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Jan 272012

After three beautiful days in Milan, not enough of course, we moved northwest from Milan for my job photographing the annual CEO Summit for the Consumer Electronics Association at Lago Maggiore, Italy. I’ve photographed many CEA conferences over the years but this was by far the most special. The hotels where the conference was held were in Stresa, a lovely town on the western shore of Lake Maggiore in extreme northwestern Italy. The magnificent, mountain scenery was marred by smog from who knows where. A few days earlier, from the air, I saw it clouding the mountain valleys of the French Alps as we approached Milan by plane from the west. This was unfortunate as the mountains rising from the lake provide a spectacular backdrop.

Lago Maggiore straddles the border of Italy and Switzerland. The towns surrounding the lake date back centuries with the majority of buildings seemingly from the 19th century. The lovely, alpine setting and its mild climate have made Lake Maggiore a tourism mecca for a very long time, influencing the towns and architecture. A visit to Lago Maggiore and an audience with the then current head of the ancient Borromeo family was a de rigeur stop on the Grand Tour undertaken by 19th century aristocracy.

Large, elegant villas line the shore, reflecting the lake’s aristocratic heritage. The Borromeo family, one of Europe’s oldest families, has maintained residences in the area for centuries. The family’s influence is seen everywhere in the surroundings of Stresa including one of the hotels where the conference was held, the Grand Hotel Des Ille Borromees. Built around 1850, it is an elegant expression of La Belle Epoch, some would say an over the top expression.

The Borromeo family owns four small islands in the lake. The Borromeo palace is located on Isola Bella which also contains  a small community and the palace’s impressive gardens. One of our activities was a tour of this 17th century palace and gardens. Members of the family were in residence, but in a private part of the palace inaccessible to the public.

The Roman roots of the Borromeo family can be traced all the way back to 66 CE. It came into prominence in 1367 during the Ghibelline Revolt against the Florentine Guelphs. A father and son in succession became Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan, the son later canonized in 1610. One off-shoot married into the Medici family. During the 16th century, most of North Central Italy was known as the Borromeo State with the family holding full political and military power.

Our visit, though short, allowed a taste of the elegance from a former time.

Grand Hotel Et Des Ille Borromees

The Regina Palace Hotel

Approaching Isola Bella

The Borromeo Palace and the village on Isola Bella


Restaurants and souvenir shops are set among the houses and church of Isola Bella.


The lower level of the palace are a series of grottos, now galleries, with the walls and ceilings decorated in this strange, shell-like texture and motifs. In pre-air conditioner days, they provided a relatively cool place for the family while away the hot, summer days.


  Part of the family’s private gardens.


 The majority of the once private gardens are open to the public. The stairs lead to a broad terrace

with panoramic views of the lake and mountains.

Isola dei Pescatori, Fisherman’s Island. With part of Stresa along the shore in the background.

Lago Maggiore is also a place for destination weddings. Here, a bride from somewhere in Asia,

is photographed along the lake shore as the groom looks on.

One of the conference dinners was held at the Ristorante Piccolo Lago, a Michelin two star restaurant.


Copyright 2011 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging


Jan 132012

Nothing can be more iconic of Milan than her gorgeous Duomo especially seen just after dusk on a lovely Autumn evening.

I was very fortunate that one of my clients, the Consumer Electronics Association, CEA for short, brought me along to photograph their 2011 CEO Summit held this year in Stressa, Italy on the shore of Lago Maggiore in northwestern Italy. I’ve photographed the CEO Summits for a number of years but this was the first time outside the U.S..

The Northern Italian city of Milan is the natural arrival point for travel to the lakes along the Swiss border. Lake Maggiore, a half hour train ride from the city is the westernmost and lies somewhat parallel to perhaps more famous Lake Cumo. Having always wanted to visit Milan and it’s most famous of all Italian opera houses, La Scala, a few days there before my job were imperative. Milan has the reputation for being an industrial city. That might be true, but its credentials as a center and arbiter of fashion are unquestioned.

While strolling the streets of the fashionable city center, store windows of Italy’s most famous labels compete for the eye. And better, at least for me, is checking out the many beautiful women stylishly walking outside the restaurant while I partake of an early supper.

Art too, holds its claim. The architectural masterpieces of the Duomo and its 19th century neighbor, the Galleria Phillip Emanuel? are astounding side by side. The museums of the Sforza Palace contain treasures and masterworks from Milan’s history along with a trove of unique and beautiful musical instruments. An entire afternoon can be spent wandering among the poignant and majestic tombs of the Cementerio Maggiore. In my experience, only the monuments of Buenos Aires’ Recoleta can compete on this world-class stage of after-worldly opulence.

And then, there is one of the most famous paintings in the long, accomplished and magnificent history of Italian art, painted by perhaps Milan’s most famous adopted son on the wall of an un-prepossessing refectory attached to the luscious Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie, Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.

Plus, there seems to be music every night. Major music. If the current offering at La Scala doesn’t appeal or if a decent seat can’t be had, concerts by Europe’s finest musicians and symphony orchestras abound.

And everywhere, Gellaterias entice with their delicious and imaginative Italian ice creams.

Time, very well spent.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Lovely late afternoon light on the front facade of the Duomo.

Door panel detail-Milan’s Duomo.

A chapel in one of the transcepts in the Duomo.

Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II

Sforza Palace fortification and typical 19th century apartment building.

In the Sforza Palace.

The hall of armory.

A beautifully, crafted lute thingamajig in the musical instrument collection-Don’t ask me how you play it.

Only three panels of the massive, electronic tone generator/computer used by Luciano Berio and others to create their experimental electronic music in the 1950’s. My Macbook Pro at maybe a thousandth the size of this behemoth does everything this baby could and infinitely more.

An Aussie performing in the courtyard of the Sforza Palace on a Hang, an instrument with an amazing, hypnotic sound very similar to a Jamaican steel drum.

Santa Maria delle Grazia.

In the Santa Maria dell Grazie we stumbled upon this visiting Russian orchestra and chorus rehearsing for that night’s performance. Exceptional music making!

The streets of Milan are rife with the scourge of graffiti. Dogs pissing on fire hydrants as I like to say. Occasionally, something interesting can be found amidst the scrawls.

In the Cementerio Maggiore.

From the “Great War”.

Stacked niches 20-30 feet high in mauseleums both above and below ground went on for miles.

As the sun goes down on our final night along the streets of the Piazza Duomo.

Copyright 2011 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging