Orta San Giulio
Orta San Giulio is a quaint town of pretty pastels, called "God's watercolor" by Italian writer Piero Chiara. It's easy to see why it was named "one of the prettiest villages in Italy" when you wander among the colorful cluster of homes in the charming lanes.
Orto San Giulio has beautiful panoramas and an Old World type of town. There are pretty houses and opulent palaces lined up in the narrow streets. Loggias and arcades adorn buildings, and hand-hammered wrought iron decorates many of the homes. Gardens are tucked into courtyards and descend to the lake. Palazzo de Fortis was built in the 1800s in neoclassic style; Palazzo Gemelli is a Renaissance residence from the 1500s. The Palazzotto della Comunita', in the Piazza Motta, dates to 1582 and boasts a sundial. It was the seat of the city's power. Casa Bossi, which now houses the municipal office, hides a garden behind it that goes down to the water.
Piazza Motta is a beautiful, elegant space that is closed on three sides by arcades buildings. It is the town's central meeting point and playground. Enjoy a coffee at one of the sidewalk cafes. Stroll along Via Bersani to see the line-up of medieval buildings, or walk up the Salita della Motta to gaze at the once-noble residences.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Orta San Giulio is the beaiutiful Island of San Giulio, which legend says was once a barren rock until the saint miraculously walked on his cape across the water and founded a monastery there. The basilica that contains his tomb is rich in frescoes and paintings and worth a visit. The little island with its basilica, high bell tower and bishop's palace glitters like a gem in the lake. It's especially lovely at night when the lights set it off. It looks like a fable setting. Boats transport you to the island for a visit.
Orta San Giulio is near Pettenasco, on Lake Orta. It is west of Lake Maggiore in a less-crowded part of the Lakes District. Enjoy the water sports and casual alpine setting, mountain hikes, lakeside beaches, and good food that this area has to offer.
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Explore nearby towns
Pettenasco is a lakeside town that enjoys a fairy tale setting.
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Meina is a graceful town on the shores of Lake Maggiore.