Palazzo della Comunità della Riviera
How to get
NB: Orta is not accessible by car; you must leave your car in one of the car parks above the village.
By train: the nearest railway station is Orta-Miasino, 2 km from the centre.
The Palazzo della Comunità della Riviera in Orta San Giulio, better known as the “Palazzotto”, is one of the most important repositories of history and architecture in the area, and throws light on the story of the power struggles of the burgh.
Built in 1582 on what is now Piazza Motta, the Palazzo for a long time housed the General Council of the Community of the small Republic of the Orta Riviera. In what was a highly unusual situation among the fiefs of the Bishop of Novara, from 1345 to 1753 Orta San Giulio was permitted to have its own by-laws, almost as if it were a sort of tiny autonomous state.
The architectural style of the building is typical of ancient municipal palazzos, with a portico on the ground floor and a large hall on the upper floor, where the General Council met. This body was made up of members elected by the various villages, and exercised legislative and executive power, including jurisdiction over capital punishment. The procedures followed by the members of the Council were surprisingly democratic: after formulating and listening to the various proposals put forward during their meetings, they each referred them to their own communities, notifying the next assembly of their decisions.
The frescoes on the façade postdate the construction of the palazzo. On the side facing the square, as well as fine sundial there is a coat of arms with a snake, a naked child and a bishop’s hat; above the front door is the figure of a woman representing Justice, with two angels at her side. The wall towards the lake and the opposite wall bear the coats of arms of some bishop-counts of the Riviera, and lastly, in the interior hall, which can be visited only when used for exhibitions open to the public, there is a fresco of the Virgin Mary with St Francis and St Julius.
The Palazzotto is one of the historic buildings which best represents Orta, and contributes to the medieval atmosphere that makes the village so special.
Tel. +39 0322 911972