Isola dei Pescatori (meaning “fishermen’s island” and also known as Isola Superiore) is part of the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore. In Ernest Hemingway’s famous “A Farewell to Arms”, protagonist Frederic Henry stops here during the First World War, to drink a vermouth:
I rowed across to Isola Bella and went close to the walls, where the water deepened sharply, and you saw the rock wall slanting down in the clear water, and then up and along to the fisherman’s island. The sun was under a cloud and the water was dark and smooth and very cold. We did not have a strike though we saw some circles on the water from rising fish. I rowed up opposite the fisherman’s island where there were boats drawn up and men were mending nets.
‘Should we get a drink?’
Obviously the novel’s narrator is overshadowed by the American Nobel laureate himself, who came to the Piedmontese shores of Lake Maggiore in 1918, while eloping with Agnes von Kurowsky, the nurse who inspired the fictional Catherine Barkley.
Another novelist, Italian Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911), mentions Isola dei Pescatori as
the little pile of houses rising out of the mirror of the lake and culminating in a campanile, in his masterpiece “The Patriot”. The island is indeed the smallest of the Borromean Islands, with a surface just over three square kilometers, but also the only one to have a resident population (of approximately thirty-five!).
But now, let’s enjoy images from the real Isola dei Pescatori – which may prove more amazing that any literary fiction..