Friday, 15 June 2018


When somewhere is described as 'The most beautiful lake in Europe', how can one resist putting it high on a travel wishlist?

Lake Orta (or Lago d'Orta) as the Italians call it, is the smallest of Northern Italy's 'Italian lakes' and is a near neighbour to Lake Maggiore in the West and is in the beautiful Piedmont region.

Lesser known, even to many Italians, Lake Orta was so named in the 16th Century, but was previously called Lago di San Giulio, after Saint Julius (4th Century) who was patron saint in the region.  Measuring just 8.3 miles long X 1.6 miles wide, with the magical small central 'island' of Isola San Giulio set in the middle.

After a rather early start (yawn!) Mr. W and I flew to Milan where it was an easy 45 minute hire car drive to San Giulio, the picture perfect small town on a peninsula projecting from the east shore of the lake.  After checking in quickly to our little hotel, lunch was our priority, so we headed around the corner to the pretty central square overlooking the water.

It was hard to believe that just a few hours earlier we had left home, and here we were sitting overlooking the most stunning lakeside view, eating a platter of delicious local Piedmont cheeses and cold meats, and sipping a glass of equally delicious local white wine.  My idea of heaven!

Beautiful mainly 17C houses line the shores of the lake, many with their charming boathouses and terraces.  

 San Giulio is a haven of pretty cobbled back streets with beautiful architecture to admire.....

Pretty courtyards...

...and romantic balconies aplenty!

A trip to San Guilio would not be complete without making the effort to make the steep climb up to 'Sacro Monte di San Francesco'....

The view alone out to Isola San Giulio is worth the climb...

...before finding Sacro Monte, an amazing collection of 20 small chapels dedicated to the life of Saint Frances.

Some chapels simple and modest, and others boasting spectacular frescoes....

Back to the water's edge, a boat trip out to Isola San Giulio was a must.  Just a few minutes across the water to this tiny island, which is home to the spectacular Basilica di San Giulio and an old seminary built in the 1840's which is home to an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns.  A request for 'quiet' while walking around the buildings and cobbled alleyways, added to the beautiful and mystical atmosphere of this holy place.

Back over to San Giulio main land, beautiful walks around the lake are perfect for 'dream house' spotting! (oh and also for walking off all the delicious pasta dishes too...)

I rather liked this beauty, right on the water's edge....just imagine taking breakfast on that balcony each morning? Sigh....

...and hopping on to your speed boat to head out for lunch across the lake?

There are a number of hotels to stay at around the lake, but for our little two day break, we stayed in a charming b&b called 'Al Dom' which felt more like a boutique hotel.  Owned and run by the charming 'Massimo' who spent five years painstakingly restoring the property a few years ago.  Original features restored throughout and lovely attention to detail.  Its lake front position was wonderful, with access to a pretty garden with sun loungers taking in the spectacular views.

A simple but stylish interior, filled with charming antique pieces....

Doors leading to a pretty outdoor courtyard garden at the back....

...with access to a private lake front garden too.  Just perfect!

Such a pretty room and this stunning view to wake up to!  The breakfasts too were just wonderful, so I would highly recommend!

These are just a few highlights of our short but sweet stay on lovely Orta.  Really very uncrowded compared to the neighbouring Lakes and unspoilt by tourism.  A truly magical place.
Only three days away, but it felt like a longer holiday!  

If you enjoy beautiful scenery,  pretty architecture, art, history, walking and good food and wine, then a visit is a must!


Wishing you all a lovely weekend,

Sophia xxx

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