Our day spent on Isola Bella – one of the Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy – might be one of my favourite memories from when the girls were tiny. A boat across a clear blue lake. White peacocks and hot pink hydrangeas. Terrace upon terrace of green gardens and the citrus yellow and orange pops of espalier fruit trees.
We stayed on the shores of the lake in Stresa and took a boat to explore the islands, owned since the 16th century by the Borromeo family, merchants and bankers from Milan. Over the years they transformed Isola Bella, once a barren rock, creating extravagant baroque gardens alongside a summer palace.
Poppy slept in her sling while we explored and discovered stories of long ago parties and theatrical events for the nobility of Europe. Four-year old Esther was in a magical world of her own hunting for treasure and unicorns among hedges and grottoes.
I also think I can trace my devotion to hydrangeas back to this trip. All along the shores of Lake Maggiore: pops of teal, lime green, cyan, fuchsia, magenta, lilac, violet. Fittingly baroque.