Lake Orta & Stresa

Lake Orta & Stresa

This is a full-day excursion of fairytale beauty and scenery.

Lake Orta, only twelve kilometres in length, has been described as the most romantic of all the lakes. It inspired Browning and captured the heart of Nietzsche.

We first visit the lake’s enchanting resort of Orta San Julio, set on a garden peninsular and overlooking the island of San Giulio. Orta’s streets are too narrow for cars so it is a special pleasure to explore the cobbled streets, lined with shops, bars and restaurants and ancient buildings. All streets lead to the handsome Piazza Motta, nicknamed the ‘salotto’ or drawing-room, which is open to the lake and offers a stunning view over to the island of San Giulio.

Lake Maggiore is a majestic, blue lake, the second largest of the Italian lakes, at 65 km in length. The three island close to Stresa, like jewels, all of a different character, are what set Lake Maggiore apart from the other lakes. Two of them still belong to the Borromean Family.

We visit Stresa, the ‘Pearl of Verbano, and Maggiore’s most beautiful town, at the foot of imposing Monte Mottarone, which has a cable-car running to its peak (4.920 ft). The town, which has a charming piazza and large number of shops and bars, hosts a famous series of concerts from the end of August to the end of September, featuring orchestras from around the world. The lakeside promenade is celebrated for its lush vegetation and flowers, including oleanders, mimosa and azaleas.

A highly recommended option, including in the price of the tour, is a visit to the Isola Bella by private boat (entrance to the Palazzo Borromeo and its world-famous gardens at additional cost). The gardens were inspired by the ‘hanging gardens of Babylon’ and Count Borromeo fashioned them into the shape of a ship for his wife, Isabella, giving the island its name. The palace houses a fine collection of art.