Lake Orta lies to the west of Lake Maggiore, in northern Italy. It has been overshadowed by the more fashionable neighbors in the Italian Lake District, Como and Garda, and is perfect if you want to avoid hordes of visitors and have an idyllic Luxury honeymoon in Italy.
Lago d’Orta has always been a magnet for romantically inclined poets and writers. In the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, Lord Byron, Honoré de Balzac and Robert Browning all came here. To honor the tradition, an international poetry festival is organised here every year. It is easy to understand why many people are enchanted by Lake Orta’s understated elegance. Its main town, Orta San Giulio oozes charm and history, with pretty archways, narrow cobbled streets, traffic-free center and delightful small courtyards. Make your way to Piazza Motta which flanked by graceful chestnut trees and pastel-colored centuries-old buildings and sit in a tree shadow sipping a coffee and people watching. Every Wednesday the square is abuzz with a lively weekly market that has been held here since 1228.
For stunning vistas over the lake hike to the top of the Sacred Mountain (Sacro Monte). The well signed paths will brings you to the beautiful 16th century chapels, twenty of them hidden in the woods, with spectacular frescoes and life-size terracotta sculptures that tell the story of San Francesco d’Assisi.
Within a short boat-ride from the town is the tiny Island of San Giulio. The legend has it a long time ago, vicious dragons lived there, but St. Julius sailed across the water on his cloak and fought the evil creatures with his sword. To commemorate the miracle a Benedictine monastery was built on the island. You can walk around it following the signs that say in various languages “Listen to the water, the wind, your steps”. Isola di San Giulio is, indeed, a wonderful place for reflection, peaceful and ethereally beautiful.
Back in Orta San Giulio simple trattorie and pizzerie serve excellent home-made fare. Have a romantic candlelit dinner at the charming taverna Al Boeuch (Via Bersani, 28) or at the anassuming Pizzeria La Campana (Via Giovanetti, 43).
Photos by: Selden Vestrit, Marco Trovò, Arnoud van Otterloo.