Green mountain valleys, lush gardens, lakes with romantic islands

Green mountain valleys, lush gardens, lakes with romantic islands

Visiting Piedmont Italy: Ragozzale river Val Grande

Welcome to northern Piedmont.

Northern Piedmont is home to green mountain valleys, baroque gardens and beautiful 19th century villas along the shore of Lake Maggiore.

This large mountain lake with its surface of 212 m2 creates its own mild micro climate, that boosts abundantly blossoming camellias, azaleas magnolias, mimosas and rhododendron all adding their bright colours to the landscape.

In the 19th century the 66 km long Lake Maggiore, shared by Switzerland and Italy, has been the destination of choice for the English upper class in search of some sun: you only cross the Alps and find yourself in a different, exotic world. Writers like Stendhal and Flaubert made the destination famous by raving about the beauty of the lake’s romantic Borromean Islands with their baroque palaces and lush gardens where peacocks roam freely.

Visiting Piedmont Italy: San Giulio in Orta lake
San Giulio Island, Orta Lake: another romantic island not to be missed

Just north of the lake, in Val Grande national park, you can immerse yourself in wilderness and enter a different world. Val Grande was once inhabited by peasants and frequented by lumbermen who supplied the steel factory in Villadossola down in the Ossola valley with wood. Today, in Val Grande hikers find remote valleys, beautiful woods, romantic ponds inviting for a bath, blueberries (in August and September) and bivouac stone houses (often with an oven) to spend the night.

Move further north into the Ossola valley and you will be surrounded by high mountains. Its lateral valleys like Val Anzasca and Valsesia valley will bring you to Monte Rosa (“Pink Mountain”) to ski, summit one of its peaks (if you are an alpinist) or to simply enjoy scenery and mountain villages. With its main summit Dufourspitze at 4.634 m (or 15.203 feet) Monte Rosa is the second highest mountain of the Alps.

You would love to travel in time? In Northern Piedmont you can come close to doing just that!

By visiting the Sacred Mount of Orta, in Orta San Giulio, you follow the biography of St. Francis of Assisi walking along 21 chapels depicting the saint’s life events in frescoes and life-sized statues.

Visiting PIedmont Italy: Sacred Mount in Orta
Terracotta figures almost coming to life in a chapel on Sacred Mount of Orta

In the 16th and 17th centuries the beauty of Northern Piedmont with its mountains, lakes, hills and islands inspired a unique idea: the creation of groups of chapels, richly decorated with life-sized terracotta statues and frescoes to create places of pilgrimage and religious edification. The Sacred Mount of Orta is one of 9 Sacred Mounts in Piedmont and Lombardy which have been included in the UNESCO list of World cultural heritage in 2003.

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