The simple jetty says much about the botanical gardens on Isola Madre in the centre of Lake Maggiore. There’s no pomposity about the scene which greets new arrivals. The palm trees, cacti and tumbling blooms obscuring slate grey walls are an indication that nature’s handiwork, assisted by the green fingers of man, is what is important here.
One of the oldest gardens in Italy, dating back to the 16th century, Isola Madre isn’t what I expected. It’s paths seem more random, its flowers and trees less regimented than the immaculate Italian gardens in my head. The gardens seem casually beautiful, almost accidental than designed, which enhances the experience of exploring this colourful bloom set in a sparkling lake. The fact that it’s more open than neighbouring Isola Bella, means that it is also less claustrophobic; steps and longish walks being less popular with the organised masses.
The gardens at Isola Madre are a place for meandering without any purpose except to absorb slowly and with relish as the path reveals its many gifts.
Too many words detract from gardens such as this. I’ll let the pictures act as a taster.
Whispering bamboo and the gentle lapping of the lake – enchanting ingredients.
Wisteria covered portal to a magic kingdom.
A blurred bird and the hint of something quite special.
The white peacock, a perfect pet for an ice queen in a fairy tale.
Roses are red… resplendently so.
More birds. As well as peacocks there are flamboyant pheasants. This isn’t particularly exotic but it does have a cute chick in tow.
More of a classically Italian garden scene beside the Renaissance palace.
A weeper caressing the surface of the lake – one of the most romantic of trees. Its melancholic branches swaying in the light breeze wave arrivederci as we drift away to swap one perfect little island for another, the Isola dei Pescatori.
Fact file: The Isola Madre Gardens are open between March and the beginning of November from 9am to 5.30pm (latest time to start a visit). Entrance for the palace and gardens costs from €12. Getting there by ferry (www.navigazionelaghi.it) is part of the fun and a good way to enjoy some superb lake scenery. A one-way fare from Baveno is €3.90, but there are all sorts of combinations if you want to visit other islands.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+