La Darbia

Orta San Giulio, Italian Lakes & Verona, Italy Book from Book from £120 per night

Chic self-catering apartments (sleeping 2-4) amid rolling vineyards, with an excellent restaurant and unbeatable views of romantic Lake Orta
Read a travel guide to the Italian Lakes and it might not even mention Lake Orta. And that’s exactly why you should go there. It may be smaller than its more-famous neighbour, Maggiore, but what it lacks in celebrity it makes up for in charm: faded waterfront villas, sleepy medieval waterfront villages and an intriguing island monastery, set against a dreamy backdrop of steep green escarpments and low-hanging mist. It’s no wonder creative minds such as Byron, Browning and Balzac came here for inspiration.

Nestled into the forest above the picturesque Orta San Giulio, La Darbia is the perfect place to take it all in. Forged from a farmhouse inherited from their grandfather, brothers Gian Carlo and Matteo used their passion for architecture to create 20 stylish apartments, each with a phenomenal lake view. In the extensive grounds they discovered an ancient vineyard, from which they now produce Nebbiolo wine; you can do tastings in the rustic La Cantina cellar. Breakfast baskets are delivered to your door, there’s an infinity pool overlooking the lake and it’s a downhill stroll into the village. If you’re a couple or family looking for a less-commercial Italian Lakes break, you won’t find better. We can’t wait to visit.

Highs

  • An incredible setting overlooking Lake Orta, a hidden gem in the Italian Lakes; far quieter than Maggiore or Como
  • The views! Best enjoyed from a sunlounger by the heated pool, aperitivo in hand...
  • The apartments: stylish, spacious and spotlessly clean, with kitchens for self-catering and a private terrace or garden
  • The onsite traditional Italian restaurant, La Cucina. Reasonably priced, and they can deliver meals to your apartment, too
  • Ideal for families. The pool is heated and there's a small playground plus watersports nearby

Lows

  • Due to the tucked-away location and lack of signs, finding La Darbia can be tricky; be sure to follow our detailed directions
  • WiFi can be patchy
  • Breakfast baskets are fairly simple, but the quality of the products is excellent
  • It’s a hilly walk back up from Orta and there’s no footpath, but the road is relatively quiet; take a torch at night

Best time to go

Our favourite times are the shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October, when the weather is balmy but not too hot. Temperatures soar in July and August (all apartments have air con), and though not as swamped as Lake Maggiore or Como, the region gets busy with tourists. The winter months are considerably cooler and La Darbia is closed mid Nov to mid March. Orta San Giulio holds a popular poetry festival each autumn.

Our top tips

If you’re a keen photographer, you’ll be in seventh heaven as Lake Orta offers an ever-changing palette. In the early morning a low-lying mist often settles over the lake, giving it an ethereal feel. Throughout the day the water changes from a deep afternoon blue to a dusky silver-grey. La Darbia faces west so it’s a great spot to watch the sunset over Isola San Giulio and Mount Rosa beyond.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Apartments
  • 20 apartments for 2-4
  • Breakfast included; self catering; restaurant & bar open daily
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: Mid November to mid-March
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Laundry Service
  • Weekly cleaning; linen change every 4 days
Room: Acqua Chiara

Rooms

The 20 apartments are in characterful low-rise buildings, ivy-clad and built from local stone. The clever layout means each enjoys a stunning lake view; there are no inferior options here. Interiors are sleek but simple, with a strong design element: neutral shades are complemented with dashes of colour or feature walls; zinc surfaces are decked with stylish crockery; chrome shower bathrooms come with crisp white towels. The modern kitchenettes have induction hobs and microwaves for preparing simple meals, with lovely extra touches like Bialetti espresso makers and cups.

The apartment you choose will depend on how much space you need - there's a choice of 1 or 2 bedrooms (though confusingly they are called 2-Room or 3-Room Apartments, as they include the living room), plus you choose Standard or Superior. Superiors are a bit bigger, with a larger outdoor area and better quality furnishings. Some apartments feature open-plan sleeping/living areas, but all have either a private terrace (first floor) or garden (ground floor) for relaxing and dining alfresco. We particularly love the look of La Torre – the most romantic of the apartments, in the little stone tower – with its cute mezzanine bedroom and elevated courtyard.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dishwasher
  • Hairdryer
  • Kitchenette
  • Microwave
  • Satellite TV
  • Terrace
  • Toaster

Eating

Unlike many of the restaurants in Orta San Giulio, which are aimed squarely at tourists, on-site La Cucina offers the real deal - and it’s exclusive to guests. Italian classics and lesser-known regional dishes are lovingly prepared according to traditional recipes, using vegetables and herbs from the immaculate garden. Tuck into deliciously fresh pasta on the sweeping terrace as the sun sets over the silver-blue lake – or order meals direct to your apartment.

In the morning, breakfast is delivered to your door. Complete an order form of preferences the night before and a basket of fresh fruit, yogurt, milk and artisan butter, freshly baked bread and croissants will magically appear. Snacks and basic ingredients, such as pasta, olive oil and tomato sauce can be bought from reception, or it’s a 5-minute drive to local shops.

