''Isola Madre (Mother Island) is the most sensuous place I have ever seen in the world”.
(G. Flaubert, 1845)
The luxuriant garden makes this magic Island unique, brimming with rare and exotic plants from every latitude, proof of the Borromeo family's interest in botany over the centuries. Originally it was a fruit orchard, then an olive grove followed by a citrus orchard. The Mother Island took on its present aspect of romantic English park in the early nineteenth century. Expert gardeners and botanists, assisted by the perfect mild climate, knowledgeably integrated the collections over time with new species, flowering continuously and exuberantly for visitors.
Not to be missed amongst these is the spring blooming of rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and magnolias, followed by the summer show of Bougainvillea and the Millettia japonica. There is no shortage of multi-coloured carpeting, wisteria pergolas and waterlilies.
The symbol of the Island is the magnificent, secular specimen of Kashmir Cypress, uprooted by a whirlwind in 2006 and now fully revived, one of nature's miracles.
Since 2002 the garden - together with the Isola Bella one - is a member of the prestigious network of the Royal Horticultural Society.
The sixteenth century Palace stands beside the Kashmir loggia, pre- serving important furnishings from the Borromeo household. It is an elegantly sober country dwelling, where the visitor can admire trompe-l'śil on the walls, porcelain collections, valuable furniture and the unusual presence of miniature theaters and puppets for the entertainment and amusement of family members and their friends.
An extraordinary collection of theatrical apparatus, equipment and scripts, all in excellent condition, witnesses the heritage and testimony of the family's important joint ventures, such as with Alessandro Sanquirico, set designer for the Scala Theatre who worked until 1832 for the Borromeo house and his successor Carlo Fontana who in the following decade expressed his naturalistic and romantic vein.