Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (2023)

Lake Orta in Italy is one of my favourite places I always recommend to meditative people with a romantic side. Not all travellers know this enchanting place, this is why it is often underrated. Lake Orta is a little known gem that will enchant you with its blue glimpses, medieval villages, restaurants, high-class outlets and the stunning San Giulio island set in stone.

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (1)

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Lake Orta is about 130 km from Turin, but if you are in Milan you can reach it along about 70 km, an hour’s drive, and if you are landing in Milan Malpensa airport the journey only takes 42 km. I believe that this wonderful place can be a lovely getaway to include in your itinerary from one of these cities.

First of all Lake Orta has nothing to envy to Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. Undoubtly, each of these lakes has its own charm but Lake Orta has something special to me. It is still a great place for a romantic weekend, for solo travelers or for who like to enjoy the landscape by trekking and hiking. I am literally in love with the atmosphere that the views lake offer travelers.

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You can get to Lake Orta only on foot. It is at the end of a peninsula in the protected nature reserve of Sacro Monte. Italian writer Piero Chiara defined it as “God’s watercolor, painted on a silk backdrop, with its sacred mountain behind. The Holy Mountain is famous for its 20 chapels within which there are life-size terracotta statues depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.The mountain was also visited by Nietzsche together with Lou Salome, the woman he loved but she didn’t reciprocated his love. After he left that mountain he wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

You will love walking through the old houses.

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (2)

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If you want to visit Lake Orta I recommend 2 very pleasant paths to enjoy every corner of this enchanted place:

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– The first path starts at Villa Crespi, a first-class hotel. It is also has a 2-star Michelin restaurant, housed in a Moorish palace with a minaret. From here take Via Fava leading down to the lake. The view is amazing, there are glimpses of chic villas belonging to impoverished aristocrats. Now they are home of lake-view apartments. Continuing towards the highest point on the horizon you will see Buccione tower,which is 23 meters high. It is a fort linked to the heroine of the Cusio, Maria Canavesa, who sacrificed his life and those of her children to save the banks of the lake from the invader. From this place the view is really fab.

– The second path is called “the lakefront” starts from Pasticceria Rosa and it is by the water. It seems famous Italian writer Montale was inspired from this path when he wrote one of his beautiful poems. Look at the Palazzo della Comunità in Piazza Motta. It is dated 1582 and it has got a large porch and sundials adorning the façade.

What to see in Lake Orta:

Here are 3 great places to relax, and enjoy the lake view:

  • Town Hall,which is along the main street behind a wrought iron gate between the tall houses of the old town. There is a wonderful lakeside terrace. It is a truly magical place where you can sit and read a good book, listening to music overlooking the lake surrounded by roses and wisteria that drops down from the pergola. You can also admire the island of San Giulio.
  • Hotel San Rocco is a former convent converted into a hotel. It is another place of relaxation wrapped in an religious silence.
  • Church of the Assumption, where weddings are celebrated. It is so romantic!
  • San Giulio Island. It is a small island. You can reach it by the boats that leave from the landing stage of Orta in less than 5 minutes. Round trip price is about €4. Once you arrive you can visit it on foot in just 40 minutes. It’s a really romantic place surrounded by the lake and the mountains. Here there is a monastery with a beautiful basilica you can visit. It contains a stunning Romanesque ambo and fairly preserved frescoes. What I appreciate most of San Giulio island is the silence, the absolute peace and the breathtaking views overlooking the lake. If you love photography you will love immortalize spots of preserved beauty.

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (3)

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  • There is also “The street of silence”. It is a street around the picturesque monastery which offers several insights thanks to the quotes that guide visitors. Every 20 steps there are pearls of wisdom that lead man to meditation and the knowledge of himself.

When I visited Lake Orta I stayed at Al Dom B&B (Via Giovanetti, 57). It is a charming and elegant B&B. Rooms are cute and they overlook the lake. Breakfast is very good! I think this is the perfect place for a romantic and relaxing holiday. Website.

