Isola Madre

Lake Maggiore West Bank

The closest of the three islands to Verbania, Isola Madre is entirely taken up by the Palazzo Madre and the lovely gardens that surround it. The 16th- to 18th-century Palazzo Madre is a wonderfully decadent structure crammed full of all manner of antique furnishings and adornments. Highlights include Countess Borromeo’s doll collection, a neoclassical puppet theatre designed by a scenographer from Milan’s La Scala, and a ‘horror’ theatre with a cast of devilish marionettes.

Outside the palazzo, the English-style botanic gardens are dazzling with colourful azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, eucalypts, banana trees, hibiscus, fruit orchards, an olive grove and much more. Exotic birdlife, including white peacocks and golden pheasants, roam the grounds. The pride of the garden is a rare Kashmir cypress tree planted in 1862 that was uprooted in a 2006 tornado. It was quickly replanted and is now supported by special cables.

A combined ticket also covers admission to Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella.