tag archives: italy

tourist /ˈto͝orəst/ (noun)

a person visiting a place for pleasure

oxford dictionaries

view of isola bella from stresa, italy

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

and, isola bella (beautiful island) was a pleasure to visit, even if it could be described as turistico.

isola bella, a private island owned by the borromeo family since the 16th century, is located northwest of milan, on the west shore of lake maggiore near the town of stresa.

map of lake maggiore

photo credit navigazione laghi

when the borromeo family started transforming isola bella into a baroque palace in 1632, the architecture and the landscaping were designed like a ship.  palazzo borromeo is the bow, the dock is the prow, and the garden terraces are the bridge.

the ship like design of palazzo borromeo

photo credit adam broomberg & oliver chanarin

palazzo borromeo

the dock is located on the ‘port’ side of isola bella near the ‘bow’

the ferry terminals are located on the ‘port’ side of isola bella near the ‘stern’

photo credit augustus mayhew

both the palazzo and the gardens overflow with heraldic symbols, which include the borromeo family motto humilitas (humility), and borromeo family icons like the unicorn, or the borromeo rings.

the borromeo family coat of arms

photo credit borromeo turismo

Coat of arms of the House of Borromeo

diagram of the borromeo family coat of arms

the motto humilitas (humility) fills the top panel

the unicorn is on the left side of the left panel

the borromeo rings are in the lower right corner of the left panel

photo credit wikimedia commons

relief moldings of the coat of arms from several branches of the borromeo family line the grand staircase in the entry hall of palazzo borromeo.

grand staircase

photo credit roberto marinoni

the family motto, humilitas (humility), appears and reappears in the gardens and in the palazzo.

the borromeo family motto humilitas (humility) on a garden terrace

photo credit werner kratz

a statue holding the borromeo family motto humilitas (humility), the borromeo family crown, and a flag

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

a medallion with the borromeo family motto humilitas (humility) on the ceiling of the salone grande (grand hall)

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

a succession of 17th-19th century architects designed the palazzo and the gardens, but the palazzo wasn’t completed until 1952, when the salone grande (grand hall) was finished according to the original plans.

  salone grande (grand hall)

photo credit adam broomberg & oliver chanarin

in addition to the galleria dei quadri (picture gallery), palazzo borromeo is famous for the salone degli arazzi (tapestry hall).  the seven borromeo tapestries, woven of wool, silk, silver, and gold in brussels around 1565, feature the unicorn, another family icon.

one of the seven borromeo tapestries

photo credit j zinn

a statue of the unicorn, ridden by love, tops the amphitheater, which is a focal point of the baroque gardens.

unicorn, ridden by love

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the baroque gardens are composed of ten descending terraces, which form a pyramid ornamented with grottos, basins, fountains, and obelisks.  the size, quantity, and orientation of the ornaments and the statues, which personify the rivers, the seasons, or the winds, glorify the achievements of the borromeo family, and provide an impressive approach to the island from any direction.  grottos, shells, and statues fill the platforms of the amphitheater, which is located on the upper terrace.

amphitheater

photo credit michel guilly
and, free range white peacocks graze near the grottos, and through out the gardens.

white peacocks

photo credit frommers

but, during our visit, the white peacocks looked like this, instead.

white peacocks

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

grottos also fill the basement of palazzo borromeo.  the six grottos in the basement, which were designed in 1685, but finished 100 years later, are paved with lake pebbles set in baroque scroll and shell patterns.  the grottos not only provide a refuge from the summer heat, but also provide a passageway from the palazzo to the gardens.

one the six grottos in the basement of palazzo borromeo

photo credit adam broomberg & oliver chanarin

the borromeo rings, another icon that symbolizes the friendship between the visconti, sforza, and borromeo families, occur and reoccur on statuary and ironwork in the gardens.

a statue holding the borromeo rings

photo credit flickr

a gate crowned by the borromeo rings

photo credit borromeo turismo

view of the baroque gardens on isola bella from stresa, italy

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

do you think that the isola is bella?

travel /ˈtravəl/ (verb)

to take a journey, especially of some length, or abroad
oxford dictionaries

villa d’este | lake como | cernobbio, italy

photo credit leading hotels of the world

traveling to villa d’este on lake como in cernobbio, italy could certainly be described as a journey to a luxurious location.