Places worth visiting around Lake Orta:

If you travel by car, as well as I did, here are nice towns and places that can satisfy your interests:

  • Omegna is ideal for design lovers because here there is the Alessi outlet,where you can find interesting home stuff on sale.
  • Pella is another town with the Romanesque church of San Filiberto. It is a medieval complex with a Romanesque bell tower and 14 chapels dating back to the ‘700 depicting Via Crucis. You can get here by car or by boat leaving from Orta San Giulio and getting off at San Filiberto. This is a little unknown gem. The view is very suggestive.
  • Another gem to enjoy a breathtaking view is Madonna del Sasso and its beautiful sanctuary of the mid-700 located on a white granite outcrop overlooking the lake. There are several bends to reach it but I assure you it’s worth it. This place is pure poetry. In summer, the church is open only for a few hours during the day. From the square in front of the church, called “the balcony of Cusio”, you can enjoy a wonderful view over Lake Orta and the island of San Giulio. Then, you can also admire cute villages of the wide valley. You could also be lucky enough to find a clear sky and see Milan, Novara and Vercelli. To reach the church, you can also take the equipped likeside route of Pella, about 3 km, in two hours. If you need other info you can contact Tourist Office of Orta San Giulio sending a mail to inforta@distrettolaghi.it

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (4)

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (5)

My Favourite Restaurants in Lake Orta

Lake Orta, Italy: A True Hidden Gem You Didn't Know Until Now (6)

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  • Enoteca Re di Coppe (Piazza Motta, 32) is my place for appetizers. It is in the corner of the main square of Orta San Giulio. Food is good just like the prices. I tried cold meats and cheese.
  • Pan&Vino in (Piazza Motta, 37) is my place for lunch. I chose a chicken salad. If you want you can also choose appetizers. My friend chose a good sandwich with roast pork. I payed €6 for a glass of wine, I think it is too expensive. I wouldn’t choose it again. Website.
  • Restaurant & Bistrot La Motta is ideal for a good dinner. I tasted pecorino cheese with ginger flan. If you want, you can also eat fish which is good too. Dishes are not abundant. You pay about €50 per person if you choose entrée, appetizer, first and second dish, dessert with a glass of fine wine but you can feel satisfied only with appetizers and a first or second dish. Website.
  • Hotel Villa Crespi Restaurant. I’m still waiting to try it personally. Many of my friends have told me that you eat well and the view is outstanding. Website.
  • Gelateria Artigiana Antica Torre (Via Legro 10). Ice cream is very good here!
  • Il Cucchiaio di Legno (Via Prisciola, 10). It is an agritourism farm when you can taste good meat. Price/quality ratio is good. I only recommend it if you want to stay more than one day at Lake Orta because it is about 30 minute by car from the centre.

I believe Lake Orta can be a wonderful alternative to a getaway that takes you away from the chaos of big cities. Do you agree? 🙂

FAQs

Is Lake Orta worth visiting? ›

It is a short, but steep, walk uphill and is worth the sweaty ascent for the site's calm beauty and breathtaking views. Save yourself the perspiration, and head up for just before sunset, when the area is lit up magically and you can watch the sun dip below beautiful Lake Orta.

Can you swim in Lake Orta? ›

The beaches of Lake Orta are numerous and equipped, some are private, some communal, all are clean and places for relaxation and family fun. Whether sand, turf or pebbles, they are ideal for swimming in the crystal clear waters of Europe's cleanest lake.

Can you walk around Lake Orta? ›

You can stroll around the shores of the lake on its promenade path or climb up to the Sacro Monte di Orta, a collection of some 20 chapels in a landscaped park above the town, each chapel decorated with frescoes and terracotta statues telling the story of the life of St Francis of Assisi.

How do I get to Lake Orta? ›

Lake Orta is a two-hour train from Milan, perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway. Fly into Milan Malpensa and you'll be by Lake Orta in about one hour by car. Alternatively, from Milano Centrale Railways Station, it's a two-hour train ride to Orta-Miasino or Pettenasco via Novara.

What is Lake Orta known for? ›

Orta San Giulio

The town was originally named Lago di San Giulio, after the local patron Saint Julius. Today, the town remains famous for religious pilgrimage due to its position on the slope of Sacro Monte, one of 9 sacred mountains in Northern Italy.

