Borromeo’s isles include three isles (Isle Madre, the biggest, Isle Bella, dedicated by Carlo Borromeo the 3rd to his wife Isabella, Isle dei Pescatori so called because its main practiced activity: fishing), a little isle named San Giovanni, located right in front of Verbania, and an even smaller one, Malghera, just a tiny bit bigger than a uninhabited rock.
It’s the largest of the Borromeo’s isles and the most peculiar because of the enchanted atmosphere: a garden of rare plants and exotic flowers where you can find peacocks, parrots and pheasants of all kind, giving you the sense of being in a tropical land.
Isle Madre is particularly famous for the flowering of azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias as well as for the ancient arbours of wisteria, Europe’s biggest cypress of Kashmir over 200 years old, the cedar and lemon trees, the collection of hibiscus and the Ginkgo Biloba.
Known as well as “Isola Inferiore”, until 1632 this small isle was a rock in the lake occupied by a small village of fishermen. There are two churches; one dedicated to Saint Vittore, from the 11th century, the other one dedicated to Saint Rocco.
Borromeo’s family, which original name was Vitaliani (from a location in Padua area), had a feud from the 15th century, given to them by Visconti’s family. This area of Lake Maggiore is called indeed “Borromeo’s Gulf”. Vitaliano Borromeo the 1st has been the first to project the amazing palace on isle Bella. After it has been commissioned by Carlo Borromeo in 1632. The palace has been dedicated to his wife, Isabella d’Adda, and realised by the Milanese architect Angelo Crivelli, which designed also the gardens.
Isle dei Pescatori
Know as well as “Isola superiore”, is the only isle of Borromeo’s archipelago to be inhabit. With 100m of width and 350 of length, it hosts a small village composed by characteristic houses with different floors (with long balconies to dry the fish), a small square and peculiar narrow alleys. The lakeshore is the main street that allows the 50 residents, which live by fishing and tourism, to move around by foot.
Inhabited from at list 700 years, the isle exhibit a small church dedicated to Saint Vittore and a beautiful overlook with trees on the other side of the isle. On summer there are plenty of tourists that occupy the alleys and buy artisan goods in the small market.
The 15th of August is famous for the procession of the statue of the Saint protector of the archipelago carried on a boat around the isles. The tourists and the residents may admire this event following it by boat.