The pretty village that you can only reach by boat is among world’s best

Lake Orta is often regarded as Italy’s most beautiful lake and one of its best-kept secrets.

However, for years, its neighbours in Piedmont – Lake Como and Lake Maggiore – have garnered most of the attention and tourists.

This hidden gem is home to a tiny island in the middle of the lake, Isola di San Giulio, or St Julius Island.

The island, the only one within Lake Orta, is just 275 metres long and 140 metres wide.

St Julius Island is home to a Benedictine monastery, with only a few families living as permanent residents.

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The island is dubbed “the island of silence” thanks to the fully-functioning monastery.

A signposted walkway traces the perimeter of the island, where visitors can enjoy walks of “silence and meditation”.

The island takes its name from a local patron saint – Julius of Novara, who lived on the island during the fourth century.

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According to tradition, Julius helped found one hundred churches during his lifetime.

Fortunately for visitors, most of the houses on the island are holiday houses or second houses

Frequent ferry service connects towns and villages around the lake, including to St Julius Island.

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Overlooking Lake Orta is Orta San Giulio, a quaint and ancient hillside village set on a peninsula.

The town itself is dominated by medieval and baroque architecture, as well as walkways draped with wisteria and vines.

Visitors to Orta San Giulio also have the chance to climb to the top of Sacro Monte, an old pilgrimage site lined with 20 chapels dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi.

Lake Orta is just an hour’s drive from the Milan airport.

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