E-SO-lah BELL-lah ... doesn't it sound beautiful?
And that is its name — “Beautiful Island” — and that it is. Built over the 17th century, this island summer palace of the Borromeo family can be reached from Milan by an hour's train ride and plus a short boat ride from the shores of Lake Maggiore and the village of Stresa.
We set off in the morning and arrive just in time to have lunch in a small café perched on the edge of the island’s rocky border. When I ask the waitress if we can sit at the table closest to the water she shakes her head, “Soon the water will be splashing you there.” And midway through our lunch I see she’s right as the lake waters are lapping at the edges of the railing! This was the view.
After lunch, we pass by narrow alleys and stone stairways to find the home built by the Borromeos and enter a stunningly beautiful opulent world that is Napoleonic in feel. Everything is grandiose. From the paintings to the table settings to the gold-leafed furniture, nothing in my experience can identify with the richness of the life these people have lived.
Very high dome-ceilinged halls and galleries with marble and this glorious elaborate decoration and trim. You are dwarfed by the size of these rooms. You are in awe of the pilasters and pediments adorning and crowning every surface. Outside every window is an amazing view and inside, each room and every wall amaze you — none more than the "grotto" of the palace — the below ground level rooms magnificently encrusted in black and white sea shells and stones. [Photos at the link.]
With posts — at least 14 feet-high wrapped in silver-embroidered pink velvet — a canopy bed sits majestically in the bedroom
opposite wide-open tall glass French doors that frame the most picturesque vistas.
How could anyone ever sleep in such splendor?
|This photo by Chris.|
Next time, we'll step outside to the gardens of Isola Bella...