A lakeside corner of happiness

7 May 2024
Written by
Lucrezia Worthington

on the enchanting shores of Lago d'Orta

And just like that, you’re peeking outside your window to otherworldly landscapes: it’s not just any lake, but a lake with a tiny, mysterious islet known as Isola San Giulio. The Alps surround it, with the snowcapped peaks of Monte Rosa peeping out behind the hills which, even on the greyest of days, have an undeniable charm. From La Darbia, you gaze out towards Orta San Giulio, a green hill sprouting from the lake, dominated by the Sacro monte di Orta church, renowned for its magnificent frescoed interiors (absolutely worth the trip which can be walked in around thirty minutes.)

The heated salt-water pool. Credits Tobias Kaser

La Darbia was carved out from an abandoned ancient rural settlement by architects Matteo and Gian Carlo Primatesta who finely restored the property into a charming hamlet nestled within terraced Nebbiolo vineyards and chestnut trees.

It’s a corner of happiness where nature takes centre-stage both literally and figuratively: the design throughout all twenty apartments, La Cucina restaurant, wine cellar and outdoor furnishings are made with either reclaimed wood, natural materials and handcrafted wrought iron complete with pretty ceramics made by the local ceramist Agnes from Omegna. Colour tones have also been envisaged to match the surrounding palette for example, the apartments – which do differ from each other in terms of layout and detailing – are all similarly painted in duck greys, sky blues and pastel greens.

As you arrive to La Darbia, an ivy-engulfed 19th century stone tower which once served as a privileged spot for bird hunting, welcomes you. You’ll feel a sense of ease as you’re warmly and shown to your selected apartment. Inside you’ll find a little folder with a breakfast menu to be filled out by 5pm because here, mornings are spent enjoying breakfast in pjs, in the comfort of your rooms (or bed). Choose between freshly baked pastries, seasonal fruits, whipped butter on toast and protein packed scrambled eggs with your favourite cold-pressed juice, coffee and tea and this will all be delivered in a little basket by your door at your preferred time. This is just one of the many things that make your stay feel relaxed. Just like having your own kitchen (every room does!) so you can decide whether to whip something up or head to La Cucina where the Chef Matteo Monfrinotti will look after you – unless it’s a Wednesday and the kitchen is closed BUT don’t worry, a food-filled surprise awaits at the wine cellar.

La Cucina is an airy space with a long corridor naturally lit by the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out towards the courtyard. Paving the way to the open kitchen are the provençal inspired cast iron tables with a large, marble-top counter serving as the chef’s table. This ice-white perch grants you full sight of all the happenings behind those stoves as well as the mountain of whipped butter that is served with bread at the start of your meal. This light, delicate but simple space is a reflection of the chef’s menu whose love for the territory translates into such dishes. He plays on how to best exalt ingredients without compromising the balance of flavours but there’s more. Dinner becomes an experiential game in which dishes are completed at the table through a little ‘show cooking’ like the Beef Wellington special, or the pannacotta, served in a large frying pan and scooped out at the table with your favourite sauce (we loved the citrussy lemon curd!).

The Tower at La Darbia. Credits Tobias Kaser
Inside La Cucina. Credits Tobias Kaser
Inside La Cucina. Credits Tobias Kaser

A lovely touch to note is also the hand painted fruits and vegetables on the menus and some walls. These are created by landscape artist Anna Regge, who connects cuisine, nature and art – re-enhancing the fil-rouge of La Darbia. Anna has also done a sensational job across the grounds, offering breezy nooks, fragrant pathways and colourful blooms for guests to sit down and enjoy an iced-tea or glass of wine in a serene setting.

At La Darbia, wellness is also of great importance, launching the season with new guest experiences including a white-washed treatment room for body massages overlooking the heated salt-water infinity pool. Furthermore, every Monday morning guests can join the weekly yoga classes as well as Thursday morning fresh pasta making classes with the Chef Matteo. Days at La Darbia are well spent; as busy as you’d like them to be, or as slow-paced as you need.

This is for you if: You are looking to visit a more authentic Italian location

Good to know: La Darbia is located only one hour-away drive from Milano

The feel: Easy. You have your kitchen, but you can order in, but you can also eat at the restaurant

Pillow talk: The cushions here are quite special – literally, certified

Cuisine: Expect flavours of the lake combined with Piedmont classics

Discover La Darbia

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