Known by locals as “La Cenerentola”, which translates to Cinderella, Lake Orta is considered the superior, yet hidden sibling of the much larger and famous lakes of Como and Maggiore. The tranquil lake is enveloped by dense forests and fringed by charming medieval villages.
One such village is Orta San Giulio, a magical tangle of cobbled lanes lined with traditional trattorias, lively cafes and craft stores. Enjoy your morning coffee in Piazza Motta while watching the sun rise slowly over the lake, before ascending a flight of granite steps to the 15th-century Church of Maria Assunta or setting off on the four-kilometer walk along the Torrente Strona Trail.
No trip to Lake Orta is complete without taking a boat to Isola San Giulio, a peaceful island dominated by the 12th-century Basilica di San Giulio. Within the basilica, you can see a vibrant collection of well-preserved frescoes.
Lake Orta is an hour’s drive from Milan Malpensa Airport via the A8. Trains arrive from Milan Central Railway Station within three hours and buses within about four hours. There are also several ferries and car parks.