A few years ago, I wrote some posts about my time in Ispra – the town on Lago Maggiore that my parents hail from…and that is very close to my heart! I feel at home there whenever I visit – as if it’s in my soul. Here is a gorgeous pictorial of this beautiful little town on the Eastern shores of Lago Maggiore.
Ispra is affectionately nicknamed “La Perla del Lago Maggiore” – the pearl of Lago Maggiore – because it is one of the most beautiful villages along the lake. The afternoon sun shines on it and it’s gorgeous shoreline. It is about 70 km from Milan along the shores of Lago Maggiore and it sits between two rocky hills that slope gently towards the lake – Monte dei Nassi and Monte del Prete. The views of the nearby mountains is stunning, and on sunny clear days you can see the majestic Monte Rosa – an Alpine peak always covered in snow which glows pink when the sun shines on it.
Ispra’s history is impressive, being first inhabited in prehistoric times and then as a settlement of the Celtic Insubri. The Insubri were a civilization made up of Ligurian, Celtic, Etruscan and Gaulish tribes. They were the original founders of Milan in the 2nd century BC. These people lived by fishing and agriculture and were later colonized by the Romans followed by the Lombards and Franks during the Medieval Era. The Renaissance brought the noble and powerful Visconti and Torriani families from Milan who fought each other for domain over Ispra. It remained under Milanese rule until the Borromeo family (of Isola Bella fame) took it over. For a short while, it fell into decline with a brief occupation by French and Spanish troops, but rose once more to aristocratic status during the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. During this time, the current port was built and used as an important base for the transportation of goods through the Swiss border. Several riots by local patriots against the Hapsburgs took place here and finally Ispra joined Garibaldi and the troops of the Savoys, the future kings of Italy, to overthrow the Hapsburgs. Many artifacts have been discovered, including engraved stones, jars, amphora, Roman tombs, an ancient canoe and a parchment dating back to the 8th century – all these evidence of Ispra’s occupation during history.
Ispra’s center, dominated by the beautiful church of San Martino, was inhabited by aristocrats for many years – thus resulting in some impressive mansions throughout the town. My parents told me stories of sneaking into the grounds of these villas as children to climb the fruit trees 🙂 Some of the aristocratic families were still living there then and the entire town knew about them, even though they didn’t associate with the common folk! My mom says she remembers a special “box” near the choir loft in the church that was reserved only for them. The beautiful church, San Martino, has frescoes dating back to the 17th century! My parents were married in this gorgeous church over 50 years ago! In more recent times, I took refuge in this church during a huge summer thunderstorm 🙂
Ispra, La Perla del Lago Maggiore, never disappoints me and I look forward to my visits with anticipation!