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Isolated charmer

While descending on the circuitous road to the San Rocco Hotel historic I found Orta San Giulio unveiling itself. Interestingly the hotel was formerly an 18th century convent.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2010 01:21 IST
Rupali Dean

One of the most charming areas of Piemonte, Lake Orta lies to the west of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. While descending on the circuitous road to the San Rocco Hotel historic I found Orta San Giulio unveiling itself. Interestingly the hotel was formerly an 18th century convent.

Meandering on the cobbled streets I got lost in time as I strolled on Orta’s cobbled streets and courtyards past 16th and 17th century frescoed buildings which house unusual shops, gelatarias and cafes. I found many Pinocchio souvenirs available as wonderful small figurines-trinkets, as well as traditional puppets.

As we all know, carved from a piece of pine by a woodcarver named Geppetto in a small Italian village, Pinocchio was created as a wooden puppet, but dreamt of becoming a real boy… obviously I bought one for my daughter.

Island church
From the waterfront I whizzed to visit San Giulio’s ancient basilica. Arriving on this isolated piece of land, I was at once engulfed by its serenity and sacredness. The steps to this church of St. Julius, which has been restored, steered one to the church, the moment one lands. This church was extraordinary and beautiful.

Award winning Risotto for dinner Poola Viviani, executive chef of Hotel San Rocco, who is also the winner of the gold medal at the “Rice Olympic games”, organised in Valencia by the Academie Internationale de La gastronomie, recommended his award winning “Risotto with saffron and crisp baked rice served with cream of parmesan, balsamic vinegar and truffle”. After tasting it, I knew why he got the award. The Risotto was flawless and flavorful.

Gardens and Islands
The next morning I headed for a walk in the villa Toranto botanical gardens, which was breathtakingly stunning and informative. Next was a cruise to a circuit called “Heavens on Earth” which connected the symbolic medieval garden of the Angera Borromeo Fortress to the most beautiful garden in Italy of Isolla Bella and to the Park of Isola Madre. I loved Isola Bella which is 320 meters long and 400 meters wide and is solely occupied by the Palazzo Borromeo and its Italianate garden, which stood in a coherent pyramidal whole culminating in a large unicorn statue ridden by Amore.

Articulated in ten descending terraces, fountains, and by a multitude of statues, it certainly is aw-inspiring . Truly these three wonders embedded in the Verbano Lake, let themselves be won by history, beauty and emotions that art and nature when combined can so admirably offer. After an early dinner, it was time to head back to rest as I had to move on to Milan the next day.

Best Way to Reach - Fly KLM to Amsterdam onto Milano. Then hire a Taxi till Orta.
Best Place to Stay- Hotel San Rocco, Via Gippini 11, 28016 Orta San Giulio, Italy.
Visa and Currency- Indians need a Schengen Visa to enter Italy and the currency used is the Euro which is approximately 60 INR.