Header: Tobias Kaser
Gian Carlo and Matteo Primatesta, two architects who happen to be siblings, have ventured into unknown territory by transforming an abandoned rural settlement on Piedmont’s Lake Orta into a sophisticated holiday hideaway that reflects quiet luxury and Italian Dolce Vita at its finest. Their secret to success? Being self-taught hoteliers with an eye for silent aesthetics.
Just an hour north of Milan, not far from the Swiss border, the narrow, barely 13 km-long Lake Orta shimmers in the protected embrace of Monte Rosa. The second-highest peak of the Alps rises 4,634 metres into the sky, framed by the contrasting landscape of Piedmont and its many cultural treasures.
The Belle Époque gave Lago d’Orta and its picturesque lakeside towns eclectic buildings and pretty promenades. Lord Byron, Nietzsche, and Balzac are some of the many intellectuals and artists who were inspired by the lake’s siren-like beauty at the turn of the century – and the mood of those times still lingers in the air.
While the tourist crowds in Northern Italy flock to Lake Maggiore and spotlights shine on glamorous Lake Como, Lake Orta remains a relatively unknown treasure to most of the world.
On its eastern shore, just above the historical centre of Orta San Giulio, the elegant hamlet La Darbia is quietly tucked away. The building is surrounded by a lush, Mediterranean park designed by landscape architect Anna Regge, as well as lovingly cultivated Nebbiolo vineyards. With a breathtaking view of the shimmering lake and peaks of Monte Rosa, the holiday hideaway redefines the connotation of luxury with soulful aesthetics and truly empathetic hospitality.
Becoming hoteliers was a whole new experience for the founders of Studio Primatesta, but it turned out that this was exactly what makes “La Darbia” the place to be for connoisseurs in search of beauty in design and depth in detail.
La Darbia’s restaurant, “La Cucina”, the idyllic terrace, and the cocktail bar amidst the organic vegetable garden have become a jealously kept secret for discerned epicureans – from Milan to Hamburg, from New York to Helsinki. Chef Matteo Monfrinotti shares the property’s connection to the region and emphasizes the culinary identity of Piedmont. Regional ingredients, genuine dishes, gourmet level – that’s what “La Cucina” is all about.
The 20-suite apartments, as well as the restaurant, emanate an understated elegance that does not need the loud notes to impress. “Sobrio”, as the Italians would say. Simple, and therefore intriguing. The architecture of La Darbia reflects the simple, formal language of Piemont’s rural buildings and integrates local materials, Mediterranean vegetation, and unadorned handicrafts.
The essence of Piemont’s stretch of land, its cultural history and rural typologies became the project’s architectural and conceptual leitmotif. The chromatic concept of the interiors picks up on the nuanced colour palette of nature. Introverted towards the forest and overgrown with ivy, all the twenty apartments open onto the garden, with vineyards and a heated saltwater pool. On the sundeck, you can enjoy a yoga session while your gaze wanders all the way to the lake and surrounding mountains.
With the makeover of the property’s elegant suite apartments and an extension of the wine cellar dedicated to small, exclusive gourmet gatherings, the property has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Those wishing to experience a stay at “La Darbia”, or to get a table at “La Cucina” must book well in advance. It’s no wonder that the primary concern of enlightened aficionados who have experienced its intimate magic is: don’t spread the word!