Lake Orta, Piedmont, Italy

Also known as:  Lago d'Orta

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Orta — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Lake Orta

Lake Locations: Italy - Piedmont Region, 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

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving

Fish Species Found at Lake Orta

  • Burbot
  • Char
  • Eel
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Tench

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.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Orta Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Orta lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

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

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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