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Lake Orta is a lake of glacial origin, in the north of Piedmont, close to the Alps. It is a fascinating destination in the Piedmont area for its spectacular natural scenery, among romantic villages and nature reserves, among sanctuaries, chapels and panoramic balconies, with a thousand-year history.
Inside the lake there is a small island, the Island of San Giulio, reachable in a few minutes from the ferry that leaves from Orta San Giulio, which, together with Pella and Omegna, is the main town that flows into the lake. The island of San Giulio has a walkway around the whole small island. Near Orta San Giulio there is the Sacro Monte di Orta, one of the nine Alpine Sacred Mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy, considered a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO.
13.4 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide, Lake Orta is also ideal for cyclists who want to take a tour of the lake, visit its sanctuaries and admire the splendid landscapes close to the lake.
As one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Orta San Giulio is an unmissable stop to discover the charm of Lake Orta. The best way to appreciate it is to stroll through the characteristic streets full of stately buildings, elegant arcades, artisan shops and local taverns. The heart of the village is the picturesque and colorful Piazza Motta which houses the beautiful Palazzo Broletto embellished with frescoes and a bell tower. Also worth a visit is the Villa Bossi, seat of the Town Hall overlooking the lake, and the enchanting Church of Santa Maria Assunta from 1485.
From Piazza Motta it is also possible to take the round trip ferry to San Giulio Island.
The Island of San Giulio is the very small island in the center of the lake, with ancient origins and reachable in a few minutes on board small boats. A single road, less than a kilometer long, follows the perimeter of the island and is a parade of mansions, palaces, courtyards and splendid gardens. Today inhabited by Benedictine cloistered nuns, the island was originally a possession of the Lombard duchy and, later, of the bishops of Novara.
Evidence of the ancient origins of the island is the birth of San Guglielmo da Volpiano, at the turn of the year 1000. Furthermore, San Giulio di Orta died here in 401, whose remains are preserved in the Basilica of San Giulio.
Another testimony of the island's historical importance is, therefore, the Basilica of San Giulio, a medieval church dating back to the 12th century. The façade and the staircase of the Basilica of San Giulio directly overlook the waters of the lake, creating suggestive reflections. Erected on the remains of a 9th century structure, the building suffered serious devastation under Otto I, but the original presbytery still survives today, together with some Romanesque elements such as apses, capitals and women's galleries. Of great importance is the medieval ambo in black Oira marble from the 12th century and the crypt where the remains of San Giulio are kept in a crystal urn.
Located in the hilly area, overlooking the village of Orta San Giulio, is the Sacro Monte di Orta Nature Reserve, one of the nine Alpine Sacred Mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy, considered a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO.
It is a relaxing place, ideal for long walks between meditation and silence. The route, immersed in a wonderful forest of beeches, pines, laurel hedges and boxwood, is made up of twenty chapels dedicated to episodes from the life of St. Francis of Assisi and culminates in the churchyard of the Church of Saints Nicolao and Francesco. The place also offers a beautiful panoramic balcony overlooking Lake Orta and San Giulio Island.
On the opposite side of the lake and in a panoramic position there is another attraction of the lake: Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso, of Baroque origin and completed in 1748. The sanctuary is also clearly visible from Orta San Giulio, because it stands on a sheer granite spur on Lake Orta.
Nicknamed the Balcony of Cusio, the square in front of the church offers an enchanting view over the entire basin.
Another sanctuary on the other side of the lake(ie closer to Orta San Giulio) is the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Bocciola, which offers a pleasant view of the lake.
On the eastern shore of Lake Orta is the village of Miasino, renowned for its eighteenth-century palaces and elegant villas, such as Villa Nigra, today the town's municipal building. Aristocratic country residence among the most evocative of the Cusio, the building is composed of an older central part, which dates back to the sixteenth century, the building of the following century, while the south wing with orangery and turret were designed in the eighteenth century. century. Magnificent is the loggia with five bays and frescoed walls with particular optical effects.
Located on the northern end of Lake Orta, on the slopes of Mount Mottarone, is Omegna, a medieval village famous for being the birthplace of the children's writer Gianni Rodari, to whom the Parco della Fantasia is dedicated, and of Alfonso Bialetti, inventor of the moka for coffee.
Walking along the path along the lake, you can admire ancient arcades, portals and centuries-old stone decorations. Of particular interest are the Porta Romana, the collegiate church of S'Ambrogio from the 10th century and the Romanesque church of San Gaudenzio. At the Fondazione Museo Arti e Industria in Omegna you can visit a collection of cult objects of the locally produced household.
Also interesting is the nearby town of Quarna Sopra, from which you can admire an unforgettable view of Lake Orta.
Above the town of Omegna is the picturesque village of Quarna Sopra, a place popular with wind instrument music lovers, of which there is a rich exhibition in the Ethnographic and Musical Instrument Museum. From the Belvedere of Quarna you can admire an unforgettable view of Lake Orta and when the sky is clear you can glimpse the Ligurian Apennines.
Nestled between Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore, Mottarone is a popular destination for sports tourism from winter skiing to walking, to cycle paths all year round there are activities to be practiced as well as an extraordinary panoramic balcony. From the 1491 meters of the Mottarone, the gaze on fine days sweeps across the seven surrounding lakes, the Maritime Alps, Monte Rosa and the Po Valley. The seven lakes are: Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore, Lake Mergozzo, Lake Biandronno, Lake Varese, Lake Monate and Lake Comabbio.