Departure from Milan to Lake Orta, just west of Lake Maggiore. Surrounded by verdant hills this charming medieval village is rich in history and interesting sites. The guided tour begins in Piazza Motta, open towards the lake just opposite the island of San Giulio, is the main square and heart of the town, with the “Palazzotto”, Palazzo della Comunità, dated 1582. Admire the genteel 16th and 17th century townhouses with their lovely wrought iron balconies, testimony of local artisan skills, along the narrow lanes visit continues across the water to the island of San Giulio, known for its Romanesque basilica founded, according to tradition, by the saint at the end of the fourth century. Enlarged several times over the years, it was completely rebuilt between the XIth and the XIIth centuries. Adjacent is the nineteenth-century Mater Ecclesiae Abbey, a community of Benedictine nuns and an important spiritual center with a laboratory specializing in the restoration antique textiles.
Return to the village of Orta for lunch at a traditional local restaurant.
For lovers of art and nature a visit to the Sacro Monte di Orta, a Special Nature Reserve since 1980, with an area of 13 hectares. The Sacro Monte was designed in the late 16th- early 17 th centuries as a devotional complex dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi with episodes of his life illustrated through frescoes and life-size terracotta sculptures (376) displayed in a series of 20 chapels, inviting visitors to reflect and pray. During the walk (which takes about 2 hours) admire the wonderful bond created between architecture and the surrounding landscape.