A few years ago I went to Angera on the eastern shore of Lago Maggiore to visit my cugini Rosa and Pasquale and their family. They own Lounge Bar La Noce which is right on the lake. Pasquale took me up for a spin in his ultralight and I ended up with some ‘vista d’uccello’ (bird’s eye view) shots of l’Isole Borromee, 3 small islands in the Italian part of Lago Maggiore.
Isola Bella is named for Contessa Isabella D’Adda, wife of Carlo Borromeo III. It was once a big flat rock in the lake with a tiny fishing village. Over a 40 year period in the 1600’s soil was brought in to build 10 terraces for the gardens and a summer palace. Famous palace guests include Napoleon and Josephine.
Isola Madre is the largest of the 3 islands. The 16th Century Palazzo Borromeo was built by Count Lancillotto Borromeo -what an awesome name! The English style Giardini Botanici dell’Isola Madre (Botanical Gardens) were built in the 18th Century on the site of a citrus grove.
Isola Superiore dei Pescatori -usually just called Isola Pescatori, is named for the fisherman. The village has about 50 permanent residents, and a few of them are actually still fishermen. Isola Pescatori was owned by the Borromeo family until the middle ages but is now part of Stresa. There are several hotels and restaurants on the island and taxi boat service from Stresa.
Angera (pop 5600) was an important lake point in Roman times, when it was called Angheria. Today it is most famous for La Rocca d’Angera (Castello Borromeo) a fortress on top of a 200m hill overlooking Lago Maggiore. The 1989 RAI miniseries ‘I Promessi Sposi’, based on the 1827 novel by Alessandro Manzoni was filmed here. La Rocca is also home to Il Museo delle Bambole, a doll museum. The Borromeo family still owns La Rocca d’Angera, Isola Bella and Isola Madre but they are accessible to the public. Boats to l’Isole Borromee (www.navigazionelaghi.it) are available from the lakefront towns of Stresa, Laverno, Pallanza and Intra. Some hotels and restaurants also have their own private boat service.
Angera is a nice day trip from Milano. There is no direct train but the closest route is the train to Sesto Calende then bus to Angera or the train to Arona and then a ferry across the lake to Angera. Buon Viaggio!