Lake Orta: The most beautiful of the Italian Lakes?

lake orta the most beautiful italian lake and a hidden gem
Lake Orta is the hidden gem of the Italian LakesJan Cattaneo / EyeEm - Getty Images

When you think of the Italian Lakes, glorious Lake Como may come to mind first. Or maybe the majestic Lake Maggiore or Lake Garda. They represent sheer Italian elegance and conjure images of the Clooney clan drifting around in idyllic surroundings.

Yet lying to the west of these blockbuster lakes is Lake Orta in the Piedmont region – a smaller lake popular with in-the-know Italians.


Lake Orta is arguably one of the most heavenly spots in northern Italy. Set in peaceful surroundings in the foothills of the Alps, there’s plenty to explore in the area, including its famous sister lakes – Como and Maggiore. You can hop to Switzerland for day trips, explore lush gardens, sip coffee in grand piazzas and meander through the alleyways of little villages. Then return to Lake Orta for evening strolls and alfresco dining as you admire the shimmering lake in the evening.

Italy's lakes are reached easily from Milan, but more people are opting to choose a no-fly route to reach northern Italy. Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, then connect to the lakeside town of Stresa. The easy-going route becomes part of the experience, arriving ready and refreshed to embrace la dolce vita on the shores of Lake Orta.

If you need more reasons to sway you, here's why Lake Orta is the hidden gem in this jewel box region and possibly the most beautiful of all Italian lakes.

It has gorgeous lakeside hotels

Finding the best places to stay in Italy can prove tricky when there's such a wide choice of options, but plumping for somewhere with gorgeous lake views and authentic Italian cuisine is never a misstep.

The family-run Hotel Giardinetto sits directly on the banks of Lake Orta with a perfectly positioned sun deck to while away the time with a Negroni or Aperol Spritz in hand.


why lake orta is the hidden gem of the italian lakes

There’s a silent island to discover

A single island lies at the centre of Lake Orta. Isola San Guilio is reached by boat in just five minutes. Free from cars and dominated by a basilica lined with frescoes, there’s a peaceful calm about this place – perhaps thanks to the ‘walk of silence’, a serene footpath that hugs the island's perimeter.

lake orta the most beautiful italian lake and a hidden gem
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It has a charming village to explore

Orta San Giulio is a quintessential Italian village, complete with romantic balustrades, balconies, meandering alleyways, and shuttered buildings painted in sunkissed hues.

Away from the bustle of the area’s bigger towns, it sits on a peninsula overlooking Isola San Guilio. At the village centre, Piazza Motta has gelaterias for sweet treats and charcuteries for picking up perfect picnic bites for a lazy lunch by the lakeside. Don't forget a bottle of the delicious local Barolo, too.

why lake orta is the hidden gem of the italian lakes
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It's easy to reach Lake Como and Lake Maggiore

While Lake Orta is a wonderful retreat, it’s also within easy reach of its sister lakes for day trips to the region's pretty towns and gardens.

The meticulously landscaped Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto are a must-see in Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore. And visiting the town of Como to admire the grand renaissance cathedral and see this famous lake for yourself is time well spent.

Locarno, just over the Italian border in Switzerland, is within 90 minutes of Lake Orta via a route that clings to the shoreline of Lake Maggiore. This Swiss town is on the northernmost tip of the lake and is the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll under sunny skies and soak up the romance that the gorgeous architecture bestows.

why lake orta is the hidden gem of the italian lakes
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It’s easy to get to, yet under-the-radar

Often you have to make an extra effort to reach a lesser-known location, but Lake Orta is just as easy to get to as the other Italian lakes. Just an hour from Milan, a leisurely road through the Italian countryside eventually emerges at the azure lakefront. Better still, go by train via Paris and sit back at the scenery sweeps by.


why lake orta is the hidden gem of the italian lakes
Frank Bienewald - Getty Images

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