Architecture & Interiors, Travel Notes

The Borromeo Palazza of Lake Maggiore

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On my oh! so memorable trip to the northern Italian lakes, we explored a succession of villas and gardens, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains and glittering water. This fabulous scenery and benign climate have attracted aristocrats and the wealthy for years. One of those families is the Borromeos, bankers and merchants of Milan who started acquiring islands on Lake Maggiore in the 16th century.

It is difficult to overstate the extravagant beauty and dramatic WOW! effect of the Borromeo Palace and terraced gardens located on Isola Bella, one of the three Borromeo-owned islands in the lake. Today’s post will reveal the interiors of this sumptuous palazza, a masterpiece of Italian Baroque 17th century architecture, its walls covered in priceless paintings, and elaborate decorative work, to include the ceilings. It took four centuries to turn this “rock of the lake into a place of delights.” Need I say more?

It is within these walls that the main wedding reception in 2015 of Princess Caroline of Monaco’s son, Pierre Casiraghi, and Beatrice Borromeo took place. What more appropriate setting could there be than this fanciful froth of Baroque details, work that began in the 17th century, and continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until 1948. By that year the grand Salon Nuovo, the northern facade, and the great pier were built, resulting in this current layout that we visited.

Further, the delicate, intricate terrazza floors are a study in the beauty of this Italian art.

The “Apartment of Grottos” became part of the palazza early on (1662), rooms for the summer located at water level to enjoy the cool breezes of the lake and the breathtaking panorama. The bizarre variety of materials (pebbles, lava, marble fragments, mica, stone-encrustations, and stucco) and the whimsical nature of the decorations (six separate themes) definitely produce a sense of wonder!

Of course, all accessible directly from the gardens.

Gardens that we shall visit next week…arrivederci.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

18 thoughts on “The Borromeo Palazza of Lake Maggiore

  1. There are no words – just your words – a sense of wonder! Thank you for sharing the beauty once again!

    1. I wish everyone of you could have been with me…I still can’t believe my eyes…xB

  2. Is it wrong…to gasp out loud…early in the morning…& frighten your hubs half to death…
    I can now, no longer, “open” your blog till he’s had coffee…anyway, “HOW DID they find SO MANY craftsman with SO MUCH TALENT??!?? Your photos!!!! franki

    1. It was an era…long, over 4 centuries, as well as long gone by…xB

  3. From toe to head, your pictures are a chef de cuisine’s FEAST for the EYES! I agree with Franki, that one should FINISH coffee before opening your blog. Otherwise it is possible that you might have coffee colored Jackson Pollack walls.

  4. Incredibly beautiful …thank you for taking us along with you on this fabulous journey!

    1. You are so welcome…it was pretty fab, even taking into account the rain! xB

  5. I do so enjoy living vicariously through your travels. I am looking forward to the Italian gardens next week!

    1. Thank you, I plan for travels to play even a greater part in my life going forward…xB








  7. Coincidence? I just finished reading a biography of
    St. Charles Borromeo and he relinquished all this
    fortune and trappings for a simple life, once he had
    redeemed his political service to family and country.
    Such artistic grandeur will not be duplicated in our
    time. Thank you for this glimpse and awe, Bettie dear.

  8. OH MY IS WHAT I SAY!!! Tom is so right especially this Palace! Nothing exceeds like excess in great taste!

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