The beautifully renovated cellar, La Cantina, offers tastings of excellent regional wines – including La Darbia’s very own Rosa del Lago – accompanied by cold cuts and cheeses.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dishwasher
  • Kitchenette
  • Meal delivery service
  • Microwave
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster
  • Welcome hamper
  • Basic ingredients
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore La Darbia’s extensive grounds: follow lavender-lined paths through the vineyards to a playground, picnic area and zipline
  • On-site activities include Italian cookery courses and a variety of tastings, including local cheese, salami, risotto, mushrooms, truffles, wine and grappa
  • Head down the hill to pretty Orta San Giulio (20 mins' walk); this gorgeous medieval village is the main draw of the lake with its Baroque architecture, cobbled streets and pretty piazzas lined with cafés
  • Swim in the lake or try your hand at the watersports on offer, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and water skiing
  • Take a boat across the lake to romantic Isola San Giulio, where you can visit a Benedictine monastery and beautiful Romanesque basilica
  • Visit the Sacro Monte d'Orta, a 16th C set of chapels dedicated to Saint Francis of Assissi, a Unesco site
  • Day trip to Lake Maggiore (22km), with its rich history and artistic legacy, or the infamous Lake Como
  • Mountain lovers should explore the snow-capped Monte Rosa massif (70km) for hair-raising climbs up Punta Dufour (Europe’s second highest peak), nature walks and waterfalls

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Waterskiing
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

La Darbia is ideal for families and there’s plenty to keep little ones entertained. The extensive grounds include a small playground, heated swimming pool (fenced) and even a zipline, while the excellent on-site restaurant has kid-friendly options, and they can deliver meals to your apartment if you'd rather dine in. Younger children will love tearing around the cobbled streets of Orta San Giulio, taking the boat to Isola San Giulio and splashing on the lakefront beaches. For older children, there’s a plethora of watersports and outdoor activities.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

There’s a good choice of apartments suitable for families of up to 4, with living areas, fully equipped kitchens and either a terrace or garden. 3-room apartments have a double room, twin room and living area. Some 2-room apartments have a sofabed suitable for a child. Cots and high chairs are provided.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Kids' menu in the restaurant

Kids Activities on site:

  • Playground
  • Zipwire
  • Heated pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Watersports (kayaking, wild swimming, sailing, windsurfing)
  • Boat trips
  • Gelato!

Distances:

  • Airport: 50km (Milan Malpensa)
  • Shops: 20-min walk
  • Hospital: 15km
Kid Friendly:

Location

La Darbia is on a quiet hillside overlooking Lake Orta in northern Italy. It’s a 2-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the medieval village of Orta San Giulio. The autostrada is about 15 minutes away, giving easy access to airports, cities and other lakes and mountains.

By Air:
The nearest airport is Milan Malpensa (50km), which is a 45-minute drive. The airports at Milan Linate (100km/1hr 15mins) or Lugano in Switzerland (97km/ 1hr 30mins) are also viable options.

From the Airport:
You could get a taxi from Milan Malpensa Airport, but we'd recommend you hire a car so you can explore the region.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Milan Malpensa 50.0 km MXP
  • Milan Linate 100.0 km LIN

Other:

  • Beach 0.0 km
  • Shops 2.0 km
  • Restaurant 2.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests

7/10
Room
9/10
Food
9/10
Service
8/10
Value
8/10
Overall

Beautiful location. Very peaceful. A real treat.

10/10,

Great views from our room. The aperitivo was excellent and a great way to meet other guests. Staff in the restaurant were all lovely and very accommodating to our two year old. Mottarone cable car and chairlift were great. Truly incredible views.

8/10,

The view was beautiful, the pool, the restaurant and bar were excellent. The staff could not be more helpful. The rooms were clean. Parking was in allotted bays according to your room number. However, the rooms were poor quality for the price. There was a full length mirror opposite the toilet (not a good view) but there was nowhere to dry hair or put on makeup. It was not really walkable to the town and parking was €2 per hour.

7/10,

The views and grounds of La Darbia are stunning. The swimming pool and vineyards are one big playground for the kids. Lots of other families staying so ideal for the children to make friends. We were in a ground floor apartment and the garden and outside area were really comfortable and the views amazing, which compensated for the room which was just ok. Check in was until 7pm. We arrived 45 min late due to traffic but we had informed them. Upon arrival the room was only set up for 2 people (we are a family of 4) and the fridge unplugged. The other thing to mention is that the restaurant gets fully booked so we also were told we couldn’t get a table as they take outside bookings as well. I really made a big fuss and eventually we got a table for the following night. Overall we would stay here again as it is really good value and the views are spectacular. However they could improve on their service and room cleanliness

8/10,

Amazing location, wonderful food, friendly and helpful staff and perfect place to visit with a young baby.

10/10,

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