Isola Madre is the largest of the Borromeo islands and the most characteristic one, with its atmosphere of silence, meditation and enchantment. Flaubert, in 1845, wrote that ‘Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world’.
The Borromeo Islands are a group of three small islands and two islets in the Italian part of Lake Maggiore, located in the western arm of the lake, between Verbania and Baveno to the north and Stresa to the south. Stresa is Lake’s Maggiore’s main resort since 19th century, with many luxury hotels, villas and easy access to the Borromeo Islands.
In 1501 Lancillotto Borromeo, one of the five children of Giovanni III Borromeo and Cleofe Pio di Carpi, introduced the cultivation of citrus fruit to the island, the plants being brought from Liguria. It is known for certain that olives were cultivated here; the produce may have been employed for sacred purposes. In 1501 Lancillotto began the construction of the family residence on the island, which in the 1580s was extended in the renaissance style by Renato I Borromeo. The Palazzo Borromeo was built on the remains of the early church, cemetery and perhaps castle of San Vittore. In 1978 the 16th century palace was opened to the public. The visit is interesting for the reconstruction of the antique interior decoration and for the liveries, dolls and ceramics collection. Exceptional exposition of “Puppet Theaters” from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Outside the Villa itself stands a magnificent Kashmir Cypress from Tibet, which is more than two hundred years old and is the largest example in Europe.
The Cappella Bianca, the family chapel of 1858, is also noteworthy; by contrast to that of Isola Bella, it contains no tombs or funerary monuments. Isola Madre is particularly famous for its flourishing azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, for the espaliers of citrons and lemons and for the collection of hibiscus and the Ginkgo Biloba. There is also a garden of exotic plants and flowers where white peacocks, parrots and pheasants flying in total freedom, give the cram of a tropical island. The other end of the Villa has an ornamentally decorated and planted Pavilion, from whence you descend down to the deck for boarding the boat.
If you’re looking for a prestigious destination, the Isola Madre is the perfect frame for a luxuriant wedding!