Sunday, 8 February 2015

Lake Como Maggiore and Orta.

I had read that Mantua between Verona and Venice was the most romantic city in the World, according to Aldous Huxley, with it's skyline of domes, towers and surrounded by three lakes. We arrived late and would tour the streets tomorrow.
Alas on awakening, there was unimaginable dense fog. Northern Italy in late October and all that water. After a quick crises meeting, we decide to leave the visit Mantua for another day and head for Lake Como.
All morning the fog lingers, as we pass through Bergamo with it's upper medieval quarter we see nothing but the gloom. 
By the time we reach Lecco the fog has started to lift, there are fine views to be had, out over the Lake.


The beautiful Como above, backed by the high mountains and forests sweeping down to the waters edge.The water green and blue, for us this is a natural habitat. We walk along the shore line, there is a calmness, the air is full of bird song, large flocks of Serins race through the Birch trees. The fog, now  a mist has retreated and hangs over the mountain valleys. In the morning we travel on to Maggiore.

The road to Lago Maggiore, takes us through Lugano in Switzerland. Beautiful sun , as we drive through Locarno and back into Italy. We arrive in the pretty town of Cannobio, on the western side of Maggiore. The streets are steep and cobbled, with houses of pink and cream leading you down to the lake below.

There is a Mediterranean atmosphere Palms and Oleanders growing, snow on the top of the mountains. It is very pretty, over looking the little harbour. Cannobio's only sight at the far end the promenade is the Santuario dell Pieta, built to house the painting of the  Pieta which supposedly began to bleed around 1522.

The journey across the mountain to Lago d' Orta is short but so worth the time. Locally Orta is known as "Cinderella" and the last last of the lakes on this visit.
 We so agree with the locals, this is what we imagined of the Italian lakes, for us this is the best.

It has the Palm trees, exotic plants  the opulent villas all looking into the deep blue water. It feels quite tropical in the warm sun.

It also has "Orta San Giulio" for us the most captivating medieval village on any of the lakes.

With narrow, cobbled lanes, wrought iron balconies on the tall pastel washed palazzi.
The shadows portraying the narrow streets.

Plazzo della Comunita, town hall, with it's faded frescos.

In the Piazza Motta galleries and resturants share space under the arcades.

Beyond the restaurant,  Isola San Giulio the intriguing island, resting in the blue waters.
In legend the realm of dragons, long banished.

Looking out across the Isola San Giulio, dominated by the Convent and Romanesque tower of the Basilica.

The town of Pella fronts the far shore with it's bustling promenade.

Does it feed the little lake below?
That speck of white just on its marge
Is Pella; see, in the evening glow,
How sharp the silver spear-heads charge
When Alp meets heaven in snow!

from By the Fire-Side, by Robert Browing (1812-1889)

il Sacro Monte di Orta.

Overlooking Lago d' Orta, a collection of 20 chapels dedicated to St Francis of Assisi.
The chapels are filled with statues depicting scenes of the saint's life.
It stands on the sacred mount of firs. Sculptured by the glaciers of the Quaternary period, today it is forested with Scotch firs, Ash trees and blueberry. Many people walk up from Orta village just for the view and the pine filled air.

Chapel 20, The Canonisation of Saint Francis.

St Francis of Assisi.

The shadows create such a dramatic atmosphere at the end of a beautiful day out.
The village and lake are unforgettably romantic, we hope to return one day,
especially to the "Cinderella" Orta.

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