lake como, located about an hour north of milan, is shaped like an inverted Y.  alto como, the upper leg of the lake, intersects with the lower legs of the lake, lecco to the east and como to the west, at the town of bellagio, located on the punto (point) at the center of the lake.

map of lake como

photo credit navigazione laghi

when visiting athens for the first time, a greek friend recommended putting everything into perspective by hiking to the top of philopappos hill, near the acropolis, first.  when visiting lake como for the first time, taking guided tour of the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio, puts everything into perspective.  the views of all three legs of the lake are spectacular.  but, the town of bellagio could only be described as turistico.

view of alto como from the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio

the town of menaggio is on the left, and the town of varenna is on the right

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

view of the lower legs of lake como from the park at villa serbelloni in bellagio

the lecco leg of the lake is on the left, and the como leg of the lake is on the right

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

villa serbelloni is now split into two properties, the rockefeller foundation bellagio center, which promotes the ‘well-being of humanity’ by supporting the work of scholars, artists, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners through conferences and residency programs, and the grand hotel villa serbelloni.  many of the other 17th-19th century villas located on the como leg of the lake, such as villa del balbianello in lenno, villa carlotta in tremezzo, or villa melzi in bellagio, also feature spectacular parks and botanical gardens.

villa del balbianello | lenno, italy

photo credit c majno

villa carlotta | tremezzo, italy

photo credit villa carlotta

villa melzi | bellagio, italy

photo credit scott l robertson

and, villa d’este is no exception.  villa d’este is located in cernobbio, a town at the southern end of the como leg of the lake.  a most convenient location considering that my husband, bob, and i are explorers instead of resort goers.

even so, we couldn’t resist lounging by the hotel pool, which floats on lake como, every evening before dinner at a restaurant recommended by an italian friend. (grazie mille…)

floating pool | villa d’este | lake como | cernobbio, italy

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

villa d’este was built in 1568 as the summer residence of cardinal tolomeo gallio from como.  it was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1873 by combining the cardinal’s villa with adjoining properties.

cardinal building | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit italianvisits.com

we arrived at villa d’este the day after the formula 1 grand prix in monza.  (strategic planning…)  so, our lake view room in the cardinal building was upgraded to a lake view suite.  (lucky us…)


view of lake como from our suite in the cardinal building at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit  lisa walsh | innerspace

you could also stay in the queen’s pavillion, which was built in 1856 on the site of a medieval monastery that was constructed in 1442.  the remains of the monastery are now part of a ruined labyrinth built by english king george IV’s wife, caroline of brunswick, who owned villa d’este from 1815-1820.

queen’s pavillion | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit lisa walsh |innerspace

if you prefer, you could also stay in a private villa.

villa cima | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo by glenvis loci

villa malakoff | villa d’este | cernobbio, italy

photo credit italy-hotels-trip
while, the rooms could be characterized as classico, the setting and the gardens could only be described as magnifico!   some parts of the garden were added during the 18th century.

18th century garden facing the entrance to the cardinal building at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the perspective of the 18th century entrance garden

during our visit, gardeners had just started replacing the coral impatiens with red and white begonias (goodbye summer, hello, autumn…)

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

arco del pastore (triumphal arch) at the end of the perspective

photo credit lisa walsh |innerspace

while, other parts of the garden date to the 16th century.  renaissance period architect pellegrino pellegrini (1527-1596) designed not only the cardinal building, but also the nymphaeum in the lower gardens.

the 16th century nymphaeum in the lower gardens at villa d’este in cernobbio

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

the fountain inside the nymphaeum

the mosaics are made of colored marble splinters

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

one of the bas relief plaques inside the nymphaeum

in 1985, two contemporary plaques of ‘love’ and ‘solitude’ by sculptor francesco somaini (1926-2005) were added to the origial eight bas relief plaques

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

but, some parts of the garden combine both periods.

fontana di ercole (fountain of hercules) in the upper gardens at villa d’este in cernobbio

water from the fountain cascades over 130 renaissance period granite basins as it flows down the hillside towards the nymphaeum

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

18th century statue of ercole e lica (hercules and lica) inside the pavilion at the top of the hillside

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

18th century statue of ercole e lica (hercules and lica)

the statue of ercole e lica is from the workshop of antonio canova (1757-1822)

photo credit jennifer deppe parker

magnifico, no?

ps. click here to read more about villa d’este on AD daily.