May 292016
 

Springtime in Italy — what a feast for the senses with blossoms in every shade of the spectrum and fragrances abounding. Mr. TWS and I stopped to smell the roses (actually, no roses in April, but hundreds of other varieties of flora) as we toured two amazing public gardens during our stay at Lake Maggiore in northern Italy’s Piedmont region.

Come along for a stroll in the gardens of Lake Maggiore

Basking in the sunshine among the lemon trees of Isola Bella

Basking in the sunshine among the lemon trees of Isola Bella

Isola Bella Palace and Gardens

Open from March 18 to October 23 (2016)
Isola Bella visitor information

On a picture-perfect day with a bright blue sky above, we sailed on Lake Maggiore’s calm waters arriving by boat from the lakeside town of Stresa to Isola Bella, one of the lake’s three Borromeo Islands.

Lake Maggiore from the palace and gardens of Isola Bella

Lake Maggiore from the palace and gardens of Isola Bella

The Borromeo family still uses two floors of the palace as a summer residence, but has opened 25 of its 100 rooms to the public. Our guide Vittoria Colombo provided a wonderful informative tour of the elaborate and surprisingly extravagant interior of the palace. She was able to point out things we would have missed on our own but also added anecdotes that filled in background and history.

Arcade separating terraces and floral representation of the family crest -- Photo credit: Emilia Grisetti

Arcade separating terraces with floral representation of the family crest — Photo credit: Emilia Grisetti

Then Vittoria took us outside for another treat — the palace’s elegant gardens, which are the real subject of this post. Azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, citrus trees, olive trees, and many more grace the magnificent gardens amid grand architecture and statuary.

Isola Bella seen from a boat on Lake Maggiore during our tour of the gardens of Lake Maggiore

The terraced gardens of Isola Bella seen from a boat on Lake Maggiore

Carlo III of the House of Borromeo began building the palace in 1632 for his wife Isabella (for whom the island is named), but it was completed by his sons, and the palace’s spectacular baroque gardens were completed by his grandson Carlo IV in 1671. The gardens have 10 overlapping terraces designed to resemble decks and the bow of a ship. The terraces are adorned with statues and staircases that complement the grandeur of the palace and were intended to convey power and wealth — and they certainly do.

Bursts of colorful blossoms on the trees of Isola Bella

Bursts of colorful blossoms on the trees of Isola Bella

Beautiful hyacinth -- Photo credit: Emilia Grisetti

Beautiful hyacinth — Photo credit: Emilia Grisetti

Plants and trees in bloom adorning the terraces of Isola Bella

Plants and trees in bloom adorning the terraces of Isola Bella

White peacocks freely roam the gardens of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore

A white peacock strolling the gardens of Isola Bella

White peacocks live in the gardens of Isola Bella giving visitors a thrill to see them strolling freely on the grounds. I wish that we had been able to see one of them open their feathers, but they must have been a bit shy when we were there.

The ornate exterior of Teatro Massimo on Isola Bella

Teatro Massimo

The statues adorning the Teatro Massimo amphitheater were created by Milanese sculptor Carlo Simonetta between 1667 and 1677. The top statue portrays a unicorn, a prominent feature of the Borromeo family coat of arms.

The Garden of Love on Lake Maggiore's Isola Bella

Isola Bella’s Garden of Love

As if being on a small island bursting with beautiful foliage and flowers surrounded by the deep blue waters of Lake Maggiore wasn’t romantic enough, Isola Bella has a special Garden of Love (pictured above and below). The red tulips planted at this time of year in the hedge designs seemed perfect for a garden of love, a nice ending to our tour of this beautiful and romantic place.

Garden of Love

Garden of Love

Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto

Open from March 16 to November 1 (2016)
Villa Taranto visitor information

We enjoyed more lush gardens in at the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, about 15 km north of Stresa along the shoreline of Lake Maggiore. The extensive walkways through 16 hectares of gardens provided a lovely walk where we saw many of Villa Taranto’s more than 20,000 plants, 80,000 blooming bulbous flowers, and over 15,000 border plants.

Strolling the beautiful hillside of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, one of the fantastic gardens of Lake Maggiore

Strolling the beautiful hillside of the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto

The hillside gardens were established in 1931 by Scottish Captain Neil McEacharn, satisfying his passion for botany and importing plants and seeds from all over the world. He once said, “A beautiful garden does not need to be big, but it should be the realization of one’s dream, even though it is only a couple of square metres large and it is situated on a balcony.” The spacious grounds and fabulous gardens clearly showed the hand of a man with a dream and a passion. He named the villa that he bought and garden that he built after one of his ancestors who was appointed the Duke of Taranto by Napoleon.

Tulips were the stars in April of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, Italy on Lake Maggiore

Tulips were the stars in April of Villa Taranto

April was an ideal time to be here and Dutch tulips were the highlight with blooms in every color imaginable.

Walkway through the tulips

Walkway through the tulips

Tulips of Villa Taranto, one of the beautiful gardens of Lake Maggiore

Romantic red tulips at Villa Taranto

A bed of purple and yellow tulips in the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto

A bed of purple and yellow tulips at Villa Taranto

Red and yellow tulips of Villa Taranto in April, one of the beautiful gardens of Lake Maggiore, Italy

One of many gorgeous varieties of tulips at Villa Taranto

A pathway of blue flowers and white tulips at Villa Taranto

A pathway of blue flowers and white tulips in the forefront at Villa Taranto

Although tulips were the seasonal stars of the show, there were pretty surprises seemingly at every step of the way and in every direction along the paths throughout the gardens as other floral varieties came into view — lilies of the valley, magnolias, forsythia, rhododendrons, poppies, mimosa, wisteria, camellias, cherry blossoms, and many more.

The diversity of color and bloom was everywhere at Villa Taranto

The diversity of color and bloom was everywhere at Villa Taranto

Beautiful displays of complementary colors among the blooms

Beautiful displays of complementary colors among the blooms

Interesting diverse blooms and colors in a single bed

Interesting variety of blooms and colors in a single bed

Red and yellow tulips that look more like roses at Villa Taranto, one of the beautiful gardens of Lake Maggiore

These red and yellow tulips look more like roses, don’t they?

Whether you are a garden enthusiast, botany expert, or just a person who appreciates the beauty of nature, be sure to stop at these gardens when you are visiting Lake Maggiore.

Thanks to EsteVillas and the Borromeo family for our lovely garden tours.

  4 Responses to “Bella Italia: The Gardens of Lake Maggiore”

  1. […]   Bella Italia: The Gardens of Lake Maggiore […]

  2. Bellissimo!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous, Cathy!
    I’m trying to imagine what it’d be like to live in or near one of these gardens. I agree: truly magical.

  4. Isola Bella has been on my bucket list for ages. These look fantastic!

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