Lake Orta’s Open Air Art Galleries: The Villages of Legro, Pogno, and Armeno

Home » Lake Orta’s Open Air Art Galleries: The Villages of Legro, Pogno, and Armeno

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Part of what is known as the “Painted Villages” and near Orta San Giulio, the towns of Legro, Pogno, and Armeno are truly open-air museums, full of colorful frescoes and murals.

Legro’s Murals, Homage to Italian Film

“La via del cinema” in Legro consists of more than 60 murals depicting films set on Lake Orta and paying homage to the great auteur cinema. Classics such as Pane, Amore e Gelosia with Gina Lollobrigida; Riso Amaro with Silvana Mangano and Vittorio Gassman (Oscar-nominated in 1951); and A Farewell to Arms with Rock Hudson and Vittorio De Sica. These masterpieces of cinematic history both surprised me and won me over with their bright colors.


The predominant theme of the painted walls of Pogno is water, a life source and sustenance for the area’s economy.


Armeno’s murals depict cuisine, history, and mountains. It was intriguing to walk through the streets of these silent and enchanting villages admiring their painted walls where the atmosphere is relaxed and time passes slowly and peacefully like the placid waters of romantic Lake Orta. In short, these beautiful art galleries gracing the towns’ buildings give life and charm to little-known villages. Depending on the time of day, you’ll notice the murals’ hues changing with the sunlight.

Other Lakeside Villages

Around Lake Orta, also called Cusio, there are many characteristic villages crowded around at various altitudes. Of course, there is the more well-known and romantic Orta San Giulio and the industrious Omegna, Gozzano, and San Maurizio d’Opaglio. There are splendid lakeside walks in Pella and Pettenasco, and paths to follow on the slopes of Mount Mottarone or among the gentle surrounding valleys, between the villages of Miasino, Nonio, Quarna and many others.


Another interesting village worth mentioning is Brolo, the town of cats. On its walls, windows, railings, and tiles, dozens and dozens of “cat” themed decorations appear. The most characteristic stretch is the Strescia del Gat, a pedestrian street dedicated entirely to our feline friends. This unusual infatuation with cats has historical reasons and is a sign of independence.

Churches, Sanctuaries, and Panoramic Views

The area of Lake Orta is full of sanctuaries and places of worship, often located in panoramic points. There are dozens of them, all linked to religious traditions and full of charm. The most important sanctuaries are connected across the lake at the height of Orta San Giulio. Right at the center of the island, we find the Basilica of San Giulio, which houses the saint’s remains, and on the mainland the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta.

Climbing the slopes of the promontory behind it, you can reach the Sacro Monte di Orta, one of the nine sites recognized by UNESCO. Visitors are led along a devotional path of St. Francis’ life consisting of twenty different chapels, each one decorated with frescoes and statues. The route ends with the Church of San Nicolao and its stunning lake view. The symbiotic relationship that exists between art, spirituality, and nature is almost inexplicable and is obviously, what makes this location a world heritage site.

You’ll also find the renowned restaurant, the Sacromonte, and going down towards the center of Orta, there is an abundance of places to enjoy an excellent meal. For those looking for haute cuisine, Villa Crespi and Laqua by the Lake (the latter in nearby Pettenasco) are the restaurants managed by chef Cannavacciuolo.

On the opposite shore of the lake lies the pleasant lakeside village of Pella, which can also be reached by boat. Behind it, perched upon a rocky spur, looms the magnificent eighteenth-century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Sasso. From its terrace you can enjoy an almost complete view of the lake, the island of San Giulio, and the Sacro Monte of Orta.

Continue reading about sights in the Novara province.

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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