are open to the public, were established in 1931 by Scotsman Neil Eacharn and contain thousands of plant species. 

 Next stop, "Isola Madre." 19th century French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, "It is the most voluptuous place I have ever seen in the world. Nature enchants you with a thousand unknown fascinations and you feel in a state of rare sensuality and refinement."

The Borromean Islands have been owned by the Borromeo family since the 16th century. They are one of the most important families in Italy to this day. In the 16th c. a large part of Northern Italy was called the Borromeo State and the family had full political and military power.

A unique Mediterranean micro-climate allows an amazing variety of tropical flora including palm trees, magnolias, lemon trees, and flowering plants everywhere. We paid a small entrance fee and wandered around on gravel paths. A wonderful fragrance filled the air.

We rounded a corner to find a sylvan glade with grass intensely green and soft.

Rare white peacocks love showing off their regal plumage.

I stopped to admire the gardens and the pond below. Frogs hopped on the lily pads and croaked at full volume.

Philippe admires the entrance to the 16th c. Palazzo Borromeo.

The palazzo is open to the public and is beautifully decorated with period furnishings and 16-19th c. paintings. A rare collection of marionettes and early puppet theaters are on display.

The dining room with a magnificent Murano glass chandelier was fabulous!

There is a small restaurant for lunch and every table has incredible views!

It is time to catch the return ferry to Verbania and get psyched for our week of cycling around the Italian Lakes. Lago Maggiore and Isola Madre were fabulous and exceeded all expectations. I understand you can rent the island for weddings! That would be some party!

Images: Dick Gentry, Brand Italia

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