6th August: Relaxing in Orta

Orta is a small peninsula with rather a large hill in the middle, Sacre Monte di San Francisco, or the sacred mountain of St Francis of Assisi. Yesterday we walked around the peninsula, this morning we went up to the top of the hill to visit the twenty 17th and 18th century chapels dedicated to St Francis that are up there. They are covered in frescos and full of life size terracotta figures, which I didn’t like, although I acknowledge they were probably masterpieces in their day!

We then wandered down the hill to the town where we spent the rest of the morning drinking coffee and catching up on emails. After lunch we spent the afternoon swimming, lying on the grass and people watching.

Half way up the hill we had found a quieter, shadier camper van parking spot so we moved ours. We ended up with British neighbours, the first we have seen on the stopover sites we’ve used this holiday, and shared a couple of beers before going out for dinner.

Dinner was on a terrace over the lake. We enjoyed watching the sunset, storms approaching, and lightning in the distance. We had trouble getting the bill. John explained to the waiter that our camper van was over the other side of the hill with all the skylights open and we needed to get back before the storm arrived in Orta. He said it wouldn’t come: it was the other side of the distant mountains. He was wrong!

We had a rather spooky walk back over Sacre Monti, in the dark with the rumbling thunder and lightning. Luckily we made it back before the rain started, then shared a bottle of wine with our neighbours, sheltering under the awning. Fab!

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