When Antonino Cannavacciuolo first arrived in Orta from Naples he was a big man with a beard. He was pretty handy in the kitchen too. Today he is Italy’s equivalent of Gordon Ramsey, a TV Chef with a huge character. He is the chef-patron at Villa Crespi a magnificent Arabesque Folly over-looking Lake Orta. Dinner in one of the elegant dining rooms at Villa Crespi is a gastronomic experience to remember.
Antonino’s influence on gastronomy in this region has been enormous. In the little town of Orta San Giulio is the famous Locanda a charming and low-key town house. The chef Fabrizio is passionate about food, preparing the finest fish and meat, using local produce and the lightest of touches. The local risotto is a speciality. Slightly further afield is Pascia, a Michelin-starred restaurant run by a brother and sister team. Here the chef Paolo Gatta runs regular cookery classes in his kitchen. For a foodie weekend away Lake Orta is unbeatable.
Lake Orta is perhaps the most beautiful of the Italian Lakes, its blue-green waters are surrounded by wooded hillsides and snow-capped peaks. In the centre of Lake Orta is the Island of San Giulio. Legend has it that the island was infested with snakes and monsters, until the heroic St Giulio walked across the lake in a storm established a church and rid the island of its slithering hordes. Today there is just a handful of inhabitants on the island – most of whom are nuns living in a convent. The island hosts a poetry festival each summer.The combination of great restaurants, breath-taking scenery and characterful hotels makes the Lake Orta region a great choice for an Italian weekend away. Orta is less than a one hour drive from Milan Malpensa Airport. So it is easy to get to and so Italian and authentic when you arrive.
- Our sister company Grand Tourist creates unique tailor-made travel experiences in Italy, France,The Alps.
- For gastronomy and wine tasting in Italy I’d strongly recommend the Veneto area (just inland from Venice) especially the wonderful Villa of the Five Sisters. The five sisters of Villa Angarano – Bassano, Italy
- Villa Cordevigo (just east of Lake Garda) is also outstanding! Villa Cordevigo – country house hotel
- Questions, responses, observations to: Janet at Educated Traveller blog