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Lago d’Orta

8 January 2013 1,693 views No Comment

holy orders

Lago d’Orta is one of the lesser known of the famous Italian lakes, but it’s no less impressive or gorgeous. We drove from Saas Fee, through the valley, which was great to experience the mountain scenery and also the change from clean cut, uber organised Switzerland to low-on-infrastructure, high-on-personality Italy.IMG_0224 Having got lost for a while around those itty bitty roads we finally emerged onto the lake and wound round to Orta San Giulio to our hotel.
Hotel San Rocco has a monastery look about it with lots of stone, a courtyard with vines and an amazing right-on-lake location from which you can see nine or ten churches. The rooms were lovely but I think the bar n lounge were the highlight, with huge red sofas, fire light and large windows to the gorgeous view. Bonus points were also available for the excellent snacks that came with each round of aperitifs. Their restaurant is very civilised, very pretty to sit in but I wasn’t crazy about the food – we had raw crustaceans and seafood risotto – but then the standard had been set rather high in Saas Fee, and, in fairness, their breakfast buffet was tops.

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Orta San Giulio is a small town; the lake side square and all the streets around are ancient cobbles, crumbly walls and creeping greenery, it’s like being an extra in Fra Lippo Lippi. I could walk around these streets all day, every corner is picturesque to me but it’s captured in my memory rather than my memory card cos my photography sucks. Ah, and the food is captured in my memory too, why do simpler things taste so heavenly in Italy. We had a quick quiet lunch – pizza and salad to share – and a slightly less quiet dinner – artichoke salad & raviolo for me, something meaty for Nad – and it wasIMG_1749 all singing with flavour. Across the square was a little wine bar, quintessential in its charm, and popularity with locals. The wine list was, to a non-Italian, extraordinary, and, more bonus points, the bar nibbles were beyond the call of duty.

ortonomous

In the middle of Lago d’Orta is San Giulio island. You have to ask around but there are boats popping over there regularly. There’s some good history to this island, its main building is the Basilica, and someone did something to do with a mega dangerous creature, and there was a castle, and now there’s a convent, goddit.? The whole island respects silence, I heard why, but I can’t remember (soz). From the pier you follow a path around the circumference of the island, and as you go there are hanging signs encouraging your silence and sharing the secrets of a quiet life, it’s nicely done.
Back on the main land we also walked up the Sacro Monte which was lined with fairy lights and gianormous houses. It was dusk, the view was sparkling lights in a deepening navy backdrop, and it was really really quiet.

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Sacro Monte was somewhat kicked into touch the following day when we went up to Mottarone, almost 1500 metres up, with a 270 degree (ish) view of the alps. I called it a landscape trifle because you have the blue, rippling water, the black hills, then the sharp, icy peaked mountains, it’s layers of landscape, see.? Mottarone was wonderful. We had a slippy walk up there but the summit was so very rewarding, if they’d served coffee at the top I’d still be there now :) lovely
IMG_1705From the sun drenched pistes of Mottarone we wound down into Stresa. It was a narrow, hairpin happy road, which was hands-in-the-air fun, but a shame not to be able to stop and take pictures because there were some lovely bits looking through the woods. Also some amazing properties, I mean, bonkers massive. Good solid husband-hunting turf this.
Stresa is on Lago Majiore which is maybe four times the size of Lago d’Orta. It’s beautiful, and the lake side is more developed that Lago d’Orta, s’up to you if you prefer that or no. Looking around the lake you can see there are villages or resorts built up in little areas. Lago Majiore spans Italy and Switzerland. I thought that was pretty interesting. And (cheeky laugh) I wondered if the water got cleaner on the Swiss side.?
I didn’t really see Stresa but Nad’s stayed before and said it’s nice. We got another lickle boat over to Isola Superiore with enough sun-up time to check the views, glance through the poetry-inspiring town and then resign ourselves to indoor beers, tough life. Instead of taking the road back over the mountain, we went around, which was perfect timing to see the rosy, lake shiny, church silhouetting sun set. More aperitifs well earned..

out of the ordinary

From Orta to Turin we went via Candelo near Biella. It was a convoluted drive but worth it to see this somewhat unique, historical town. It goes something like this… In the, let’s call it Middle Ages, there was a decision to construct a mini walled town, which would serve as communal storage for valuable goods (food, wine, animal feed, weaponry) and also a retreat where the people could bunker down if they came under attack. It wasn’t unusual to have communal protection of goods, but it was unusual to protect the people as well. And all the buildings are still there, now used for different purposes (art studio, winery etc), but you get a good sense of the original vibe. It’s on a hill – classic defence strategy – with decent views, and as Nad put it, if you arrived here to loot n plunder you’d keep on walking cos it’s too much effort.
We had a good lunch in an, I think, Art Deco sorta place (Piedmontese dip with bread & meat, plates of pasta) and walked around a bit but the old, damp n crusty town was the highlight.

I loved this time in Italy, it was so easy to be happy, there were delightful views everywhere, places were charming and felt untouched (for now), and of course the wine and food was delicious.

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Isola San Giulio
Lago Orta

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Mottarone
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Lago Majiore
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