Another stop on our Italy…Wine, Dine & Unwind Tour, and not far from Lago Maggiore, tucked into the hills of Piemonte, lies the tiny jewel of a lake called Lago d’Orta.
It is peaceful and quiet with million dollar views. I visited this little known gem during the Christmas Holidays and it shimmered with the snow along the shores. The old town of Orta San Giulio, on a peninsula jutting out of the eastern shore of the lake, is one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Italy. It is a pedestrian only area where you can walk along the narrow cobblestoned streets and look at all the quaint little shops, and eat in wonderful restaurants overlooking the lake.
The ancient buildings such as the sixteenth century “city hall”, the fourteenth century House of the Dwarves, and the Palazzo Gemelli from the Renaissance are among some of the architectural wonders of this old village. The Casa dei Nani (the House of the Dwarves) is the oldest building in Orta and it derived its name because of four small windows that are above the wooden architrave.
Looking out into the lake from Orta is the serene and tranqil Island of San Giulio. The most famous building on the island is the Basilica of Saint Giulio with its beautiful and carefully preserved bas-reliefs from the twelfth centure. Adjacent is the monumental old Seminary from the 1840’s that, since 1976 has been transformed into a Benedictine monastery. The island exudes an aura ofspirituality. A walk along the Path of Silence, traveled in the opposite direction, becomes the Way of Meditation, whose signs invite you to an inner journey which involves listening and study.