The history of Isola Madre is bound to the Borromeo family since 1502. The first transformation works to create a place of delights and a private residence began by the will of Lancillotto Borromeo. In 1542, the island had started to look like a garden. Forty years later Renato the First Borromeo started the works on the palazzo leaving the direction to Pellegrino Tibaldi, a very notorious figure in the Lombard culture and a trusted architect of Saint Carlo. At the end of 1700 the island appeared just like today, a place of peace and rest thanks to a mild weather and a luxurious nature.
In 1826 were built several greenhouses along with the family chapel (from 1858) located on the eastern side of the great plaza, named after the chapel itself. The name Madre, still in use, comes from the historical supremacy of the island in the Verbano and also, it is said, from the benevolent mood of the mother of Earl Renato, Margherita Trivulzio.