Just over 10km west of Lake Maggiore lies little Lake Orta. Surrounded by low hills to the south and higher mountains to the north this is a beautiful area and a chance to escape from mass tourism.
We were heading for the medieval village of Orta San Giulio. Set on a small promontory it is surrounded on three sides by deep blue water and is truly a picturesque village.
We started our visit with a climb up to the sacred mount, the Sacro Monte di San Francesco.Set on a wooded hillside above the lake there are 21 sacred chapels which feature frescoes and statues illustrating the life of St Francis of Assisi.
Ceiling of the church of San Nicolao
The chapels were built between 1590 and 1785 and this site differs from other Sacro Monte in that it is dedicated to just one saint.Each of the chapels feature groups of earthenware statues painted against a background of frescoes.
Having explored several of the chapels we retraced our steps down to the lakeside and then followed a footpath round the lakeshore which in 40 minutes bought us to the village of Orta San Giulio. just in time for lunch. There were numerous restaurants all offering beautiful Italian cuisine at very reasonable prices.
After a lovely meal we made our way to the main square, the Piazza Mario Motta. Around the square were cobbled alleyways and peach and cappuccino coloured houses with wrought iron balconies and galleries. The 16th century town hall, the Palazzo della Communita, decorated with frescoes is now an art gallery.
From the square it is possible to take the short boat ride across to the small island of Isola di San Giulio. Once it was said to be inhabited by dragons and serpents that terrorised all who went there. That was until the arrival 1600 years ago of St Julius (Giulio) who cast them all out. In celebration the local people built a basilica on the island.
From the main square a stepped path leads up to the church, the Chiesa dell’ Assunta.
The whole area is very photogenic and I could have stayed there for hours.
Back in the square we had time to relax and watch as a newly married couple had their wedding photos taken with the lake as a backdrop – perfect.
My favourite image of the day was of the Piazza Mario Motta.