Is Lake Orta near Lake Como? ›

Lake Orta is arguably one of the most heavenly spots in northern Italy. Set in peaceful surroundings in the foothills of the Alps, there's plenty to explore in the area, including its famous sister lakes – Como and Maggiore.

Where can I swim in the Dolomites? ›

If you come to the Dolomites Region Seiser Alm to swim, you will find idyllically situated lakes at the foot of the Schlern massif and a swimming pool with a panoramic view: The Völser Weiher lake is classed as one of the cleanest swimming lakes in Italy.

Can you swim in the sea in Sicily? ›

While Sicilian beaches are often of the pebbly variety, with fewer sandy expanses than other Mediterranean hotspots, the coastal scenery here is some of Europe's most dramatic, with deep-blue, turquoise, and emerald green waters framed by rugged rocky outcrops; swimming conditions are at their best from June to early ...

How far is it around Lake Orta? ›

This trail is about 7 kilometers long and takes about 3½ hours.

Is Sicily walkable? ›

Best for urban adventure. The best way to enjoy Sicily's main city is by getting lost. Endlessly walkable, there is a slew of revamped pedestrian areas and squares (with plenty of cafes for refreshment) amidst the centuries of decay the city wears proudly. Palermo is a place to lose yourself in its contradictions.

Is Sicily good for hiking? ›

With its volcanic islands, rugged shorelines and brilliant blue-green waters, Sicily offers some of the most dramatic coastal landscapes on earth, along with a slew of gorgeous trails. Whether you're looking for a single-day hike or a whole vacation's worth of walking, you'll find it here.

How do you get from Orta to Milan? ›

The cheapest way to get from Milan to Orta San Giulio is to train via Milano Porta Venezia which costs €7 - €13 and takes 2h 48m. What is the fastest way to get from Milan to Orta San Giulio? The quickest way to get from Milan to Orta San Giulio is to drive which costs €15 - €23 and takes 1h 3m.

How wide is Lake Orta? ›

About 8 miles (13 km) long and 0.75 mile (1.2 km) wide, it has an area of 7 square miles (18 square km). Its greatest depth is 469 feet (143 m), and the surface is 951 feet (290 m) above sea level. It is the remnant of a much larger body of water through which the waters of the Toce River flowed south toward Novara.

How far is Lake Como from airport? ›

Lake Como is one of the most impressive of the famous lakes you can find in the Lombardy region. Located only 21 miles (34 km) away from Milan airport, it's a perfect day trip destination from the Italian fashion capital.

How long is Lake Orta Italy? ›

Which is better Lake Como or Maggiore? ›

Lake Como is arguably more dramatic when it comes to scenery, probably in large part because the mountains seem to almost rise directly out of the lake itself but, in our opinion, this doesn't make it any more beautiful than Lake Maggiore. 3. It's more authentic!

What is San Marino most known for? ›

San Marino is said to be the world's oldest surviving republic. Tourism dominates the economy of the 61 square kilometre (23.6 square miles) republic, which plays host to more than three million visitors every year. Postage stamps and coins - keenly sought by collectors - are important sources of revenue.

What is the cleanest lake in Italy? ›

Lake Bolsena is formed in the crater of an extinct volcano between Tuscany and Lazio. One of Italy's cleanest lakes, it's an excellent place to swim, fish or sail. Take a walk around the lake, and you'll see charming villages, forests and few tourists.

Which is better Como or Garda? ›

Lake Como is a little more elegant and expensive

than Lake Garda. While accommodation and meals at either lake is pricey, particularly in the high season, Lake Como also tends to be a little bit more expensive, too.

What is the most beautiful part of Lake Como? ›

Many people consider the steep hillside village of Varenna to be the most heavenly of all the towns on Lake Como, preferring the charming fisherman's houses to the showier villas and grandeur of neighbors like Bellagio.

Where is the bluest water in Italy? ›

Acquafredda Di Maratea Beach

Located a short drive away from the village of Maratea, the Acquafredda di Maratea Beach is among the most beautiful beaches in Italy. It has crystal clear blue waters accompanied by dark gray sand that makes it stand out from other beaches in and around Italy.

Which is the warmest Italian lake? ›

Lago di Caldaro, which developed from an old river bed of the Adige, has an average depth of only four meters. This makes for pleasant temperatures of 17-19°C in spring and up to 28°C in summer.

Are there any bears in the Dolomites? ›

Other fauna you can find in the Dolomites consist of brown bears, roe deer, the fire salamander and the Alpine newt.

Where is the clearest water in Italy? ›

Around 3 miles (5km) west of Portoferraio on the tiny Tuscan island of Elba, Spiaggia di Sansone (Samson's Beach) is a postcard-perfect swathe of tiny white pebbles and shingle ensnared by cliffs, with crystal-clear, turquoise waters much-loved by snorkeling enthusiasts.

Can you drink tap water in Dolomites? ›

You might wonder, can't you drink tap water in the Dolomites? Yes, in most places you can. Sometimes directly from the mountain stream. However, there are some areas where tap water is not potable.

Which is better Sicily or Sardinia? ›

If you're looking for classic historical sites and lots of Greek history then Sicily is the best option, whereas Sardina has much older examples of ancient monuments and has more Roman history than the other island.

Can you drink tap water in Sicily? ›

Generally speaking, Sicilian tap water is potable, although it may carry a metallic taste if it comes from Etna. The strange taste can also be found around a volcanoes, Taormina or Catania. Public places and fountains generally have signs, informing the bypassers if the water is potable or not.

How deep is the water between Italy and Sicily? ›

Connecting the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west with the Ionian Sea in the east, this skinny strip of water is just 3 kilometers (2 miles) wide at its narrowest point. The 32-kilometer- (20-mile-) long strait widens toward the south, but doesn't grow very deep, only about 90 meters (300 feet).

Can you cycle around Lake Orta? ›

The blue circle route is the key player of Lake Orta's outdoor offer, it is totally wakable and nearly all suitable for cycling. It develops between glimpse of the lake, hills, ancient churches of historic and artistic value, fortifications and hamlets. The route runs along the lake perimeter for 40 km.

What province is Lake Orta in? ›

Lake orta is a subalpine lake in Piedmont, between the provinces of Novara and Verbania.

Are there any lakes in Tuscany? ›

FOUR EXQUISITE LAKES IN TUSCANY

You will likely have heard of Lake Como and Lake Garda, but Tuscany also has some exquisite lakes you can visit and enjoy. renting paddle boats to explore the lake further. Due to its very clean water, its also full of a variety of wildlife, fish, and birds.

Is Sicily better than Amalfi? ›

The variety of restaurants and eateries in Sicily is much greater than the Amalfi Coast, including options more suitable for those travelling on a budget, and the island's size means that there are also a lot more local ingredients to sample during your trip.

Is Sicily cheaper than Italy? ›

Sicily is one of the cheapest places in Italy, owing primarily to the fact that you don't have to worry about paying for any high-speed trains. Additionally, food at most restaurants in Sicily is generally a bit cheaper than what you'd find in cities on the Italian mainland like Rome, Florence and Venice. What is this?

Is Sicily famous for anything? ›

What is Sicily Most Famous For? Italy's largest island, Sicily offers exceptional beaches, charming villages and towns, as well as an abundance of ancient ruins and archeological sites. aces the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Throughout history, Sicily has been at the crossroad of cultures, landscapes and cuisine.

What is Sicily known for to buy? ›

Ceramics is one of the products that Sicily is known for. These products – usually hand-made and painted – are expensive and heavy, but beautiful and perfect as a gift. You can already buy small items such as wine stoppers, cups, and small dishes. The imagination of the producers of Sicilian ceramics knows no bounds.

How should I dress in Sicily? ›

Dress is casual except in the smartest restaurants and appropriate dress (no shorts or bare shoulders) is needed for visits to churches. Dress codes do tend to be more conservative in Sicily than in central and northern Italy, especially in rural areas.

