On our second day in Italy, we visited Lake Maggiore and took a boat ride out to several famous islands in the lake. Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and it’s surrounded by tall mountains on all sides. It’s about 30 miles in length and extends about 8 miles up into Switzerland. Silvio took us up one of the mountains near Omegna, just west of Lake Maggiore, where we had lunch at a restaurant at the summit, seemingly miles from anywhere and up a long road filled with switchbacks which would have been a great road for motorcycle riding. Silvio told us that the restaurant was a destination for many motorcycle trips that he’s taken with his friends. The meal was excellent and there was so much food that we didn’t think we’d be able to eat dinner that evening.
After our lunch we traveled over to Lake Maggiore and where we caught a boat to take us for a tour of the Borromean Islands. The Borromean Islands are a small group of islands just off the western coastline of Lake Maggiore. There are 4 islands in total, but only two are open to tourists. We first circled around Isola Madre, the largest of the islands and got to see some of its buildings and beautiful gardens. It did not appear to be open to the public although there were some people on the island. Next we stopped at the Isola dei Pescatori, the only inhabited island which is a small fishing village. Its main street was about 8 feet wide. Since it only takes a few minutes to walk the length of the village, there is no need for cars on the island. This island was home to many cats.
We later got back on a boat and visited the main attraction, Isola Bella, which has a palace that from the outside looked like it might have been closed because it was very weathered looking. However, it was in fact open to the public and the interior was beautifully restored. It had many beautiful works of art and amazing furnishings. The structure was built as a summer palace by Vitaliano Borromeo in the mid 1600’s. The island was originally just barren rock but using boats to bring soil, Borreomeo built it up into a beautiful 10-terrace garden with many type of plants. The garden was absolutely breathtaking. We walked around the palace and garden for about an hour before catching a boat to return to the car
Later that evening we had dinner at Silvio’s house and took a walk through the neighborhood of Vedano and had a drink at the Kilkenny Pub, which we thought was ironic since we had just come from Kilkenny, Ireland a few days before.