Enveloped by thick, dark-green woodlands, tranquil Lake Orta (aka Lake Cusio) could make a perfect elopers’ getaway. Measuring 13.4km long by 2.5km wide, it’s separated from its bigger and better-known eastern neighbour, Lake Maggiore, by Monte Mottarone. The focal point of the lake is the captivating medieval village of Orta San Giulio, often referred to simply as Orta.
If it’s romance you want, come during the week and you’ll have the place largely to yourself. On spring and summer weekends, good-natured groups of day trippers from Milan and beyond descend on the place, creating plenty of atmosphere, but crowding the town. You can’t blame them: it’s perfect for a day out and a long Sunday lunch.
You could drive right around the lake in a day. Outside Orta, specific sights are few and far between. The ride along the largely flat, east bank of the lake is the best for lake views, while on the west bank, the main road runs mostly high up in the hills and out of sight of the lake. Some out-of-the-way villages on the west bank are fun to explore, however. Roads stretch away from the lake on either side to the mountains. To the east is Monte Mottarone. To the northwest stretches the beautifully wild and little-visited Valstrona.