Home » Lake Orta and Its Many Treasures

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“In the middle of the mountains there is Lake Orta. In the middle of Lake Orta, but not exactly in the middle, there is the island of San Giulio”.

Gianni Rodari

This is how one of Gianni Rodari’s most beautiful books begins, Once Upon a Time Baron Lamberto or The Mysteries of the Island of San Giulio.

The Island of San Giulio

Our journey begins with this famous incipit by the great journalist and children’s fairy tale author, Gianni Rodari. The story is set on this small but mysterious island in the middle of Lake Orta. Of glacial origin, Orta is a small, quiet cousin of Lake Maggiore. I wondered if the old, very rich Baron Lamberto was a character who actually existed and if his house would be visible on the island. Whether purely imaginary or reality, what I did see was the island’s natural beauty and its unique flora and fauna immersed in the magic of silence.
As soon as I got off the ferry (taken from the romantic lake village of Orta San Giulio), I was greeted by the intense “Via del Silenzio”, or “path of silence”. The road is dotted with meditative phrases on the importance of silence and living in the present moment. The island’s meditative power emanates at every turn finally culminating at the imposing and mysterious monastery of the cloistered Benedictine nuns set in the center of the island, on the base of the ancient castle.

I can attest to the fact that the island and the lake itself are truly fairy-tale settings that will intrigue both adults and children. Regardless of the weather, they are incredibly charming. So much so that not only was Gianni Rodari inspired to write some of his most beautiful fairy tales, but he also lived here. Today, there is a fantastic museum dedicated to him, right in Omegna.

The Rodari Museum in Omegna

Omegna, located on the northern edge of Lake Orta, is truly, as I like to call it, “a creative town”. Walking through its central streets, you come across curious and festive window decals with quotes from passages from Rodari’s fairy tales. Perhaps the village’s real gem is the museum dedicated to the famous writer and elementary school teacher. It is a fantastic, interactive space dedicated to Rodari and his fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Here, through a series of video interviews, his life is reconstructed and his fairy tales literally come to life illuminating the walls of each room. Visitors can let their imaginations run wild and adults will be transported back to the innocence of their childhood.

At the museum, I also discovered that many of Italy’s common kitchen tools and small appliances (the Bialetti moka, for example) were actually invented right here in this industrious town.

The “Rebellious” Nigoglia River

Omegna’s creativity and alternative thinking are reflected not only in its residents but also in the surrounding environment. There is the curious case of the Nigoglia River, defined by Rodari himself as a “rebel”. Compared to the emissaries of the rivers that normally flow south, towards the sea, the Nigoglia, flows north, against the current and “does as she pleases”. The townspeople have a motto for the lovely stream, which crosses their city “in reverse”:

“La Nigoja la va in su e la legg la fouma nu”, which loosely translated means: “The Nigoglia flows up, and we make our own rules.”

The Nigoglia’s rebellion against the laws of nature makes us think about the importance of independent thought and reminds us that great businesses are born from going against the grain. Rodari sums it up in the following excerpt:

"Lake Orta, in which the island of San Giulio and Baron Lamberto stands, is different from other Piedmontese and Lombard lakes. It is a lake that does its own thing. An original which, instead of sending its waters south, as Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Lake Garda do with discipline, sends them to the north, as if he wanted to give them to Monte Rosa".
C'era Due Volte il Barone Lamberto (1978)

About the Author

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Giulia Crepaldi

Giulia Crepaldi lives in Adria, Veneto, the town which, according to tradition, gave its name to the Adriatic Sea. She is a teacher by profession, but her passion is writing short stories and poems.
After obtaining her linguistic diploma, she attended the Faculty of Modern Literature in Padua where she cultivated a natural predisposition for literature, reading and writing, fueled by great curiosity and creativity. She writes short stories and two of these, “A Journey Through Memories” and “Invisible”, won her two literary prizes. One in Turin on the occasion of the International “Trofeo Penna D’Autore” competition and one in Lendinara in the “l’Arcobaleno della Vita” competition. Her literary inclination therefore shifts to poetry and she continues to experiment a lot in that area. Some of her poems were showcased in cultural events in her city: for example, “Anima Gemella” won fifth prize in the “Adria in Love” event. Her writing is defined as evocative and emotional due to the frequent use of imagery and description.
Her humanistic education is enriched by two interesting experiences: the collaboration as a freelance journalist with the newspaper “La Voce di Rovigo” and the internship as a press officer in a communication and marketing agency in Padua.
Her strong interest in literature led her to undertake her current profession as an Italian teacher.
Her passions, in addition to writing, are nature walks, dancing, drawing, music and singing, and travel.
Giulia likes to explore and finds that traveling is the best way to get “lost” while finding your true self.

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