After taking a few separate road trips to the famous Italian lake shores of Maggiore, Garda, Lugano and Como, my wife Diane and I branched out to the the much less known Lake Orta. Also one of the northern Italian lakes, Orta, like Rodney Dangerfield, seems to get no respect. Later when we struck up conversations with a few locals, they said they liked it that way and were glad they aren’t overrun with tour bus crowds.
To begin our trip, I investigated some of the local hotels and weekly rental apartments, but I stumbled upon a luxury travel web site where you can bid or buy “special” deals. On that list was the Villa Crespi a small Moorish style palace that included parking, which some of the places in town did not, and breakfast. Usually we stay in local pensions or small hotels, but this time we decided to go first class. Villa Crespi was advertised as just a short stroll to the main village of Orta San Giulio directly on the lakeshore. It was quite a bit more than a short stroll, but the beauty of the area made the stroll down to the village go quickly.
Car parking was under a tent like structure, the room was magnificent, the grounds were splendid with a fountain, and the breakfasts were sumptuous at a romantic indoor or outdoor patio table.
Before checking in, I decided to drive down to the lakeshore village for a looksee and get a feel for the place. This was a huge tactical error. We had just taken possession of a brand new Volvo S80 which is not as big as a SUV, but as we entered the town on the only road in, the opening between the building walls began shrinking to claustrophobic levels. At the town exit point, we had to get out of the car, pull the side mirrors inward, and we only cleared our way out by one inch on each side with my wife guiding me from outside the car.
(The next day I had my photo taken on the main street between the buildings with my fingers almost touching each wall and another photo with pedestrians walking that slender main street.) We thought we had it made upon exiting the narrowest opening, but proceeding further up this lane it came to a dead end with no place to turn around. Luckily the owner of the house at the dead end came out, opened his gate and let us turn around on his property. Apparently this has happened many times before as I interpreted his Italian inflections and hand/arm flailing. Then I had to retrace the trip until the road made a one-way left turn that I almost scraped my doors on to get around. Traveling up that lane to get out, I had to drive with one wheel on the road bricks and the other on some pedestrian steps. Whew ! Needless to say, once we got back to Villa Crespi, I parked the car for the remainder of our stay.
There are no massive tourist attractions here, just a beautiful lake, a quiet village and the San Giulio Island. The restaurants were very reasonably priced and the antipasto plates and brick over pizzas were terrific. One afternoon while eating a slice on one of the waterfront park benches, one of the boat owners struck up a conversation while we all enjoyed our snacks. Afterward finishing up, he asked if we wanted a ride on his speed boat to the island. We said yes and he took us out and we gave him a nice donation for doing so. There really wasn’t any big attractions on the island, just a nice place to take a stroll and watch the residents go about their daily routines, some bringing in their catch on small fishing vessels and others just tending to their little gardens.
It was a relaxing visit since we didn’t have any itinerary other than enjoying the scenery and meeting locals. One allowed Diane to try out their moped while another allowed her to take a spell on the broom sweeping the gravel from their walkway.