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Isola Bella

Perhaps the finest example of 17th-century Italian Baroque garden art. When seen from the town of Stresa, the island looks like a giant ship: the Borromean Palace at the stern balancing the 10-terraced garden at the bow of the island. Milanese architect Giovanni Angelo Crivelli is credited with the original design of the palace and the grounds that were shaped into a step pyramid, decorated with turf, pebbles, shells, and ornate mosaics. One reaches the gardens by passing through the palace and six lavishly decorated grottoes. Punctuated by immense cone-shaped evergreens at each corner, the parterres in the Garden of Love prepare the guests for the extravaganza of the water theater that towers over the island garden. The theater is richly decorated with niches, fountains, and hanging plants. A spectacular collection of sculpture adds to the delight of the place, symbolizing the rivers and lakes of Italy, the four seasons, and the Borrome family’s power. Statues are dramatically silhouetted against the sky and the elaborate Italianate balustrades and fountains.

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