Discovering Lake Orta

If you have at your disposal a long weekend, consider using it to stay by a lake that is surrounded in natural beauty and tranquillity. There are several such lakes in Italy, but of these, a lesser known lake is Lake Orta, which is also known as Lake Cusio, and is the focus of this article today. Due to its immense natural beauty and calmness, this less known lake is more deserving of a visit. On the face of it, Lake Orta is the twelfth most sought after lake in Italy. Covering 11 miles from north to south, it is nestled between the Piedmontese provinces of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Novara. Referring to a map, you’ll see that this glacial basin is located between Lake Maggiore in the east and the Italian mountains in the west. Here, it is easier to hire a vehicle to get around, and as such, we would recommend visiting the Auto Europe website, a top global car rental broker, and the ideal place to find a low cost car hire deal. For visitors that wish to arrive by airplane, there are three possibilities located around an hour and a half away to collect your vehicle. Turin, Bergamo and Milan are all good options, with the latter being the closest. These locations also apply to visitors who wish to arrive by train – although here, it’s easier to check on the website to see if there are any closer car rental desks to Lake Orta. At key transport hubs, such as at airports and train stations, more car rental suppliers are present – and therefore you’ll have a larger selection of vehicles in which to choose from. Often, with more competition, the rentals themselves are even cheaper – saving you money. With the money saved, you could then decide to stay a few nights in one of the previously mentioned magical Italian cities before heading to Lake Orta or before returning home.

Due to the beautiful woodlands that embrace and surround all of Lake Orta, we suggest that the best time of year to visit this magical place is during autumn. This is a period of the year where Lake Orta explodes with beautiful autumn colours. Although in reality any time of year is a great time to visit Lake Orta. To gain a greater understanding of how stunning this stretch of water is, we suggest you start with a visit to the island of San Giulio. The quickest way to reach this island is by catching a local ferry from Orta San Giulio. The town itself provides the perfect welcome to this region. You’ll be accompanied by numerous stately villas as you head along its roads until you reach the Piazza Motta. Here, it opens up to a wonderful arcade, full of quaint traditional shops and several coffee houses where the ferry departs. The ferry crossing to the Island of San Giulio will take around five minutes – hardly noticeable. The island is comprised mainly by the Monastery of San Giulio, which was established in 390 AD and is where the canons are housed, along with the striking Villa Tallone. The whole complex includes the Basilica of San Giulio, the Palazzo dei Vescovi and the Benedictine Abbey Mater Ecclesiae. If you follow the Via del Silenzio, it’ll take you along the complexes whole perimeter, and you’ll come across practically everything you need to see here. This island can also be reached by ferry from other towns, for example; the town of Pella. In addition, there are daily cruises that will stop at every town along Lake Orta, and is the perfect introduction to the uniqueness of each town.

Normally, our journey would take you along the lake, although, we propose a detour to Stresa, a popular centre overlooking nearby Lake Maggiore. Along with being a town with a beautiful historical centre, Stresa boasts a wonderful neoclassical villa – the Villa Pallavicino, with its enchanting garden that once housed a small zoo. This zoo through time has developed into a splendid wildlife museum. From the lakes shoreline you can catch a glimpse of the three famous Borromean Islands. Also reachable by ferry, these islands are dotted with beautiful and elegant palaces and villas – many of which are now used as museums. Once you have seen everything, leave Stresa towards Omegna, which is located at the northern tip of Lake Orta and forms part of the Mottarone summit. For those who like high altitudes, consider a quick stop along the way and hike up one of the many paths on the mountains slope. Once you arrive in Omegna, head down to the towns central square, in which the Nigoglia stream flows through and merges with the Strona.  On the way down you will come across several important buildings, including noble palaces, the Porta Romana located at the city walls and the Ponte Antico located over the Strona.

Head along the lakes western shoreline until you reach the ancient settlement of Pella. Recognised by its medieval tower, Pella is located right in front of the island of San Giulio. Immerse yourself in the past with a visit to the Piazza Ravedoni wash house and the chapel of San Filiberto. To complete your Italian adventure, a toast with local wine is always a great option. We therefore recommend heading towards the wine district of Boca in the Novara province. In just twenty minutes you’ll be able to enjoy some DOC red wine in Boca. A mix of Spanna, Vespolina and Nebbiolo vines, the wine is then left to rest for at least three years in wooden barrels. We recommend booking a guided wine tour, which includes wine tasting. Cantine del Castello Conti, Podere ai Valloni and Le Piane vineyards are just a few of the recommended tours to go on, if you love good quality wine. We guarantee that once you have undertaken this whole experience, you will go away totally satisfied with what you have discovered in this truly precious corner of Italy. All that’s left now is to spread the word and return one day with your family and friends.

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