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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gardens: Five Gardens Of Stresa -- A Planning Guide



Whether you are an avid gardener who plans your vacations around visiting great botanical parks, or just appreciate the beauty of nature, Stresa is a perfect destination for you. It's not for nothing that it has been voted one of the most floral small cities in Italy! We've spoken about and visited several of the gardens close to Stresa in other posts, now let's list them all together here in one place as a helpful planning guide. Trust me... even if you don't consider yourself a plant person, try to fit at least one garden visit into your itinerary. These are all as particular to Stresa as are the Borromean Islands, and every bit as impressive. Here are the main five gardens in or near to Stresa:


Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella:
Speaking of the islands, this garden is located there. Enter the fantastical Italianate Baroque-style garden on Isola Bella by going through the Palazzo Borromeo. Designed in the 1600s by the early Borromeo developers of the island, the gardens are unique for the ten tiers of terraces, the large shell statuary 'stage' that greets you after exiting the palace, dozens of statues, obelisks and columns, and of course, the symbol of the Borromees, the unicorn, who presides over it all from above. Look for individual gardens such as il Giardino d'Amore, the Azalea garden, and the Giardino di Fiori. Take photos of the very tame white peacocks that stroll the grounds. Consider taking a guided tour or an audio guided through the palace and gardens... you will gain so much more in this way. Take the ferry from either Stresa ferry stop to reach Isola Bella.


Cost: There are many different ticket prices, based on age, whether you are also visiting Isola Madre, la Rocca Anghera or the painting gallery, or whether you would like a guided tour. Visit the chart here to decide. 
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Isola Madre:
On Isola Madre, the largest of the Borromean islands, you'll find one of the family villas surrounded by lush botanical gardens. After arriving by ferry you'll immediately need a ticket to enter the property. Only the restaurant on the island will be accessible without paying. This is a garden to wander, explore, and delight in. Surprises abound around every turn and also here the white peacocks wander, in addition to other varities of brightly colored fowl. Something is always blooming here, and always on a grand scale. During the season witness the displays of camelias, azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangea. Interestingly, the island has a unique microclimate, allowing citrus trees to flourish here, such as orange and lemon. And don't miss the Kashmir Cypress in front of the villa. At over 200 years old it is the largest in Europe. Audio tours are available, and the villa is also worthy of a good visit. Take the ferry from either Stresa ferry stop to reach Isola Madre.


Cost:  There are many different ticket prices, based on age, and whether you are also visiting Isola Bella, la Rocca Anghera or any combination of the Borromeo sites. Visit the chart here to decide. 
Main website: http://www.borromeoturismo.it/
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Villa Taranto
Villa Taranto is a stunning English-style garden created by a Scotsman, Captain Neil McEarcham, who bought the property in 1931, collected plants from around the world, and opened the gardens to the public in 1952. The gardens consist of 20 hectares, 7 km of paths, and contain 20,000 plant varities representing 3,000 species. Highlights of Villa Taranto include the terraced gardens, the entrance boulevard, the artificial Valetta -- the little valley that was excavated and created on the land, the Putti fountain, and seasonally, the spectacular 10,000 tulip Tulip Festival each spring and the Dahlia Walk, later in the summer. Taranto is in nearby Pallanza, reachable by car (there is a carpark opposite the entrance), or by ferry (the ferry stops directly at the entrance as well). There is a small cafe just inside the entrance and another at the ferry stop across the road.

Main website:  http://www.villataranto.it/
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Giardino Botanico Alpinia
Located up the mountain from Stresa, at 800 meters altitude, the Alpine Garden can be reached by car by following the road that leads to the Mottarone peak  or by taking the cableway from the Lido in Carciano to the intermediate stop. It was founded by Igino Ambrosini and Giuseppe Rossi in 1934 and it stretches out on about 4 hectares of land, enjoying one of the best views of the region. Above all, figuratively and literally, it is known for the species belonging to the alpine and subalpine zones of the Alps, of which over 1,000 are featured here, as well as some rare plants from China and Japan. The garden entrance is 300 meters from the intermediate stop of the cableway. There is a restaurant at the intermediate stop called Bar Villino Beniamino, and several eating choices atop Mottarone.


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Parco della Villa Pallavicino
Is it a park, or is it a zoo? The 20 hectares at Parco e Zoo Villa Pallavicino are more than a bit of both. From the entrance, with its famous cypress arches framing the lake, to the water lily gardens and the rose arbors, this is definitely a beautiful 19th century garden, with shaded lawns in between beds and planted areas. But mixed in, as you stroll up and down the hilly gravel paths, are a wide variety of zoo animals, making this sort of a double-feature location. Triple feature even, if you happen to come on one of the summer evenings when the Stresa Music Festival uses the terrace behind the villa as a venue for outdoor concerts.  Designed to be enjoyed in the spring and summer, these gardens limit the use of evergreens and instead focus heavily on plants that bloom in these warmer months. The layout of the grounds is further designed to take advantage of the views of the lake below and of the mountains that surround. Villa Pallavicino is a ten minute walk from Stresa's imbarcadero along the lake to the right on the paved path. Or, the little train found at the imbarcadero, il Trenino, runs as a shuttle there and back from March through September.



Which garden will you choose? One? Or maybe now that you know a bit more about them, more? These are spectacular gardens with incredible histories that are not visible otherwise, and the amount of tending and maintenance that goes into each, sometimes having been done so for centuries, is staggering.

Check the garden link for even more gardens. From hotel grounds, to the Lungolago, to terraces and balconies, flowers are everywhere in this floral city.


Photo credits: 1. Villa Taranto: Distretto Turistico dei Laghi. 2. Isola Bella Garden: panoramio KWO Tsoumenis. 3. Isola Madre: DSK. 4. Villa Taranto terraces: DSK. 5. Giardino Botanico Alpinia: Comune di Gignese. 5. Parco Pallavicino: lagomaggiore.com

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