introduced by richard bagot

Il lago d'Orta from "The italian lakes" by Richard Bagot

"ALTHOUGH insignificant in size when compared
with its near neighbour the Lago Maggiore,
and with the lakes of Como and Lugano the Lago
d'Orta yields only to the Larian Lake in natural
beauty^ and far surpasses the two others in its wealth
of colour and picturesque effects. It may be said^
indeed^ to be, with the exception of Como and
Garda, the most typically Italian in its scenery and
atmosphere of all the lakes in the northern provinces
of Italy.


The name Lago d'Orta is of comparatively
modem origin. Up to the middle of the sixteenth
century the lake was known as the Lago di San
Giulio, from the island and ancient church dedicated
to that saint, presently to be described. The
classical name of the Lago d'Orta was Locus
Cusius, by which title it was known to the Romans —
the term Cusius being said to be derived
from Iceni, an Iberian tribe which had settled on
its shores some two or more centuries before the
Christian era.

Travellers by the railway from Novara on their
way to Arona and Lago Maggiore have but little
idea of the beauties of the Lake of Orta as they
look down upon its waters from the train which
passes at a considerable height above it. The
fame of Maggiore has long eclipsed the more
modesty but as many think the far more pictur-
esque and sympathetic Orta, lying buried in the
midst of its circle of lofty, wooded hills. But
the majority of travellers through the Italian lake
country hurry on to Baveno and the Borromean
islands, or to Pallanza and its German hotels and
Biergartens. It is to be hoped that they may long
continue to do so, and to leave the Lago d'Orta the
tranquil, secluded spot that, in spite of the railway,
it yet remains.

The Lago d'Orta is, technically speaking, a
Piedmontese and not a Lombard lake, since all
but a very small portion of it lies within the
province of Novara. Its length is something
over twelve kilometres; so that it is, in comr
parison with the neighbouring lakes, of insignifi-
cant dimensions. What Orta may lose in length
and breadth, however, is amply made up to it
in beauty. At whatever season of the year this
lake be visited, it presents, always granted that
the day be a fine one, a charming and sympathetic
picture. In late springs summer and autumn the
colouring is superb. In the little town of Orta
itself — as indeed at Omegna Buccione> and each
village around the lake — the eye is met by a
blaze of colour at every turn. Masses of scarlet
geranium and cactus of clematis roses lilies,
and the lovely mauve-tinted flowers of the caper,
tumble in luxuriant profusion over walls and
picturesque loggie, and these loggie as likely as
not are shaded by awnings of rich red or apricot
hue which add to the general brilliancy. If we
glance upwards, it is to look into a sky of deepest
blue; if our eyes wander down narrow streets,
it is to meet such patches of colour as are supplied
by fruit-stalls laden with water-melons, peaches,
gourds, tomato — or, to give the last their more
characteristic Italian name, poma d'oro. These
if it be high summer. If it be spring, their place
is taken by strawberries, cherries, and the fresh
green of vegetables ; if it be autumn, by figs and
grapes, purple and white. In all the Italian lake
country there is no spot so redolent of Italy as Orta.
Even the waters of the lake are more transparent
and of a deeper blue than any others in North Italy,
excepting those of the Lago di Garda. According
to analytical statistics, indeed, taken some twenty
years ago, the water of the Lago d'Orta is said to be
the purest of all the lake waters ; and this, and not
merely atmospheric effects, probably accounts for its
limpidity. ( MORE )