Lake Orta, Piedmont, Italy
Also known as: Lago d'Orta
Described by 19th century French novelist Honere Balzac as a “grey pearl in a green jewel box,” Lake Orta in the Piedmont region of Italy has been the muse of poets, writers and philosophers for hundreds of years. Inspired by the 4,482-acre lake’s beauty, Frederich Nietzsche used it as a writer’s retreat in the late 1800’s and wrote “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” looking out over the sparkling waters…
Keep scrolling to read more.
Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Orta! Article topics include:
- All About Lake Orta
- Where to Stay
- Vacation Planning Tools
- Things to Do
- Known Fish Species
- Lake Orta Map
- Statistics / Weather / Helpful Links
- Lake Orta Gifts
Looking for Lake Orta cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore more of our favorite travel partners.
All About Lake Orta, Italy
Described by 19th century French novelist Honere Balzac as a “grey pearl in a green jewel box,” Lake Orta in the Piedmont region of Italy has been the muse of poets, writers and philosophers for hundreds of years. Inspired by the 4,482-acre lake’s beauty, Frederich Nietzsche used it as a writer’s retreat in the late 1800’s and wrote “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” looking out over the sparkling waters of what the Italians call Lago d’Orta. Today Lake Orta is a popular destination for Italians, but remains relatively unknown by the rest of the world. Tucked away in northern Italy, the lake that English poet Robert Browning wrote of as the place where “Alp meets heaven in snow,” is a gem waiting to be treasured.
Lago d’Orta is the western most glacial lake in Italy and the seventh largest by both volume and depth in the country. Running north to south, the lake is over eight miles long and a mile and a half wide with a maximum depth of 469 feet. The outlet forms the Niguglia River at the north end of the lake. Lake Orta suffered from industrial wastewater pollution during the 20th century, damaging the lake’s ecology and commercial fishery. Concerted environmental efforts are helping Lago d’Orta and the fishery to recover, but the process is slow since the water residence time in the lake is more than 10 years.
In addition to the arctic char introduced to Lake Orta in 1914 through 1916, today anglers will find populations of eel, pike, tench, perch and burbot. Motorboat tours are a great way to explore the lake, and there are also boats available for hire. Swimming, scuba diving, and sailing are all popular lake pastimes, and kayaking around San Giulio Island is a perfect way to spend the day.
San Giulio Island, or Isola di San Giulio as it’s known in Italian, is 902 feet long and 450 feet wide. According to legend, a huge serpent used to terrorize the island until the area’s patron saint, St. Giulio, chased it away. The island and the village of Orta San Giulio on the opposite shore are both named after the fourth century saint, and originally the lake was called Lago di San Giulio in Italian. It was renamed and has been Lake Orta since the 16th century. The Basilica of San Giulio is the largest building on the island, and the Romanesque church has frescoes from the 15th and 16th centuries. A narrow street winds around the island and visitors can stroll around the charming island before taking the hired boat back to the village.
The village of Orta San Giulio sits on a peninsula jutting into the lake from its eastern shore. Balconies with iron balustrades look out over the lake, and slate tiles top the roofs of many of the quaint village’s buildings. Restaurants, holiday villas and vacation rentals are all available along Lake Orta’s shores. Omegna is at the north end of the lake, and there are a few small villages dotted on the shore. Lake Orta is not as populated as nearby Lake Maggiore, however, and stays much quieter. Olive groves around the lake give way to chestnut forests and then beech trees as the elevation climbs. Mottarone, 4,544 feet tall, separates Lake Orta from Lake Maggiore and provides visitors with a variety of winter sports including skiing.
Just 44 miles from Milan, Lago d’Orta has all the charm of a rustic Italian village with accessibility to the best in sophisticated Italian culture. It shines with the beauty of a baroque pearl, better for its rough nature, and is sure to inspire visitors for centuries to come.
Things to Do at Lake Orta
These are some activities in the Lake Orta, Italy area visitors can enjoy:
- Vacation Rentals
- Scuba Diving
What Kind of Fish Are in Lake Orta?
Lake Orta has been known to have the following fish species:
Find Places to Stay at Lake Orta
If you’re considering a Lake Orta lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.
Note: These are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase. Read our full disclosure policy here.
More Sites to Book a Lake Orta Vacation
Our interactive Lake Orta lodging map above is an easy tool for comparing VRBO rental homes and nearby hotels with Booking.com, but there could be times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodations. Here are some other lake lodging partners we recommend:
Lake Orta Statistics & Helpful Links
Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed
Surface Area: 4,482 acres
Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 952 feet
Average Depth: 233 feet
Maximum Depth: 469 feet
Water Volume: 1,053,927 acre-feet
Water Residence Time: 10.7 Years
Drainage Area: 45 sq. miles
More local lakes to explore in this area:
We strive to keep information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. If you’ve found something here that needs updating, please touch base by filling out our Content Correction form.
Shop Lake Orta Gifts
More Lake Orta news from LakeLubbers.com
- Advertise your vacation rental property or local business: DETAILS HERE
- The Lake Orta forum has been discontinued: HERE’S WHY
- New Lake Orta photos coming soon!
- You’re invited to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook and Instagram!
- Share this Lake Orta article with your fellow LakeLubbers: