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Cemetery of Orta

Don’t let appearances fool you, even a cemetery can have interesting curiosities hiding inside!

Located on the hill of Orta, halfway between the city center and the Sacro Monte, surrounded by an old forest, anciently called Saint Nicolao’s forest. The cemetery deserves a visit, for the splendid lake view that you can see between the trees, for one of the oldest churches in the entire lake area, San Quirico, and the baroque steel gate at the entrance.

At the end of the silent descent from the Sacro Monte of Orta, you will arrive at the entry of the Cemetery that will welcome you with a stunning steel gate that was built in Orta and set in 1721. (Right next to it there is the ossuary that also has two steel frames, both very beautiful. One is smaller, finished in 1706, looks at the Sacro Monte, while the other, much larger, looks at the lake. It truly seems like a steel embroidery dating straight from 1702). The Cemetery hosts the Church of San Quirico, the oldest church on this side of the lake (it even managed to keep its shape and form even during the longabard siege of the Island, when Christian worship places were certainly not well viewed).

The writer Laura Pariani wrote that here you’ll find the tomb of many foreigners: In the Eighthundreds, it often happened that during the famous Gran Tour in Italy, the tourists got sick, died, and were buried far from home.  On the wall that is above the stoplight, you will see a circular hole inside the granite.

A town’s legend has it that one can hear if they put their ear inside the hole, the quiet chatter of the dead. (In ideal circumstances it should recreate the idea of you hearing the see sounds when you listen to a sea shell).

Inside the cemetery, you can find the Protestant Stone, which has a really interesting story.

In 1855 three gentlemen infected with cholera, got from the Crimean War of 1854-55, arrive at the Albergo Leon d’Oro. The three die almost immediately upon arrival. On the tenth of October Luigia Exeter, sixty years old, dies. Six days later their waitress, age thirty, dies.

Considering that all of them were British, and thus protestant, the town’s priest forbids them to be buried in the cemetery because the cemetery was sacred ground only for Christians. Thus they were buried outside the cemetery, at night, under the wall of the cemetery.

The news somehow gets to the ear of the Prefect of Novara, he gives the immediate order to retrieve them and give them a proper burial inside the cemetery. Mr. Gaetano Ronchetti, spokesperson for the British family members of the deceased bought a piece of land inside the cemetery to allow the burial to happen. A series of Priests went up and deconsecrated the tomb.

This memory was available to us thanks to the diary of Mr. Giuseppe Gattoni that died in the Thirties. A story that got to us exclusively thanks to this diary, because at the time the power of the Church censored this story.

How to get there

The easiest, quickest and prettiest way to get to the cimitery is by using the road to the right hand side of the Church of Holy Vergin Mary, which is the big yellow church above the main square, Piazza Motta.

Taking that road will lead you on a secular road from where you will see prestigoius villas and a beautifull vantage point scenary. Follow the road all the way to the top.

Once you’ve reached the top the road opens up onto a small parking area, the site in front of you will be the cemetary, while on your left hand side you will see the road that will lead you to the Holy Mountain, or Sacro Monte.


The walk is a 15 minutes walk, counting also the time for pictures of course.

Our advice

See also:

Questo articolo è stato interamente preso da Il curiosone – Post | Facebook

Il loro articolo ha il titolo “Leggende e stranezze: il cimitero San Quirico di Orta San Giulio”, voglio qui ringraziarli non solo perchè mi hanno permesso di riportare qui le loro parole, ma per tutte le ricerche che fanno per non lasciare che certe storie finiscano nel dimenticatoio!


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heritage sites

Orta San Giulio

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