Isola San Giulio
St Giulio
William of Volpiano
Orta San Giulio
Poetry on the Lake
St Giulio's Isle, Lake Orta

St Giulio's Isle lies in the centre of Lake Orta, a glacial lake in the Alpine foothills of north Italy. The lake is a thousand feet above sea-level, enclosed by mountains and high hills rich in chestnuts, birch and, thanks to its micro-climate, palms. Tiny medieval villages stud the banks and St Giulio’s Isle floats in front of the pretty little town of Orta. The island is known today for its great Benedectine monastery of enclosed nuns, founded in 1973, for its concerts in Sala Tallone and for being the seat of Poetry on the Lake, founded in 2000 here

NEW: 'St Giulio's Isle: Gabriel's Guide', a pocket guide to the island, fully illustrated with colour photos.
120 pages. Wyvern Works 2015


St  Giulio's Isle. its history and mysteries. From the banks the island appears peaceful and serene but it hasn't always been so; rather the isle has undergone in the course of two thousand years devastating battles, executions, seige and plague, it has hosted emperors, queens and saints. This guide takes you into the heart of the island, back in time, bringing to life events and personalities, noting art and religion.

A version in Italian, in preparation, will be published shortly, as will the ebooks of both versions.
For copies or info: contact poetryonthelake ( at ) 

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The great Benedictine Monastery Mater Ecclesiae, is the largest monastery of enclosed Benedictine nuns in the world. The abbess is Anna Maria Cànopi, spiritual leader, author and poet.

The island is also the seat of 
Poetry on the Lake,
,organiser of events and the international festival described by the Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy as "the most wonderful poetry festival in the world"

Here too is 
Sala Tallone, renowned for its concerts of classical music and the original pianoforte handmade by Tallone.

This antique island has a strange history. There are legends of dragons, stories of saints. It has inspired literary figures and artists, it is loved by mystics and magicians


La sparizione della gatta Beatrice ha turbato la serenita' dell'isola. Sappiamo chi e' stato a dare l'ordine di portare via Beatrice, me l'ha detto lui stesso, ma ora ha paura, nega, e' aggressivo, insulta  e mi minaccia.

Beatrice. A reward of 200 euro is offered for information.
Contact poetryonthelake ( at  )
eliminate spaces in address and substitute symbol for ( at )

Poetry on the Lake (patron of honour Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy) has its seat on the island and organises annual events: an international poetry competition in spring (this year closes 28th April 2014) and a three or four day celebration every autumn, as well as other events during the year. For Wyvern Works we publish annual anthologies, guides to Orta and the Island, and a Journal.

There is a year-round service of small motorboats. Contact
Consorzio Navigazione Servizio Pubblico Piazza Motta, 1 
28016 Orta San Giulio (NO)
Tel.: (+39) 333 6050288  Email: 

The island of St Giulio is only 400 metres from the little quay of the main square, Piazza Motta, Orta .        

On the island a monastery of enclosed Benedictine nuns has substituted the dark ages castle, a place of sieges and executions. Even earlier “there were dragons” but sixteen hundred years ago St Julius arrived from Greece, floated over to the island on his mantle, and cast out the dragons. His bones, finely robed, can be seen still in the crypt of the old basilica on the island and it is told that the thaumaturgic saint still performs miracles.   
All seems serene and spiritual, yet the island has its dark side ...                         
 William of Volpiano
the great abbot and founder of monasteries, was born on the island during the seige of 962, that found Willa, the Italian Queen, on the island with all her kingdom’s treasure, attempting to resist the Emperor Otto the Great. She lost. What happened to the treasure is a mystery.

Now, to see the island veiled in mist and hear the clear ringing of bells summon the nuns to prayer from their cloistered gardens scented with wysteria and roses, the clamours and bloodshed are far away. Music floats over the waters from the Villa Tallone, gregorian chant from the basilica. Above Orta the antique woods of Sacro Monte with the little chapels scattered under the limes, the beeches and the camphor, remind us that here Nietzsche lost his heart to Lou Salomé.


Literary references to Orta are many: besides Thus Spake Zarathustra, dated von Orta an, the lake has inspired Robert Browning, George Meredith, Honoré de Balzac, Eugenio Montale and many others. For here is an enchanted world, and a myriad of stories are reflected in the shimmering waters.

(from Hortus Conclusus, ed.Gabriel Griffin, Wyvern Works 2005)


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