CITRUS FRUIT ON THE ISOLE BORROMEE, OVER 400 YEARS OF HISTORY
Citrus fruits have decorated the gardens of the Isole Borromee for more than 400 years, thanks to the mild climate that characterizes the banks of Lago Maggiore, favouring verdant and typically Mediterranean vegetation. Already before the mid-17th century citrus plants and vegetables elegantly decorated the garden on Isola Bella, performing both a practical and an aesthetic function
Archive documents attest that in 1663 one hundred terracotta vases were commissioned. Lemon and orange trees of various qualities were among the most cultivated plants, the existence of which was confirmed not only by means of “mapping”, as identified thanks to a booklet from 1839, but shipments were also made to Switzerland: a packing list exists dating back to 1832.
There are numerous curiosities associated with citrus plants in the properties of the Borromeo family. The cedar tree also appears on the family’s coat of arms: the gold cedar adorned with green leaves refers to the gardens of Isola Bella and Isola Madre. It symbolizes the mild climate that benefits the islands, thanks to which the cultivation of citrus plants has continued over the centuries.
Still today espaliers of citrus fruit adorn and perfume the garden on Isola Bella: on the external side, by the lakeside on the underlying level, along the “avenue of bitter orange trees” there is a succession of citrus trees, which, despite the name, are a sweet delight for the eyes. In the Garden of Love there are also large vases of citrus plants taking pride of place on the spacious terrace beside the boxwood hedges.
A fine collection of citrus plants can be admired on the espalier between the Torre del Belvedere and the Torre della Noria on the warmer side of the garden and continuing along the avenue leading to the Elisa greenhouse: “parading” here are huge pomelos, grapefruits and limone cedrato trees, such as the highly scented Citrus limonimedica Florentina.
There are also cedars: particularly the “Diamante” variety, which is precious on account of its peel, from which candied fruits are produced, and the “Maxima”, with fruit that can reach as much as 3 kilograms in weight. On Isola Bella the variety of citrus fruit known as Buddha’s Hand can be found, with its very own wow factor, exotic appearance and highly intense aroma. It is said that it brings good luck, which is why it is often given as a gift.