Lake Orta, Italian Gastronomic Paradise

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. Tables have to be booked months in advance.
ANTONINO’s influence on gastronomy in this region has been enormous. Nearby in the little town of Orta San Giulio is the famous Locanda d’Orta a charming and low-key boutique hotel with a great restaurant. The chef 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 north up the lake shore is the fabulous Giardinetto Hotel and restaurant. Here the outdoor terrace in the summer months, is quite simply, heaven on earth. The food is divine and the wine list is excellent. For a foodie weekend away Lake Orta is unbeatable. The views of the lake are stunning, the food is amazing and it’s only an hour from Milan!
Lake Orta from the piazza in San Giulio
Lake Orta from the piazza in San Giulio


Antonino Cannavaccioulo - one of Italy's most famous chefs and certainly very distinctive
Antonino Cannavaccioulo – one of Italy’s most famous and certainly very distinctive chefs

LAKE ORTA is perhaps the most beautiful of the Italian Lakes, its blue-green waters are surrounded by wooded hillsides and snow-capped peaks rise majestically in the distance. 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 an hour’s drive from Milan Malpensa Airport. It is easy to get to and oh so Italian and authentic when you arrive. Strongly recommended.

The fabulous family-run Giardinetto Hotel, Lago d’ Orta (left). Orta and other lakes are about an hour’s drive north of Milan


  • Our sister company Grand Tourist creates unique tailor-made travel experiences in Italy, France, The Alps. Last July a client travelling from Siena, Italy to the UK requested help planning an itinerary. Of course Lake Orta was included on the route! The most beautiful of the Italian Lakes.
  • 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
  • To continue the Italian lakes theme – Villa Cordevigo (just east of Lake Garda) is also outstanding! Villa Cordevigo – country house hotel
  • Questions, responses, observations to: Janet at Educated Traveller blog
  • For a wonderful family-run lake shore hotel on Lake Orta you can’t beat Hotel Giardinetto, a favourite of mine. The Giardinetto Hotel
Published and updated:
With special thanks to Francesca Blench for introducing me to this beautiful part of Italy!
Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo is a subject for the model makers in his home town of Napoli!
Chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo – is even a subject for the model makers in Naples, his home town!
Lake Orta is so beautiful. An hour north-west of Milan - it is an enchanting, fairytale place to visit. Great food and wine too!
Lake Orta is so beautiful. An hour north-west of Milan – it is an enchanting, fairy tale place to visit. Great food and wine too!

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