A holiday reminiscence
Lake Orta may be the smallest and most easterly of the Italian Lakes, but it conceals a delightful secret place among the blue waters and wooded mountains. Leaving vehicles at the landward end of a rocky promontory, the visitor walks (or takes a mini-train) down between golden brown roofs to the mediaeval village of Orta San Giulio. In the piazza on the waterfront a group of jolly men rigged out as sea captains vie to give trips out to the island of San Giulio or St Julian. This intrepid character arrived from Greece in 390 AD to convert the local pagans. He sailed across to the island on his cloak (so goes the legend), defeated dragons and serpents, and founded a church. His crumbling remains can still be viewed in the crypt of the present building.
The entire island is composed of this ancient church and a convent of enclosed nuns. They have made a path for visitors to wander through their domain, sign posted “The Way of Meditation” one way, and “The Way of Silence” the other. “Silence is Truth” and “Silence is the Language of Love” are two of the many thoughts posted along the way. I was equally fascinated to see a “Green Man” carved on the 10th century pulpit, beneath the statues of the gospel writers. Nature and Religion in harmony.