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.
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.
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.
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.