Villa Taranto: nature’s allure on Lake Maggiore

Mara Noveni | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Imagine that during your tour in Piedmont, suddenly your view is captured by one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. In fact, today I take you to a little known but wonderful place, the Gardens of Villa Taranto, nature's allure on Lake Maggiore. In 2014, these gardens were ranked first among the most beautiful gardens in the world and even listed before the gardens of Versailles.

The Gardens of Villa Taranto are located in the municipality of Verbania, on the western shores of Lake Maggiore and set like a pearl in the Castagnola promontory, overlooking the romantic town of Stresa on the opposite shore.

© iStock / faber1893

Origin of the gardens

The well-kept and lush appearance that the gardens currently have is the result of nearly 100 years of continuous care by those who continued the work undertaken by Captain Neil Boyd Watson McEacharn, who created these gardens. Taking a tour of the gardens is like taking a tour of the botanical species of the world.

In 1931, this captain of Scottish origin decided to buy this property and transform it into an English garden in the region of Italy that reminded him of his homeland, precisely Scotland. Gradually the garden became a work of art with thousands of plants and flowers from all over the world, some of which are very rare. The work was completed in 1940 and has always been maintained in its magnificence.

© iStock / Cesare Ferrari

The name "Villa Taranto" was chosen by the captain himself in honor of one of his ancestors, who had been appointed Duke of Taranto (an Italian city located in Puglia) by Napoleon. Inside the gardens, there is a villa that cannot be visited, as it is the institutional seat of the province of Verbanio Cusio Ossola.

The Herbarium

On the other hand, it is possible to visit the beautiful building of the Herbarium, a former concierge, where precious "natural paintings" are exhibited. The Herbarium Britannicum includes 43 display cases containing botanical species of British origin.

The Gardens

The gardens are home to many thousands of plants from all over the world, about 1000 non-native plants and about 20,000 species of considerable botanical importance.

The driveway to the gardens is Viale delle Conifere, a sequence of different types of very rare conifers from all over the world. Do not miss the Fountain of the Putti (so-called for the putti who decorate the fountain), which during the spring is surrounded by lush blooms and the Dahlie Labyrinth, a herbaceous labyrinth with over 1700 flowering multicolored dahlia plants.

© iStock / Benoitbruchez

The Mausoleum is a funeral monument where Captain McEacharn is buried, surrounded by multicolored blooms.

© iStock / donstock

Strolling, we come across greenhouses, terraced gardens with water features, pools for water lilies and lotus flowers, and then avenues of Azaleas, Maples, Rhododendrons and Camellias, and much more.

© iStock / faber1893

Just about the lotus flowers, in these gardens, we can admire the beautiful Victoria Cruziana, one of the largest lotus leaves in the world, originally from the Amazon River. In the periods of maximum flowering (June-July), the leaves reach two meters in diameter, truly an exciting spectacle!

© iStock / devnenski

The gardens are open every day, non-stop, from April to October and are visited from all over the world by tourists, enthusiasts, students and scholars. Access can be done either by boat, from the landing stage (Villa Taranto port), or from the road that connects Pallanza to Intra. The services available are a bookshop, a kiosk for the sale of plants and a restaurant bar.

During the year, specific events are organized to admire the blooms of the species, such as the Bulbous Festival, Water Flowers, Dahlia Show, Fall Foliage.

What to do in the surroundings of Villa Taranto

After you visit the magnificent Gardens of Villa Taranto, you may decide to take a boat excursion or a motorboat tour on Lake Maggiore, choosing, for example, the tour of the Borromean Islands, or a sunset cruise, by contacting one of the numerous agencies on the shores of the lake. Do not miss a walk along the lakefront to admire the beautiful historic houses and villas overlooking its banks. Or, if you want to deepen the artistic and cultural aspect, I would like to point out the Museo del Paesaggio in Verbania, which hosts the Gipsoteca Troubetzkoy, the sculpture collection, the art gallery, and some temporary exhibitions. Do not miss the collection of the impressionist sculptor Paolo Troubetzkoy, born in Intra, on Lake Maggiore (to a Russian father and an American mother), which occupies the entire ground floor.

A taste of local fish

A trip to Lake Maggiore - whether it lasts only a weekend or a few more days - is an opportunity to experience unrepeatable suggestions and leave exciting memories, rare scents, and very special aromas etched in your mind. Among these, the typical flavors of local cuisine should be remembered, characterized above all by dishes based on lake fish, like perch, prepared and served with risotto, following an ancient traditional local recipe, or filleted and breaded. Bleak, small fish, usually served fried or soaked, but also pike and trout, both very popular fish in these areas, usually served boiled and accompanied by mayonnaise, should certainly be tasted.

Well, if you have not been to Lake Maggiore yet, the romantic town of Verbania is waiting for you to admire its wonderful Gardens of Villa Taranto. You should definitely drop by nature's allure in Piedmont!

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