Between water and sky, the village of Orta San Giulio offers a perfect setting for a romantic walk, even more so in November, in the quiet of the low season.
Overlooking the small lake of Orta, the village is built on a promontory which juts out from the eastern bank of the lake close to Isola San Giulio.
Start your walk on the main square, the picturesque Piazza Motta, which was the seat of the market in the Middle Ages. The square is framed by ancient palaces, porticoes and horse chestnut trees. On the northern side stands the 16th century Palazzo della Comunità or Broletto; looking toward the lake, you have a view over the island of San Giulio with its Palazzo dei Vescovi and the bell tower of the Basilica of San Giulio; on the other side, the view encompasses the picturesque houses of Pella. (From the piazza you can also take the boat to the Isola di San Giulio.)
Leave the piazza and get lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleys, flanked by beautiful old buildings, artisans’ workshops, typical taverns.
Then take the famous Salita di Motta, an uphill street entirely paved in stones, to the Sacro Monte di Orta, a site of pilgrimage and worship, part of Unesco’s World Heritage list. Described by the German philosopher Nietzsche, who visited in 1882, as one of the most evocative places in the world, it was built at the end of the 16th century and dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. It is immersed in a nature reserve among beech, pine and lime trees. On the summit, about 400 meters above sea level, after passing 20 chapels with 376 terracotta statues illustrating the life of the saint, you will find the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
Also worth discovering on foot are nearby villages like Villa, to the north, with its buildings decorated in wrought iron, and Moccarolo, which follows the shore of the lake to the south, where modest and ancient houses of fishermen and artisans, often with medieval foundations, mix with magnificent villas with gardens overlooking the lake, like Villa Motta, which is one of the most fascinating panoramic spots in the area.