The Isola Bella

2 iStock_000017787112LargeThe Isola Bella is a triumphant combination of man-made and natural beauty, thanks to the wealthy Borromeo family…

Acquired by Carlo III Borromeo in 1630, this stunning island was originally called isola inferiore. Finding that name somewhat unfitting to its serene beauty – and no doubt wanting to make an indelible mark on the region – the wealthy count renamed it after his wife, Isabella. When he first purchased the island, along with the other Borromean namesakes on Lake Maggiore, it was nothing but a rocky crag, home to a small fishing village. Under his financial influence, an elegant palazzo was built at the peak of the island and there were even plans for a casino. His sons, however, had other ideas. Inherited by Vitaliano VI and Giberto III Borromeo, they decided to build intricate terraced gardens. Their vision was to make Isola Bella appear as a ship sailing across the lake – an impression that is still apparent today. The palace and gardens were completed in 1671, but the Borromeo family has continued to tamper as recently as 50 years ago. Vitaliano X Borromeo, the most recent descendant, completed the finishing touches by adding a tree-lined jetty.


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