June 24th is the patron Saint of my hometown, thus I took advantage from such bank holiday in my city only, to go visit one of my favourite places in my Region: Lake Orta.
You may know that Northern Italy is disseminated by several Alpine lakes which usually are pretty small, however we have some lakes that are quite big, home to small islands that have been transformed into incredibly beautiful monasteries or palaces by our ancestors and offer some of the most beautiful views you can ever imagine.
This is the case of Lake Orta. I am aware that the whole world is mad about Lake Como and we have to thank Mr. George Clooney for that as the lake, which was well known abroad already, became one of the most attended destinations in Italy after he bought a villa there.
However, if I had to choose which is the lake that in my opinion is the most romantic, I would definitely say Lake Orta. Probably the smallest of the so-called “lake district”, Orta Lake covers an area of 18 Km2 which is quite an extent for a low Alps lake.
Located 1.30 h drive from Turin, on the way to Milan, you have to take a left once you reach the city of Novara and will get straight to Orta.
What makes this lake special is its location, at the feet of the Alps, surrounded by smooth mountains that are no obstacle to the sunset which, in fact, illuminates the lake and the Island of St. Giulio turning it into a real jewel in the middle of the lake.
I parked my car in Orta, the medieval village which also names the lake and took a nice stroll along the narrow allies of it, until I got to the main square, surrounded by painted 3 stories houses that brings some colour and a typical Italian touch to the place. I enjoyed a good gelato sat on a bench overlooking the island of St Giulio.
Then, I decided to take the boat and go to the Island.
St Giulio’s Island is really amazing!!! It is actually fully covered by a medieval abbey and a monastery, nowadays run by a group of secluded nuns that restore old fabrics and make icons of saints. Getting there is very easy, the boat ride is just 3 minutes. The Captain knows we all want to see both sides of the islands, thus before dropping us on the shores he made a full 360° tour around it. Once on the Island the first thing to do is to visit the amazing medieval basilica to admire the frescoes that are not impacted much by the time and still shows their bright colours.
Then I took a very quiet and relaxing walk along the only street of the Island which took me back to the dock in just 5 minutes. I boarded the boat and went back to Orta. Sunset was approaching, thus I decided to sit at a small cafè whose terrace overlooks the lake and the Island and bought myself a glass of white wine.
All of a sudden I noticed that the Island was reflected upside down in the wine and took this very unique picture… hope you like it as much as I do.
Then, when the sun was behind the mountains I walked to my car and drove back to Torino.
If you want to learn what relax really is, go visit Lake Orta at least once in your life, sit on a bench in the main square of Orta Village and just enjoy the view. You’ll forget for a while about your problems, your bills and your anguish. If you want to learn about how they build the Abbey and the monastery on such a small island, just hire a local guide and every secret will be disclosed to you.
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