Orta San Guilio – Lago d’Orta

This post has been in the queue for a bit – our friends were visiting (YAY!), so we haven’t the chance to finish it.

Friday, 2 June 2017:

One of our “recent” day trips consisted of going to a nearby lake named Lago d’Orta (Lake Orta). This lake is northeast of where we live, and is a fairly quick ride over.

It was previously named Lago di San Giulio after the 4th century patron saint of the region, Saint Julius, up until the 16th century. 


We were a bit slow in getting up and about in the morning and we paid for it by having to search for a while for a parking spot. We ended up parking a bit away from the lake/town on the side of the road pretty much in a bush – it wasn’t the first time and definitely won’t be the last! 🙂


After parking, we began our trek to this lake. Unlike Lago di Comothis lake is smaller and supposedly not as well-known. After looking for a parking spot, I would say that it is fairly well known since it took us quite a few loops to find a spot. 😛

Piazza Motta

The first piazza we stopped in was Piazza Motta. This piazza is very small compare to what we’re used to, but it’s near the water so it was a nice quick visit. We, of course, got some yummy focacce while we sat by the lake.


After our lunch, our first stop was La Chiesa Parrocchiale di Santa Maria Assunta (The Assumption of Saint Mary Parish Church). It was a little bit of a climb, but very doable.


La Chiesa Parrochiale di Santa Maria Assunta

This church was built in 1485 – that’s pretty old! It was originally dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation because the people were saved from the Black Plague. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century, when it was reconstructed, that it was dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

Inside the church:



View when exiting the church:


Our next stop was Isola di San Guilio (San Guilio Island):

Isola di San Guilio

There are plenty of ferry options from Piazza Motta to go to the island. In fact, the people in charge of the ferries will try to grab you to use their service versus another, so no need to plan too much in advance in crossing over.

After the short ride over, our first stop on the island was the Basilica di San Guilio. Once we were done, we walked around the little island.



I don’t actually think we were allowed to take pictures of this church in the inside, but everyone else was doing it, so why not?

This was the view from the Isola di San Guilio looking at the mainland, Orta San Guilio. Very pretty. 🙂

Orta San Gulio

We began our extremely quick journey around this island, which to be honest, didn’t have much on it. It was nice to walk along the narrow streets, but apart from the basilica and a monastery, there really isn’t much there.

View of the island as we were leaving:


Can you tell that it was becoming less and less sunny? Standby for more on that…

And it was getting even darker…


Shortly after that picture, it started to downpour. There was also one of the loudest thunder cracks we’ve ever heard, which ended up being kind of cool (after the initial scare) because it echoed multiple times off the hills that surrounds the lake.

Here we are just before it started to downpour!


So, what do we do once it starts to rain? Grab gelato and take cover until the rain passed! Of course!

Yummy gelato at Arte del Gelato!

Fortunately for us, there are a few covered alleyways that we could hang out in. The rain did lighten up and eventually stopped enough for us to make one more stop before heading back home.

It was almost a flashback to New England weather where one minute it’s pouring and the next it’s sunny and warm, lol.

Nice outdoor artwork 🙂

Our final stop was Sacro Monte d’Orta (Sacred Mountain of Orta). Before getting into the details of this beautiful place, here is an amazing view of Isola di San Guilio from the top of the hill where Sacro Monte d’Orta is.


And us!img_2930-xl

Sacro Monte d’Orta is on the summit of San Nicolao hill and is devoted to Catholicism. This complex is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and consists of twenty small chapels. The project began in 1538 and ended in 1788. Wow, two whole centuries!

This sacred mountain is actually one of the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, which consists of a total of nine groupings of chapels in northern Italy.

Here are few of the chapels that can be found in Sacro Monte d’Orta.



Within these chapels are beautiful and interesting pieces of artwork that depicts the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who is one of the most worshiped religious figures in history. This friar, deacon, and preacher became the first person in recorded Christian history to have received wounds just as the ones from Christ’s Passion. Here is some of the artwork:




As you can see in the second picture, many of the chapels had both paintings (on the ceilings and walls) and statues to tell his story.

Due to its sacredness, people have made pilgrimages here. In order to help those making these pilgrimages, there are painted hands pointing the correct order to visit the twenty chapels.



It really was such a peaceful place, full of lively vegetation and birds chirping. I can easily see how someone would just want to come here to pray, rest, and enjoy nature.

Here are a couple of views from the top of this sacred hill.


Aside from the spurt of rain, it was a lovely day spent near the lake. 🙂




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Thank you for reading! Until next time!

Click here for more pictures of Orta San Giulio!



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