Is Milan or Venice closer to the Dolomites? ›

The major Dolomites ski resorts are about 130km south of Innsbruck in Austria & approximately 200km north of Verona. Venice is 150km south of Cortina d'Ampezzo & Milan is around 370km southwest of several Dolomites ski resorts.

How long is the train ride from Sicily to Milan? ›

No, there is no direct train from Sicily to Milan. However, there are services departing from Palermo Notarbartolo and arriving at Milano Centrale via Palermo Centrale and Roma Termini. The journey, including transfers, takes approximately 16h 27m.

How long is train from Milan to Sicily? ›

The average journey time by train between Milan and Palermo Centrale is 16 hours and 40 minutes, with around 18 trains per day.

Where are the Italian lakes? ›

The lakes are located in the Italian regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, and in the Swiss canton of Ticino. They are all located at least partly in Italy, while two of them (Maggiore and Lugano) are partly in Switzerland.

Is Lake Como or Milan better? ›

Really, it depends on your interests. If you like museums and historic buildings, stay in Milan. If you enjoy lakeside scenery, stay somewhere on Lake Como. Somewhere around the middle of the lake (say Bellagio) would be more scenic than Como.

Can you swim off a boat in Lake Como? ›

Yes, you are free to swim from the boat anywhere in Lake Como. But with so many boats on the water, try to pick a quiet spot near the shore. You will see plenty of lidos and beaches to swim ashore to.

Can you do Lake Como in a day? ›

From Milan, Italy and Lugano, Switzerland it's very easy to take a day trip to Lake Como. When planning your day trip to Lake Como, you first have to decide where you want to go. Lake Como is big and with only one day you will not have enough time to see all of it.

Is Vieste worth visiting? ›

Vieste is a seaside town where fish is of excellent quality. The town is characterized by the village and the modern area that extends from the coast to the hinterland. Here we can find many places to eat – from luxury restaurants to take-away pizzerias.

Is Sciacca Sicily worth visiting? ›

Sciacca is a historic fishing port on the southern coast of Sicily. A workaday town rather than a polished tourist destination, it is famed for its ceramics, its thermal baths and its religious festivals, as well as for its large fishing fleet.

Is Viareggio worth visiting? ›

What to see in Viareggio. Viareggio is an attractive destination not just for seaside tourists, but also for lovers of the figurative arts. The Villa Paolina Civic Museum and the refined art-deco architecture, which characterize many of the city's villas, are a must-see.

Is it worth visiting Alberobello? ›

Well, yes and no. If you only have a limited time in Puglia, then I would recommend skipping out on Alberobello and instead heading to Martina Franca or Locorotondo. With this being said, if you have a morning to spare, Alberobello is worth a visit, if only to admire the architecture and say you've been.

Which is better Monopoli or Polignano a Mare? ›

Both towns are charming and lovely, but a bit different. Polignano a Mare is perhaps a bit more charming, but touristy, and smaller. Monopoli is more of a town and more real; restaurants, and more transport. Very near each other, and so your lodging might decide for you.

What is the most beautiful part of Sicily? ›

The 10 most beautiful places in Sicily: simply unmissable sights
  1. Taormina. Also called “the pearl of the Mediterranean Sea”. ...
  2. Etna. The highest active volcano in Europe. ...
  3. Ortigia. It is located on a small island connected to the mainland by three bridges. ...
  4. Ragusa Ibla. ...
  5. Valle dei Templi. ...
  6. Favignana. ...
  7. Erice. ...
  8. Segesta.

What is the safest place in Sicily? ›

Ragusa is one of the safest places to stay in Sicily, with very low rates of all types of crime. Obviously, as always, common sense must be used, but in general the streets are safe to walk and there is even little of the opportunistic theft that plagues other parts of Italy, and even more crowded areas in Sicily.

Does Tuscany have a lake? ›

You will likely have heard of Lake Como and Lake Garda, but Tuscany also has some exquisite lakes you can visit and enjoy. renting paddle boats to explore the lake further. Due to its very clean water, its also full of a variety of wildlife, fish, and birds.

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