La Darbia Hotel, Orta San Giulio, Northern Italy, Italian Building Project, Architecture Images

La Darbia Hotel in Orta San Giulio, Northern Italy

12 Oct 2023

Architecture: Studio Primatesta

Location: Orta San Giulio, Northern Italy

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Northern Italy

Photos: Tobias Kaser

La Darbia Hotel, Italy

La Darbia Hotel

Architect brothers Gian Carlo and Matteo Primatesta 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 of success: Being self-taught hoteliers with a spleen for silent aesthetics.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Northern Italy

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, like many other intellectuals and artists at the turn of the century, were inspired by the lake’s siren-like beauty, and the mood of those times still linger in the air.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Northern Italy

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, 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 a truly empathetic hospitality.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Northern Italy

Becoming hoteliers was a whole new experience for the founders of Studioprimatesta, 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 Hotel Orta San Giulio

La Darbia’s restaurant, “La Cucina”, and the idyllic terrace and 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.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio

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 this 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 color palette of nature. Introverted towards the forest and overgrown with ivy, all the 20 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.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Italy

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Italy

With the makeover of the property’s 20 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”, run by chef Matteo Monfrinotti, 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!

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Italy

La Darbia Hotel in Orta San Giulio, Northern Italy – Building Information

Architecture: Studio Primatesta –
– Project name: La Darbia
– Location: Orta San Giulio – Lake Orta – Piedmont
– Architects and owners: Gian Carlo and Matteo Primatesta of Studio Primatesta (
– Landscape Architect: Anna Regge
– Project Sector: Hospitality
– Project completion date: renovation (all 20 suite-apartments) 2022, extension (restaurant and wine cellar) 2018, construction 2012
– Photographer: Tobias Kaser

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Italy
– 20 suite-apartments
– heated salt-water pool
– On site gourmet restaurant “La Cucina” run by chef Matteo Monfrinotti with lake-view terrace
– cocktail bar amidst the vegetable garden
– luxury breakfast garden delivered to the suites every morning
– Sustainability: zero km policy, organic vegetable garden, reuse of original building elements. collaboration with local artisans

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Italy

About Studioprimatesta
Since the foundation of Studioprimatesta on the shores of Lake Orta in 1995, brothers Gian Carlo and Matteo Primatesta, together with a well-matched interdisciplinary team of collaborators, have consolidated broad project expertise working with Italian and international clients.

The studio’s portfolio comprises historic wine cellars and wineries, accommodation facilities, private homes, offices, and industrial spaces. The wide range of projects is, however, based on one clear concept: an architectural approach that is not intellectual, but rather emotional. The context, history, and spirit of the place determine the planning process, while the architecture remains modest and allows a building’s function and atmosphere to prevail. This gives rise to timeless buildings and spaces that elude architectural fashions. The mutual interaction between architecture and nature has become a constant feature of the studio’s projects, often in collaboration with landscape architect Anna Regge.

The versatile repertoire is the fruit of a team distinguished by a broad spectrum of skills: Andrea Strambo, a project developer with the talent of Mr. Wolf (he solves problems and runs the show when the brothers are out of the office), Giacomo Leonardi, and Ilaria Giacomini are all important players. This solid group, together with external collaborators, guarantees the realization of projects with an distinctive character that, despite remaining understated, create a ‘wow‘ effect in their very own way.

La Darbia Hotel Orta San Giulio Northern Italy

Photographs: Tobias Kaser

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