An Island Of Beauty | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Looking at pictures on the web are you ever transported to far away places, dreams, or even back in the maze of your memories? It often happens to me. This picture of the Isola Bella on the Lake Maggiore, in the Northern Italian lake district brought me back to an age of my life, when fun and frivolities were the common words of the day.

Isola Bella-Cesare Riccardo
(photo by: Cesare Riccardo on Google+)

The powerful wealthy Italian Borromeo family built their home, or better their palace in the 1600s on an island original called Isabella, in honor of the wife of Carlo Borromeo III.
Isola Bella, as it is called today is made of three parts: gardens, palace and the medieval fishermen village.

The interior of the palace is a grandiose scheme of high ornamentation in the neoclassical style and Italian Baroque style. Very elegant and opulent! What really interested me was the garden area.

Gardens are developed on ten terraces, completed with statues symbolizing the nature four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. Designed in the formal Italian Baroque spirit of the 17th century, the Isola Bella gardens are formal, composed of parterres, geometry and symmetry, populated with sinuous statues, peaceful fountains, grotto and decorative sculptures. The splendid granite and marble stairs aligned with large terracotta planters take to the top where the unicorn symbol of Borromeo family stands proud and where the view of Lake Maggiore shines before the eyes of the visitor in all its beauty.

The botanical garden presents a subtle elegance refined by the harmony between the richness of the vegetation and the architectural elements. There is mix of plants for all tastes: roses, oleander, pine trees, citrus trees, pomegranates, magnolia, orchids, tamarind plants, camellias, azaleas and even coffee and tea plants.

Elegant peacocks, once were a favorite meat dish served in high courts gilded in gold and silver foil. Today, these beautiful creatures roam around on the grassy area proud and undisturbed.

(photo: Parterre Gardens at Ruspoli Castle Northern Lazio, Italy, via

Gardens must reflect the style and the colors of the house. It’s a mistake to build a neoclassical garden around a ranch style home, or a desert garden full of cacti around a French style home. Modern gardens must have a bone structure to build plants around and a good hardscape to create visual effects. Modern gardens must have a good soil to grow some vegetables and fruits (home-grown food are happy food), blooming of plants must be synchronized with the seasons to assure the garden is alive with colors all year around and must be low maintenance water saving. Let’s not forget to create private corners. The right lighting will dress up the garden to create the perfect atmosphere.

The parterre style in the neoclassical gardens built for relaxation and long walks were in demand in times when people lived a luxurious life in palaces, employed many gardeners and servants. They were in perfect harmony with the architecture of the house and with people’s life style. That style of garden would be high maintenance for today’s time and totally inappropriate for our life style.

isola-bella4(Photo Author Noambarsh –

Isola Bella is an interesting place to visit, especially for learning how so many varieties of plants can share the same space under one climate. In the meantime, a fervid imagination like mine might play a trick on one’s mind. Strolling around the gardens, I swear I saw before my eyes people dressed in the fashion of the era, speaking the old Italian language and enjoying themselves in the custom of the time. My mind must have wondered for a minute, but it felt like a long time. Ciao,

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Cappello GialloValentina is an Italian Interior Designer since 1990 designing for USA and Europe’s markets. She loves to remodel homes and gardens. With her many years of experience she is able to cover a wide range of design solutions. Often her clients ask to designs the landscape concept complete with lighting as a complement to the interior design.
She offers design consultations on-line and anywhere in the world through Skype line. Valentina is the author of three books available on


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