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Montorfano is no orphan to me. Not only does the hamlet have sentimental value for me, but it also is an undiscovered area of Lago di Mergozzo.

My family is originally from Lago Maggiore, or Lake Maggiore. The neighboring lake to Lake Como. Americans are not familiar with the lake, but its beauty is very well-known among Europeans. Not much has been said about this area, which is what makes it such an undiscovered piece of Italy. Montorfano is one of these forgotten locations, not only among tourists but among the locals sometimes as well. Montorfano literally means ‘the orphan mountain’ because of its isolated position that emerges from the Toce floodplain and separates Lake Mergozzo from Lake Maggiore. For me, this is not a location that can be easily forgotten. Why? Because it’s where my parents got married.

What makes Montorfano so special and interesting is that it is a famous white granite rock that emerges from the Toce. The Montorfano granite white rock is still mined today and has been used for major structures all over Italy, including Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura in Rome.

Montorfano is a short 5 minute drive from my hometown of Feriolo and is right above the town and lake Mergozzo. It’s hard to miss. My mom and I drove up the hill when the road ended abruptly. We parked our car in the small parking lot. In the distance we could see the steep of the famous Romanesque church of St. John the Baptist, built in the 11th or 12th century using the same white granite previously mentioned. This is the crown jewel of the town. It is one of the best preserved Romanesque churches in the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola area to date. A small grass path lined with rocks leads us to its entrance. The church is simple, but well maintained. Inside the church, the center is roped off to reveal an early Christian baptismal font. Excavations on the side of the church show the various eras and reconstructions the church underwent before becoming Romanesque as we see it today.

Why is there a Protestant church next to the church of St. John the Baptist? Due to a small spat among the inhabitants of Montorfano, a Protestant church was built in 1800 alongside the Romanesque church.

Since Montorfano is an ancient village, it consists of 9 residential units of ancient construction, 4 more recently developed residential units in the same style, and the two churches previously mentioned. The hamlet is very small but very well kept. As you follow the narrow, cobblestone streets you come across well-kept plants, old water fountains, grape vines and gardens.

A steep set of stone stairs lead you up to the top of Montorfano. When you look down you can see the tops of the houses and the church steep in the distance. If you continue up this path within 5 minutes you’ll find yourself at the belvedere point. A slight left onto a grass hill and you’ll arrive at a plane with spectacular views over Lake Maggiore, Fondo Toce, and Lake Mergozzo. You can even see my hometown of Feriolo and the Borromeo islands in the distance from here!

If you’re looking to include a challenging hike into your visit, Montorfano connects to the town of Mergozzo on Lake Mergozzo via the Sentiero Azzurro, or blue trail. It’s a 3 km, only 1.9 miles, hour long walk from Mergozzo up to Montorfano or vice versa that trails around Lago di Mergozzo. The trail is clearly marked and can be found about 20 yards before the town of Montorfano. I recommend you start up at Montorfano and make your way down and grab a bite to eat in Mergozzo!

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