Italy’s most romantic lake Lago d’Orta (Lake Orta) has long played muse for artists, poets, and weddings. Nicknamed La Cenerentola (Cinderella) is secretly considered by many Italians as the superior sibling to the larger more well-known Lake Como and lake Maggiore.
Here are our top 10 photos that best illustrate the charms of Lago d’Orta followed by the perfect one day itinerary.
Lago d’Orta, Italy’s Most Romantic Lake
Lago d’Orta Points of Interest
To get the most out of a first visit to Lago d’Orta start at with Orta San Giulio. Situated in the middle of the east bank, San Giulio offers easy access to many of Lago d’Orta top points of interest including Villa Bossi, Piazza Motta, and Isola San Giulio.
Get “The Perfect Picture” at Villa Bossi Public Garden
After years of sitting abandoned, Villa Bossi was purchased in 1975 and carefully restored to serve as Orta San Giulio’s current Town Hall. While the villa is from the 17th century, it was constructed on a medieval site. Five entryway portals and an ancient gate still remain.
Behind Villa Bossi lies a small but enchanting public waterfront garden. Flowers cascade down a tunnel of trellises drawing visitors lakeside. At the end lies sensational water level views immersed in the romanticism of Lago d’Orta.
“The Perfect Picture” a bronze statue (pictured above) by German Actor and Director Carl Heinz Schroth captures the artistic spirit that reverberates all around Lago d’Orta. A three minute walk south lies San Giulio’s main square, Piazza Motta.
Palazzo della Comunità della Riviera in Orta San Giulio sits on the north end of Piazza Motta. Known locally at Palazzotto the Palazzo was built in 1582 with frescos (pictured above) still visible today.
Typical of ancient municipal palazzos an open-air portico makes up the ground floor providing shade and protection for markets. While the upper floor historically served as the hall where the General Council met.
All around Piazza Motta colorful Italian patina juxtaposes modern shops and restaurants. It’s the perfect spot to stop and take it all in over a coffee or Aperitivo. Best of all, Piazza Motta offers romantic views along with boats and ferries to Isola di San Giulio, Lago d’Orta’s only island.
Isola di San Giulio
Just 900 feet long and 459 feet wide the tiny island is anchored by a minor Basilica, Basilica di San Guilio. Signs with peaceful thoughts like “The moment is present, here at now” and “Silence is music and harmony” posted along the curved walkways silently encourage putting that cell phone down for a while. A walk around Isola di San Giulio offers the promise of serenity and the impossibility of getting lost, even without google maps.
Best Restaurant in Lago d’Orta for Lunch
While there are a few options for lunch on Isola di San Giuoli, I recommend heading back to Piazza Motto for lunch. Just a two-minute walk from the docks up winding street lies Al Boeuch an Italian wine bar so small, tables spill out onto the tilted narrow street. While they have vegetarian options like bagna cauda, we opted for the cheese and charcuterie board pictured below. I’m still dreaming about this plate and it’s rather enticing grappa jelly.
Follow Nietzsche’s Footsteps, Sacro Monte
If a post lunch walk is in order, try taking in panoramic vistas of Lago d’Orta at the top of Sacro Monte di Orta (The Sacred Mount of Orta). A Roman Catholic devotional complex dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi the Sacred Mount of Orta dates back to 1583 and is included in UNESCO World Heritage list.
A spiraling trail of twenty chapels depict key phases of Saint Francis of Assisi’s life. Even for the non religious, the hike is a pleasant exploration rewarded with heavenly views. The gracefully manicured woods provide shade and benches to ponder Nietzsche’s romantic connection to Lake Orta.
It was among these wooded trails where Nietzsche is said to have spent time with a young Russian woman named Lou Salomé. In a letter to Lou Nietzsche confessed “I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.”
When it comes time to find that summer vacation in the Italian lakes, both Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta deserve their due. Thankfully with only an hour drive between the two lakes, the itinerary described above would make Lago d’Orta the perfect day trip from Lago Maggiore.
With a balanced combination nature and history, it’s not hard to see why Italians and artists throughout history have fallen in love Lago d’Orta. Those tales told time and time again of Nietzsche’s summer romance reverberate from the Sacro Monte hillside down to Lago d’Orta glassy waters. Just to see Lago d’Orta is to love her.
What about you, does a history complete with famous artists and authors draw you to specific travel destinations too? I’d love to hear what your favorites are? Please share in the comments below!
Next up, another Moving to Italy installment including the most unexpected adjustments to life in Italy.
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- Rousing Nietzsche in Orta, Italy – by D. Curoopen Colpman