Italy - a piece of heaven: Lago di Orta
We woke up in our little B&B in Premosello Chiovenda, a small village in the Ossola Valley between Lago di Mergozzo and Domodossola, with sunshine and a blue sky. Fantastic. This is why we came to Italy over the weekend - to escape the rain at home in the northern Alps in Switzerland. We had a shower, packed our few belongings and left. We still had not really an idea what to do today - well, do not get us wrong. There are many, many things to do in this region with great hiking, mountains and the Lago Maggiore close by. But we really enjoyed the Sacro Monte (Holy Mountain) we visited the day before in Domodossola. And we did not bring our hiking gear. What better way to discuss this with a breakfast in a typical italian bar in the middle of the village of Ornavasso (there is nothing to see in this village - we just stopped there when we spotted this typical italian Bar called "Sport Bar"). We enjoyed our cappuccino outside in the sun and watched the village slowly getting awake. I love it, it is sunday morning and the village is on the streets going to church or a bar, enjoying a coffee or some early morning beers. This is Italy.
In Switzerland, at this time of a sunday, a village is desserted. Finally, we realized that it is only a really short drive up to Lago di Orta - a smaller lake close to the big neighbour Lago Maggiore with less people a great nature. No big discussion needed - that was our destination for the day. It took us only 15 minutes and we arrived in Ormegna, the biggest town on the lake and famous for metal products of Alessi. Nothing special though about the town itself. It is small, busy, has a nice lakeshore and many cafés. We quickly looked around before we continued our drive 10 minutes longer die Orta San Giulio. This is a beutiful old little village on a peninsula - but on a sunday it was packed with italian tourists (and also some swiss) There is a big carpark out of the village from where you can easily walk to the old town. But it is stunningly beautiful with its little old alleyways, the lakeside and the little island of Isola San Giulio with its convento. We wandered the streets, looked at the cute little shops. Nature around was stunning with the trees in full colour and pure sunshine. To find some food was a bit difficult for us - no vegan options at all. Even not a single pizza was vegetarian. So we asked in one place for a individual pizza and it was possible. So luckily, for lunch, it was veggie pizza. At least the ice cream options were excellent! Lavender ice cream and raspberry basil was our favourite! YUMMY. To be honest, we hang around in the sun of the main square for quite a while to taste the different ice cream flavours :-).
Later, it was a bit of hiking again. Orta San Giulio also has a Sacro Monte. It was a steep hike up from the lakeshore passing by some amazing villas. Overlooking the village was the hill, Sacro Monte. What a serene setting with views over the whole lake. But it was not only about the sweeping views we came here. It was about the hill and the many chapels itself. Again here, like in Domodossola, there were many chapels telling a specific story about a saint. Sacro Monte di Orta had 21 chapels telling the life of Francis of Assisi. Again the frescos and sculptures lfet us speechless. They are elaborated to the tiniest detail - a masterwork of art. We learned a lot about the life of Francis o Assisi. And again the atmosphere on the Sacro Monte was so peaceful and special. Only few people came up here from the village. The chapels were all in the middle of many colourful trees. It was quite a bit to walk but we enjoyed it a lot. We would have loved to visit more Sacro Monte. But time was passing really quickly. So early evening we arrived back in the car and it was time to slowly make our way back to Switzerland.
To our big surprise some supermarkets close to Ormegna were open - and I am talking about the big supermarkets. Great! So we filled up the car with lots of stuff. Italy is so much cheaper and has a great variety of organic and vegan products. So this was the chance. The car was fully packed and driving up to the Passo Sempione was hard work for the heavy car. Hahahaha. It was nearly midnight when we reached our home back in rainy, cold Switzerland.
What a wonderful weekend break in the sun. And what a great region we have discovered. Lago di Orta is a jewel! But if you are a vegetarian or vegan we recommend to rent one of many appartments here (they are really affordable) and cook your own food. Supermarkets a full of vegan supplies, only restaurant options a limited. Ciao bella Italia!