Isola San Giulio, Lago d'Orta, Italy

Lake Orta, Italy, Why it Will be Your New Favorite Destination

Nicknamed La Cenerentola (Cinderella) Lago d’Orta (Lake Orta) many Italians secretly consider it the superior little sister to the larger more well-known Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. Italy’s most romantic lake Lago d’Orta has long played muse for artists, poets, and weddings. Here are a few photos and videos that best illustrate the charms of Lago d’Orta. Plus, top must-see sights if you only have one day to visit Lake Orta.

Our guide to Lake Orta, Italy is perfect if you only have one day to visit. Below you’ll find a map of sights for Lake Orta starting with a parking, moving on to morning sightseeing, next lunch and finally where to find the best elevated views.

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Lake Orta, Italy

In the Italian Alps sits Lake Orta, a mirror-like lake of tranquility. Loved by Italians as a treasure trove of emotions, art, history and cuisine.

That is to say Lake Orta Sits in the middle of the Novara plains and the Italian Alps Lake like a meeting place of Italian gastronomy. Specifically, we’re talking about meals with rice from the plains, Gorgonzola and Nebbiolo from the hills. In Lake Orta it’s a pleasure to indulge in some of the most appreciated cheese in Europe. Neighboring on Cusio and Ossola highlands there is no shortage of fresh formaggio. Moreover, crystal clear water flowing from the river into the lake supplies abundant fresh fish. In other words Lake Orta has world class regional cuisine in abundance.

A romantic lake surrounded by dramatic hills, Lake Orta has drawn the eye of artists like Nietzsche. Works by famous painters including Fiammenghinis, Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, Cristoforo Prestinari, Dionigi Bussola and the Nuvolone brothers grace Sacro Monte di Orta. Their work infusing the area with emotions, suspended in time between the water and the clear blue skies. Lake Orta, is a bit magical.

The following curated tourism video is only in Italian and yet, the drone footage is the best I’ve seen of this beloved Northern Italian lake.

Beautiful lago D'orta

Lake Orta, Italy Map

The perfect place to spend one day in Lake, Orta is the town of Orta San Giulio. Our map of destinations including parking once and hiking as well as driving up to see the views. Look below the map for further descriptions.

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What to See & Do in Lake Orta, Italy

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’s top points of interest including Villa Bossi, Piazza Motta, and Isola San Giulio. Back to Top

Villa Bossi Public Garden

The town of Orta San Guilio purchased Villa Bossi in 1975 to rescue it from a state of abandonment. After careful restoration it now serves as Town Hall. Constructed on a medieval site the villa is from the 17th century. 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 video below is in Italian, but this time… there’s no commentary. Still, I adore putting myself in the shoes of the person who filmed it. Clip, clop, clip, clop, sigh! That view.

Villa Bossi, il municipio di Orta San Giulio

The Perfect Picture Statue

“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 in Lake Orta, Italy. Please indulge me if you will with a few of our own family photos from our visit. Back to Top

Piazza Motta

Palazzo della Comunità della Riviera in Orta San Giulio sits on the north end of Piazza Motta. Built in 1582 this charming Palazzotto’s frescos are 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 (San Giulio Island)

Known as ‘the island of silence’ Isola di San Giulio (Island of San Giulio) in Lake Orta, Italy is home to a modern monastery. Posted along the curved walkways, signs with peaceful thoughts like “The moment is present, here at now” and “Silence is music and harmony” encourage visitors to put their cell phones down. Peace rings clear across this 900-foot long, 459-foot wide island anchored by a minor Basilica, Basilica di San Guilio. You can walk around Isola di San Giulio in serenity without google maps.

Where to Eat in Lake Orta, Italy

Afterwards, head to lunch. While there are a few options on Isola di San Giuoli, we recommend heading back to Piazza Motto for lunch. Adjacent to the dock and up head up two winding street and you’ll find Al Boeuch. An Italian wine bar with tiny tables spilling out onto the tilted narrow street. While they have vegetarian options, we opted for the cheese and charcuterie board pictured below. I’m still dreaming about this plate and its rather enticing grappa jelly. To illustrate, the droll worthy photo below that encapsulates the cheese situation mentioned in the introduction.

Lago d'Orta Best Lunch Restaurant
Cheese and Charcuterie at Al Boeuch

Sacro Monte

Next, take a post-lunch walk above Orta San Giulio for the best panoramic views of Lago d’Orta. Let Sacro Monte di Orta (The Sacred Mount of Orta). UNESCO World Heritage site Sacred Mount of Orta dates back to 1583. It is a surprisingly stunning Roman Catholic devotional complex dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.

My American friends will appreciate the English captions on this beautiful video. Therefore, I wanted to include it because this video shows what it’s like to walk around Sacro Monte di Orta in a way that’s difficult for photos to do.

Vi racconto il Sacro Monte di Orta San Giulio!  - (with English subtitles)

A spiraling trail of twenty chapels depicts key phases of Saint Francis of Assisi’s life. Heavenly views reward even the non-religious during hikes The gracefully manicured woods provide shade and benches to ponder Nietzsche’s romantic connection to Lake Orta.

Follow Nietzsche’s Footsteps

Nietzsche spent time with a young Russian woman named Lou Salomé among these wooded trails. In a letter to Lou Nietzsche confessed “I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.”

“I owe to you the most beautiful dream of my life.” — Nietzsche

When it comes time to finding that summer vacation in the Italian lakes, both Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta deserve their due. Thankfully with only an hour’s drive between the two lakes, the itinerary described above would make Lago d’Orta the perfect day trip from Lago Maggiore.

In conclusion, a balanced combination of nature and history, it’s not hard to see why Italians and artists throughout history have fallen in love with 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!

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