The Obscure Lake Orta and Villa Crespi

Relais and Chateaux properties rarely disappoint, and Villa Crespi is the farthest thing from an exception to this rule. Everything about this property is opulent. From its stately outer appearance to its lavish interiors, it is honestly pure perfection. This boutique hotel is situated close to the shores of Lake Orta amongst peaceful surroundings. I spent one evening here after leaving Stresa on Lake Maggiore. The drive is a rather short thirty minutes, so it aligns itself well to be included in an itinerary traveling around Milan and the lakes. This hidden gem is definitely worth your time.

As I arrived to Lake Orta, I immediately recognized the spire situated at the top of Villa Crespi. We announced our arrival on the call box, and the staff were promptly waiting to greet us at the entrance. They took care of the check in process and escorted us to our room. The team also enlightened us on the history of the property. The villa belonged to a wealthy family from Milan. Every single detail of this place is adorned with beautiful accents and an insane attention to detail from the floors to the ceilings.

On the main floor, you will find a beautifully appointed, very formal lobby. Not too far away, there is a lovely bar with an extensive selection of cocktails, beers, and wine. You can enjoy a drink inside or outside on their patio. The tables outside are surrounded by lush greenery, and a quick walk will take you to some of their gardens. Breakfast is served outside if the weather is permitting. During our stay, it was raining the morning of breakfast. We sat just inside at a row of tables facing large windows. I actually preferred being inside for breakfast because the room was so gorgeous. The detail in the ceiling alone was just incredible. Even if the weather is nice, consider sitting inside.

When you book your stay, you may notice several packages available. We ended up purchasing one of these, which included dinner at “their” restaurant located a short distance away. When you look at the website for the restaurant, it does appear to be a savings to purchase the package that includes dinner for two guests. The coursed menu was plenty of food and a very reasonable price. There were some nuisances about dinner that are worth mentioning. The first is the location of the restaurant. It is close, but it is not that close. The hotel staff said it would be dangerous to walk in the evening due to the narrow road and not being well lit. This was understandable after realizing it would have been quite a long walk. Dependent upon the time of year you visit, you must watch out for mosquitos. All of the diners were seated outside, and about an hour into our meal, I had more mosquito bites than I could count. They were absolutely swarming and made dinner, quite honestly, a little miserable. They will bring out bug spray for anyone interested, but I would recommend bringing layers or wearing pants to avoid bites. Outside of this, the dinner would have been lovely. The pasta dish here was really beautifully done and my favorite of the evening. It was a standout. The other dishes were tasty, but they were not quite as memorable. As an aside, the crowd here was very interesting the evening we had dinner. While it may not be the norm, it was a great place for some people watching and eavesdropping.

Back at Villa Crespi, plan to spend the rest of your evening enjoying their luxurious accommodations. I booked the smallest room, but it was certainly no less beautiful or spacious. There was plenty of room to spread out. The bath products here were a new level of luxury in my opinion. They were all stored in glass with a unique and lovely scent. They even had a spray deodorant! I don’t always take the hotels bath products home with me, but these are definitely worthy of taking up some space in your suitcase. Some oddities of the room that I noted were the shower was rather small compared to the utter beauty and size of the remainder of the bathroom and room itself. There was a daybed, which makes for a great place to relax right next to all of the windows. If you take the time to look at the details, you will notice the craftsmanship is really incredible for things even as simple as the shades to close the windows. The linens on the bed were also one of a kind. When I first got into the bed, I wasn’t sure they were going to be my cup of tea. After about 10 minutes, I thought they seemed pretty amazing. The room was well appointed with coffee and tea for morning or evening. They also provided us with a vibrantly colored fruit bowl that even included golden berries.

There is plenty to do in the Lake Orta area to occupy your time if you find it in your heart to leave the hotel room. A stay for two nights would probably be ideal to see everything. I arrived in the early afternoon and spent the afternoon exploring the following: Sacre Monte, Isola San Giulio, and Orta San Giulio. The hotel can assist you in making your way to all of these sights. Everything is walkable from the property. The Sacre Monte is a UNESCO world heritage sight and collection of 20 chapels that all honor St. Francis of Assisi. There are breathtaking views over Isola San Giulio from this area. You could spend hours here, but after about one hour, you will have a really good idea of what the Sacre Monte has to offer. From Sacre Monte, you can take a different route into Orta San Giulio. This is one of the main towns on Lake Orta. The streets here are quaint, not too crowded, and a beautiful place to lose track of time exploring. My favorite store in town was OrtArte, which had some really fun art pieces. I made a purchase here, but it is also a fun place to look around. Also of note, Villa Crespi can provide you with a ticket to take a boat transfer to Isola San Giulio. This small island feels remote and is every bit as lovely in person as it is from admiring it at Sacre Monte. There really isn’t much to do here other than visit the basilica, a small store, and make a circle around the entire island. You will notice signs as you walk around the island with inspirational quotes like “In the silence you receive all” and “Walls are in the mind.” You don’t need to spend long here to see everything before returning to the main piazza possibly for a scoop of gelato prior to walking back to Villa Crespi.

The staff at Villa Crespi recommended we take the scenic walk back to the property time permitting. They can provide you with a map that outlines the longer walk along the lake with amazing views. I know that I have mentioned it before, but in the middle of summer, this part of Italy was not too crowded. While it is likely my own ignorance, I had never heard of Lake Orta prior to traveling and visiting. I have learned a lot about my interests the more places I visit. I used to think that the most popular, sought after destinations and resorts were the place to be. Several trips later, I realized this is actually the opposite of what I wanted. If you want the hidden gem, the novelty, then try Lake Orta and Villa Crespi. I dare say that you won’t be disappointed.

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