A milestone celebration at Orta San Giulio

Isola di San Giulio
Isola di San Giulio as seen from Orta San Giulio

I’ve read that tin and diamonds are the usual gifts for a decade of matrimony, but this is what we chose for 10 years as husband and wife – a weekend getaway at Orta San Giulio on Lake Orta. Now gimme a big awww! Located about 10km west of Lake Maggiore in Piemonte, Orta isn’t known as a top destination (with the bigger Lake Como and Garda in the running, competition is fierce). A shame, really, because the lake’s charm kind of sneaks up on you as soon as the view opens up from the main road and tiny Isola di San Giulio appears before your very eyes, like a jewel floating on a shimmering surface.

Sanctuary della Madonna del Sasso
Isola di San Giulio from afar; and from high in the sky, a wedding at Madonna del Sasso

Lake Orta’s smaller size makes it a breeze to drive around it in less than an hour. The one absolute thing to do is drive to the opposite side of the lake to the Madonna del Sasso, a sanctuary perched high atop a granite cliff. When seen from Orta San Giulio, it appears as a lone edifice emerging from thick forest, a perfect spot made for fairytale lakeside weddings. Spectacular vistas await all who brave the narrow, winding roads to get here.

Al Boeuc
Al Boeuc, via Bersani, Orta San Giulio

A milestone naturally calls for an epic meal, but instead of one long and drawn-out sitdown, we took the alternate choice and just made it a point to eat very well throughout our stay. I’m going to break this down as dining suggestions within the boundaries of Orta San Giulio.

Al Boeuc, via Bersani. Tucked within a narrow alley, this tiny hole-in-the-wall (in fact, boeuc is dialect for buco/hole) is all dark wood and candle-lit lighting in a sort of rendezvous setting. Just the place for a relaxing glass of great wine and simple fare. Ask for the plate of local meats and cheese, and if they ask what kind of cheese, just say you like everything! At the time of our visit, we had a soft goat cheese with truffles that I still think about, but everything on that tagliere was superb. It might be a bit steep for some (18€), but we left contented.

Ristorante San Giulio on San Giulio island. The setting for our anniversary lunch. Romantic terrace dining, right next to the water (only in good weather I suppose). The meal and service was worthy of the special occasion. Plus, they have no problem with little doggies coming along. We shared the house antipasto, an assortment of mainly fish-based starters (more info on flickr page for all photos), 2 first plates and 1 second plate.

Antipasto della casa Paniscia alla novarese
Tagliatelle with missoltini and porcini cream Duck breast in a sauce of foie gras

Il Cucchiaio di Legno (The Wooden Spoon), via Prisciola in the nearby fraction of Legro. This is an agriturismo with its own restaurant and if you choose the halfboard option, dinner is only 18€ per person! Traditional cooking with a menu that changes daily according to the season. Everything fresh and delicious and great service. I hold this place in high regard and suggest it to anyone thinking of visiting the area. Check the reviews on Tripadvisor…the agriturismo draws quite an international crowd.

Agrigelateria, via Domodossola (at the roundabout). A must-stop for great gelato.


Westie on the italian ferry
Westie on boat to Isola di San Giulio


11 thoughts on “A milestone celebration at Orta San Giulio

    1. Rowena Post author

      Thank you for the well wishes, and here’s looking forward to another great 5 for you both. The cheeses at Al Boeuc were great….it’s only now that I wish we had asked who were the producers and if we could buy some to take home.


  1. carlae

    Happy Anniversary, you celebrate in such a yummy way….I like that about you. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this area of Como, Orta and my favorite Lugano, (but’s Switzerland) It’s still on our list to go, since we had to cancel our European trip last year. Again, CONGRATS!


    1. Rowena Post author

      Thank you for the well wishes and we look forward to an anniversary above the clouds (think Haleakala) in the future. Hope you are having fun in the sun in Hawaii!


    1. Rowena Post author

      Mille grazie! Having our 10th sort of makes me impatient to have to wait until the next one…and where we will be having that epic, drawn out, series of meals. Drat this country for having such good food!


    1. Rowena Post author

      We saw 2 other westies during our stay and also doxies! Lots of little doggies on holiday in Lake Orta but the Mads was the only dog I saw getting onto a boat.



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