On Buenno’s final return, we would not enter with a travel item from anywhere other than Orta San Giulio. A special place for us for many reasons, not so well known by foreign tourists, but worth visiting.
Orta San Giulio is a medieval town in northern Italy, a community in the province of Novara in Piedmont, about 1 hour’s drive from Milan and on the edge of Lake D’Orta, with a central island known as Isola D’Orta or Isle of San Giulio which is home to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery and the Basilica of San Giulio which has existed for sixteen or seventeen centuries. Despite being a small town, around 1200 inhabitants, Orta offers all the romanticism and historic landmarks that enchant in Italian cities.
Legend has it that Isola D’Orta on Lake Orta was founded by San Giulio, a 4th century bishop. The story goes that Giulio was sent to the area by the Roman Emperor to convert the local population to Christianity. Giulio initially encountered resistance, but was eventually able to persuade the people to convert by performing miracles and preaching the gospel. In one famous episode, Giulio is said to have banished a dragon that was terrorizing the city, earning the people’s gratitude and the nickname “Dragon Slayer”. The island was named after San Giulio and is now a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics.
PLACES TO GO IN ORTA
SAN GIULIO ISLAND
Lago D’Orta has an area of about 11 square kilometers and is known for its crystal clear waters, picturesque scenery and perfect for those who come to enjoy the lake’s many recreational activities such as swimming, boating and hiking.
Visitors can reach the island by boat from the town’s waterfront, and it’s a popular destination for those interested in exploring the local history and culture.
The heart of the city, the central square of Orta overlooking the island of San Giulio. In addition to restaurants, bars, and the famous Palazzo della Comunità built in 1582, from there you can take the boat to go to the Island.
During spring and summer it is possible to eat at one of the restaurants/bars with tables outside, the place is full of charm and many buildings with frescoes.
Sacro Monte di San Francesco d’Orta San Giulio is a place of pilgrimage and worship where 21 chapels and more than 300 terracotta sculptures tell the story of Saint Francis of Assisi.
In 2003, the Sacro Monte de Orta was included by UNESCO in the World Heritage List due to its historical importance.
RESTAURANTS IN ORTA SAN GIULIO
Italian cuisine speaks for itself, we love it, and Orta despite being a small town has some restaurants that you need to know!
Villa Crespi is a famous 5 star restaurant and hotel located in Orta San Giulio, led by 2 star Michelin Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo, considered one of the most talented and respected chefs in Italy, Cannavacciuolo is also the host of the Italian cooking show “Cucine da Incubo”, based on the American program “Kitchen Nightmares”.
The villa was built in the 19th century by architect Carlo Cantoni and is known for its neo-Gothic and neo-Islamic architectural style.
LOCANDA DI ORTA
Another Michelin star restaurant located in Orta that deserves to be visited is Locanda Di Orta, located in the historic center and in a charming 19th century building, offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere for guests, including a private dining room with just one table for 2 people.
Led by the young Chef Andrea Monesi, with a menu that combines fish and seafood with top quality meats from the region, the recipes are personalized and often prepared with contrasting flavors and textures.
Ristorante San Rocco, is a traditional Orta restaurant offering a variety of local and regional specialities. The restaurant has a cozy atmosphere and a terrace overlooking the lake.
HOW TO ARRIVE IN ORTA SAN GIULIO
Car: It takes about 1 hour from Milan and is the most advisable way to get easier access to the different points of the city since there is no Uber there and a taxi needs to be booked in advance.
Train: Destined for the Omegna-Orta San Giulio station, which is about a 10-minute walk from the city center, it has fixed timetables and the last one to leave the city back to Milan is usually around 7 pm.