After a night of heavy storms that swept across the mountain pass carrying lightning and high winds that thrashed their fury on us,we set off to visit the neighbouring lake called Lago d’ Orta. First we had to remove the foliage that covered our car like a blanket of feathers. Then we set off on the adventure through the narrow winding village roads which Rob and I had become accustomed to during our stay at Lake Maggiore. I think Rob secretly enjoys these drives!!! We stopped along the way to admire the overly huge sunflowers growing like an army of intimidating triffids on alert.
Many beautiful villas and gardens took our eye making it an enjoyable 40 minute drive. Then Rob put his foot on the brake as he spotted, AgriGelateria. A culinary must see, taste and smell stop for the senses. Rob had read about this Gelateria that makes their own ice cream, breads and pizza. The aim of our day was to find good pizza but we didn’t think it was going to be so early in the day as we had only had breakfast 40 minutes ago. I think the sight of the gelato took over, we really should have shared one delicious gelato. Well that is what our silent pact is … but this time it was every man for himself….. just trying to hold the two giant ice creams was a feat for my delicate wrists.
With stomachs badly bulging with Italian treats we headed for the Sacred Mountain of Orta. This is the highest part of the peninsula and it is a a monumental complex of twenty-one chapels, sixty- six statues devoted to the journey and life of Saint Francesco (St Francis of Assisi). Surrounded by beautiful cherrywood trees and gardens, this church sanctuary is a world UNESCO listed sight.
Walking through this mountain top chapel filled sanctuary was extremely quiet. There was hardly a soul around and the warm summer air was filled with tranquility and peaceful surroundings. The panoramic views looking down over Lago d’Orta were overwhelming romantic. The lake’s waters glisten like gems amongst the suns rays.
The chapels are all uniquely architecturally different and were built around 400 years ago. Each chapel tells part of a visual story through life-like intricate painted statues and complex wall and ceilings murals. Archways, decorative iron gates and window fittings flooded throughout the chapels.
After our hour and a half walk through this heavenly area we headed down to the banks of Lago d’Orta. On the waterfront we walked throughout the town of Orta San Giulio which was filled with orange topped rooftops that looked out to the lake.
We explored the steep old street pathways which were filled with houses steeped with Italian character and charm. The old warn facades covered in green vines with flowers bursting from window boxes, old timber shutters and pale pastel coloured buildings caught our eye. We had to consciously contemplate each step on the old stone uneven steep roadside pathways through the towns narrow descending streets.
The town’s church, the Chiesa dell’Assunta, with its pale yellow faded exterior was again filled with interesting and lavish artwork drawing us back to times past, founded in the 15th century.
The street market that faced the waters edge was lined with hanging hats. Interesting as we rarely see a European wearing a hat during the heat of summer. For us a hat is just like putting on underwear when heading outdoors in the summer time blinding heat.
At the peaceful lake water’s edge we caught a quaint boat which cost us 4-50 euros each return to the small island of Isola di San Giulio. It was an easy 5 minutes ride over the peaceful romantic water to the island that is known as, The Isola of Silence!!!
It was a lovely experience filled with blissful silence. No bustling loud obnoxious tourist groups just a handful of easy going tourists all set to explore their own paths around the island in the warm afternoon breeze. This was our pay off, it was Tourist filled bustling Lake Como or the serene surroundings and tranquility here at Lago d’Orta, mmmm … and we were extremely happy with our chosen path!! Sometimes the less touristy places are more beautiful and have so much more to offer. I am assuming that is why Lago d’Orta is a hidden gem that the locals want to keep to themselves. We get it, it is stunning, full of natural beauty, peaceful, authentic and full of history. This lake is surrounded by a stillness due to its pretty mountain backdrop.
The island is home to a monastery. A circular path lead us around the monastery. In one direction the sign read – “The way of Silence.” – Sign posts enlightened our journey with inspiring sayings
‘Listen to the water, the wind and your steps’- ‘Be simple, be yourself! ‘Silence is the language of love! – Silence is the peace of oneself!
If you walk in the reverse order along the pathway, you are walking on what is called ‘the way of meditation’ and the reverse signs read sayings like – ‘Leave yourself and what is yours!’ The signs justified the tranquility of our walk around the picturesque quaint island.
There were many beautiful flowers and hidden spots to explore.
The boat ride gave us many more angles from which to see and enjoy the scenic pretty town from the water.
During the late heat of the afternoon we drove in search of a lake side place to swim which can be hard to find due to many hotels and private villas situated on the lake’s edge. Also businesses run restaurants and user pay lake front beaches with deck chairs and umbrellas.
We were just looking for a good old free Australian jump in the lake.
Finally we found the local beach (lake front), full of locals and a diving tower spiralling into the clear waters. We joined the locals in an afternoon of Italian relaxation and swimming in the bronze evening sun surrounded by mountain views.