Rainy Day on Lago Maggiore
On our last day in Italy we faced that classic travel question – What to do when it rains and you are away and wanting to explore somewhere new? On our last day staying by Lago Maggiore we woke up to steady rain and the boys definitely did not want to go and visit a museum. Over a long, lazy brunch watching the water run down the windows of beautiful Villa Guilia we made the decision to visit the botanical gardens at Villa Taranto. Jerome had enjoyed the gardens at Isola Bella and Isola Madre and said he wanted to see the gardens in the rain.
After the short drive into Pallanza and armed with our umbrellas, we made our way to the entrance of the botanical gardens. The lady at the ticket office obviously was surprised that any family would want to spend time strolling around the flower beds in this weather and was kind enough to only charge us for two adults. The garden prides itself in showcasing over 125,000 plants and it dates back to 1931 when a Scottish captain bought the estate and transformed into an English Garden. She gave us a map with a route that covers all the main features of the garden so map in hand we walked along the main avenue, following the numbers and signs on the route. Ahead we could see the rhododendron wood, the blossoms suffering in the rain and looking very sad in comparison to the colourful display we had admired on Isola Madre.
Japanese Acers and a Glasshouse
Turning right we found the Fountain dei Putti, so called after the sculptures that adorn it. Nearby were beds of beautiful bulbs and alpines some in full bloom. Further along we were mesmerised by the sheer number and variety of majestic acers, some very unusual varieties that we had not even seen on our visits to Japan.
Sadly the glasshouse was closed in order to keep the environment at a steady temperature for the giant water lilies originating in Paraguay. Their leaves can grow up to 2 meters in diameter and can be seen in the summer months from mid June to October only. We could only get a peek through the steamy glass panels but were not able to see any plants other than strelitzia.
Wandering on we went, past a small chapel with some formal fish ponds outside we headed into a pretty valley. There was a small stream running through its midst and an arched, brick- bridge connecting both sides. Climbing up the steps to the right we reached the manicured lawns with a fountain and the stately Villa Taranto. The villa is off limits for visitors as it houses the prefectural government but makes a stately back drop to this formal part of the garden. From there we could see a colourful hedge of azaleas with the view of the misty mountains behind.
Jerome was eager to cross the narrow brick bridge with a beautiful canopy of yellow flowers growing over the banisters. In gardens he loves to explore all the little side paths and often runs ahead or takes detours meeting up with us further on. On the other side of the bridge was a wisteria walk, with the most incredible, purple wisteria. There was a rather unusual variety of wisteria, with double flowers. Walking underneath the pergola we could smell the sweet fragrance of the pretty blossoms.
Ponds and Pools
Beyond the terrace with the wisteria was a complex of ponds and pools, one with already flowering irises and another with lotuses, another great sight for a summer visit, but enjoyable in the rain nonetheless. Next up on the winding route was one of the most impressive parts of the gardens of Villa Taranto, the terraced flowerbed between the green carpets of grass and a small waterfall. On top of one of these waterfalls sits a bronze sculpture “The Fisher”.
Peonies and Poppies
Further up was a large field of lily of the valleys and one of my favourites, peonies and poppies. The route reaches the top of the garden at a long very old green house with a wide selection of succulents and sub-tropical climbers.
Once we reached the top we strolled down the wet, zigzag paths. We passed an old well and a viewpoint of the lake and most of the plants along the way were mature trees and shrubs, more azaleas in bloom plus another terraced fountain. The rain still had not ceased and kept other visitors away, which meant we had the garden almost completely to ourselves. The rain drops on the flowers and leaves certainly gave me some great photo opportunities, despite the grey and misty sky. We rather enjoyed strolling under the umbrellas and definitely the quality of the garden kept our interest.
Goodbye Villa Taranto and Lago Maggiore
The little café next to the exit of the gardens looked rather inviting given our by now cold and damp state. A thick hot chocolate soon warmed us up sitting inside on the covered terrace with warm blankets on our laps.
The four days in and around Lago Maggiore had passed quickly and we were sad to leave this precious piece of Italy behind. I know for sure we will return to the lakes again, maybe next time we will head back to Lago Lugano instead or perhaps visit Lago Como. I am sure next time it will not be snowing in May!