At long last, I’ve made my return to my favorite country. Ok, it’s only been 6 months, but frankly that’s too long for my standards; As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
While living in Munich for the month, I had the opportunity to travel to Milan for a weekend. Alessandro and I decided to vacate the city for the day and take a trip to Lago Maggiore to visit the Borromean Islands, or Isole Borromee.
The lake itself is comparable to the famed Lago di Como – vast, blue, and surrounded by mountains, with quaint towns only a boat ride away. It is shared by Italy’s Piedmont and Lombardy regions, as well as Switzerland’s Ticino region.
The islands were purchased by the prominent Borromeo family in the 16th century, whose descendants still own them today. The three principal islands are Isola Madre, Isola Bella, and Isola dei Pescatori, which today are destinations for summertime lake dwellers.
The largest of the islands, Isola Madre served as a private residence for the Borromeo family. Here lies a large palace with sweeping views of the lake and a peculiar set of collectables, namely puppets and dolls. While this palace is undoubtedly stunning, I wouldn’t say it’s the most striking royal home I’ve ever seen in Europe.
While the palace is certainly nothing to sneeze at, perhaps the best thing this island has to offer is its gardens. Laden with exotic plants, these gardens surround the palace on all sides and create a lush oasis in the midst of an otherwise nautical environment. Besides the lavish vegetation, there’s even a collection of peacocks! Birds will forever gross me out, but I have to admit that watching a peacock do its thang in real life is pretty neat.
A baroque beauty, the palace located on Isola Bella outshines its counterpart on Isola Madre. With intricate molding, an inviting pastel color palette, and ornate furnishings, this palace is truly a lakeside paradise. And of course, there’s views. Also interesting about this palace is its underground “grotto” made of cobblestones, which lets passerby cool down by whole degrees when they’re inside of it.
This island also boasts breathtaking gardens, though not as “green” as those on Isola Madre. The gardens here are more courtyard-like, with an awe-inspiring series of statues fixated in the center. Upon first seeing the structure with a cloudless blue sky as it’s backdrop, I’ll say that I felt some type of way.
Isola dei Pescatori
The least “impressive” of the islands, Isola dei Pescatori is the only one no longer owned by the Borromeo family. It’s also the only one with year-round inhabitants (57 of them to be exact). While there isn’t a whole lot to see on this island, it’s teeming with (mostly seafood) restaurants and gift shops, ready to dazzle tourists.