It may not have George Clooney in swim trunks (win, Lake Como) but Lake Orta and the shoreline town of Orta San Giulio does have green mountains, glittering forested shores, and a tourist-free scene of Italians in repose.
Less than an hour drive north of Milan’s Malpensa airport, it’s easily doable as a day trip. Zip up for lunch at one of the exceptional enotecas that line the water, such as Al Bouec, where fine barolos are served in a 500-year-old candlelit cavern.
Or spend a few days in the sun at Villa Crespi (from $700, hotelvillacrespi.it), a 14th-century Moorish compound with a hammam and front-row seats to the real attraction: that lake.
This appeared in the May 2015 issue.