With its enchanting backdrop of mountains, the town of Omegna, at the northern end of Lake Orta, is a perfect union of tradition and innovation. Well-known for its kitchenware industry, it also boasts an attractive old town centre by the side of the lake.
If you walk along the pedestrian esplanade that goes from one end of the lakefront to the other, you can see the small porticoes typical of a village founded by the Romans and already in existence in the 4th century AD. At that time the village was protected inside its circle of walls, in which there were five gates; today only one remains, in Via Speri close to Piazza Beltrami.
In the most ancient part of the town, in the neighbourhood between the Parish Church and Piazza Orsoline, it’s easy to find evidence of centuries-old features such as doorways, stone and stucco ornamentation and wrought iron gates. Other evidence of the historic character of Omegna comes from the imposing Collegiate Church of Sant’Ambrogio, founded in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 13th, and the Church of San Gaudenzio, in the adjacent village of Crusinallo, one of the best-preserved Romanesque buildings in the Cusio area.
Another distinctive feature of Omegna is the Nigoglia canal, the only watercourse running out of a pre-Alpine lake in a northerly direction, towards the high mountains. A short walkway on the river bank affords a pleasant stroll to watch the river and its fish.
Omegna is also the birthplace of Gianni Rodari, the famous writer for children, to whom the Parco della Fantasia (Fantasy Park) is dedicated. This is an open area designed for children to use their imagination to find different forms of play and entertainment. The park’s appearance is that of a fantasy village, with twenty different play places and fabulous games.
The town is a major centre of the Italian kitchenware industry. You can make purchases at the outlets of historic brands such as Alessi, Lagostina and Piazza, and visit the Omegna Forum, a multicultural centre run by the Museum, Arts and Industry Foundation of Omegna which displays a permanent collection of the cult kitchenware articles produced locally.
Not to be missed is the August Festival of San Vito, the patron saint of the town, which includes a series of concerts and of which the prime event is the International Firework Festival, a hugely popular occasion and an opportunity to see the best firework displays in the world in the incomparable setting of Lake Orta.