A peninsula on the lake behind granite heights is the setting for a boutique hotel that makes water its narrative
Casa Fantini in Lake Orta
«I was born by the lake. My family roots and those of our business are here» Daniela Fantini writes in Lake Time, a 2018 book she gifted me. It is a tribute to Lake Orta through the words of a group of authors who were born on the shores of this lake, lived here or visited it over the course of their lives. It is a collection of memories and anecdotes, halfway between a journal and a chronicle.
Lake Time inspired Casa Fantini’s design concept with its story about freshwater pearls. Founded by Mrs. Fantini in Pella, on Lake Orta, it is located on the western shore. Away from the tourism that crowds the village of Orta San Giulio, on the opposite side. The title Lake Time expresses the time that marks the life of the lake. A time that flows more slowly, that you cannot measure with the hands of a clock. Daniela Fantini likes to talk about Lake Time and Lake Orta, to let others know about the places of which she is from and their stories – which are not reported on the tour guides.
C’era due volte il Barone Lamberto ovvero I misteri dell’isola di San Giulio
Speaking of the inhabitants of Pella, she shares that they joke about being able to admire the B-side of the island. In front of the village is the island of San Giulio, the only island of Lake Orta. It is at a distance of about 400 meters from the shore. The island is 275 meters long and 140 meters wide. A pedestrian street runs along the perimeter along all the main buildings of the town. It also includes the abbey Mater Ecclesiae, a place of female cloister where today about eighty Benedictine nuns live.
C’era due volte il Barone Lamberto ovvero I misteri dell’isola di San Giulio, a short novel by Gianni Rodari, takes place on this island. Baron Lamberto lives in a villa on the island shores, with his butler Anselmo and six people paid to repeat his name through a microphone. «In the middle of the mountains is Lake Orta. In the middle of Lake Orta, but not quite halfway through, is the island of San Giulio. On the island of San Giulio stands the villa of Baron Lamberto, a very old gentleman. He is ninety-three years old, very rich. In fact, he owns twenty-four banks in Italy, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and so on. He is always sick».
Gianni Rodari and the Lake Orta in his books
Author Gianni Rodari was born in the town of Omegna, on the shores of Lake Orta, in 1920. Through his children’s books, not only does he tell the story of the baron, but he also describes a territory he knows, the Cusio – the historical name of the lake in Piedmont – highlighting its characteristics and peculiarities.
In the past century, the lake has gained fame for its history of pollution and subsequent clean-up. From 1926 onwards, the discharges of copper and ammonium sulfate of the Bemberg textile industry – which produced rayon with a process based on cupro-ammonia – polluted the waters. In the following years, with the further industrialization of the lake shoreline, the phenomenon worsened to the point of causing the total disappearance of many animal and plant organisms endemic to the area.
The turnaround began with the closure of the Venetian discharges in the eighties, which decreed an improvement, accentuated by the liming interventions carried out by the Pallanza Institute for the Study of Ecosystems, and the construction of sewage collectors in neighboring urban areas. Recent monitoring has found that Lake Cusio is now one of the lakes with the best water quality in the Italian peninsula.
Lampoon review: the project of Casa Fantini structure
Pella is on the opposite side of Orta S. Giulio. It is situated on a small peninsula on the lake. In front of the island of San Giulio, but from another point of view, overlooked behind it by granite heights. Buildings dating back to the nineteenth century, such as the old hospital, characterize the village. Casa Fantini/Lake Time is a designer boutique hotel, built in dialogue with the countryside buildings, creating a continuum between past and present. Water is the common thread that characterizes and binds the spaces, both indoors and outdoors.
The project of the structure, which stands next to the family business, the Fantini Rubinetterie – a glass construction hidden between willows and brooms – is named after the architect Piero Lissoni. The hotel consists of two lakefront buildings. The first of the nineteenth century, while the second of new construction, designed to be in tune with the surroundings. The harmony with the landscape is first and foremost through the materials used. The artisan tradition of wood, stone and metal, which occurs both in structure and furnishings, meets a contemporary use of the glazed surface, which gives the view to the lake. Green is the dominant color of the interior design until you meet the garden, on which the windows overlook.
The idea behind Casa Fantini
The idea behind the project is to amplify the atmosphere of relaxation suggested by the lake. The lounge – conceived as a living room – invites guests to stop to read a book, listen to music or relax. Further, in the garden, a pool with a minimalist natural stone design is located. Its turquoise waters recall those lake.
The restaurant, with the stone and wood room, offers dishes prepared by chef Paolo Bullone. The professional earned a Michelin star in 2018. He carries on the art of the raw material. Few ingredients, their quality enhanced by the techniques used to prepare them. Among his specialties is risotto – as expected due to his Vercellese blood.
In the eleven rooms, sunlight heats the space penetrating through the windows and interiors, which are distinguished by the contrast between wood, chrome and glass. The two suites occupy the first and second floors of the original building. While, on the ground floor is Blue Lake Café, which opens onto the village square.
In Lake Time, Casa Fantini’s journal, Daniela Fantini recounts: «In the old building that today houses Blue Lake Café, once lived the family of Carletto, or as we called him, Tom. On my dad’s birthday, Carletto used to bake an apple pie in his old aluminum cake tin. This cake has become the symbol of Casa Fantini».
Finally, Mrs. Fantini, the lady of Lake Orta, concludes: «I imagined this small hotel as a home. I invite all guests to sit together around the large oval table in Casa Fantini. As if they were visiting a friend’s house. We don’t eat in excess, there is no refinement or exoticness – only local flavors».
Via Roma, 2, 28010 Pella
Casa Fantini is a boutique hotel nestled in the historic Italian village of Pella on the shores of Lake Orta. It was designed by Lissoni Architettura. It consists of two lakefront buildings.