NOTHERN ITALIAN LAKES
The beautiful lakes in northern Italy have been attracting visitors to their shores for hundreds of years. Many a poet and writer have fallen under the spell of the lakes, an area full of romance and charm. Its five major lakes make up the Italian Lake district from west to east there is Lake Maggiore – the second largest lake in Italy, Lake Lugano - a glacial lake which is situated on the border between south-east Switzerland and Italy, Lake Como – the most visited lake and home to Hollywood star George Clooney, Lake Iseo – less known and considerably quieter and more charming and finally Lake Garda - .the largest lake of them all and the most glamorous.The Italian Lakes offer a bit of everything to its visitors, quaint pretty pastel coloured towns and villages perched on the water’s edge, stunning alpine and snow-capped mountains, elegant architecture, relaxing boat trips, energetic watersports – this amazing region has it all including some stunning scenery that can’t be found anywhere else in Italy.
Aside from being one of the most famous lakes in the world, Lake Como is one of the most beautiful in Italy and by far the most visited. Located just one hour from Milan, Lake Como boasts stunning views of majestic snow-capped mountain peaks, a mesmerizing clear lake and picturesque towns and villages that sit along the shore line, mostly belonging to a long list of celebrities that call Como home. This thriving town, best known for its silk production is a fantastic day trip out of Milan. A boat trip around the lake is the ideal way to explore and get a real sense of the lakes charm, not least to escape the congested walkways and waterfronts during peak travel seasons.
This stunning picturesque town on Lake Como is a must visit during any trip to the lake. Situated at the top of the lake at the point where the lake divides into two, Bellagio is easily reachable by car although it is far more enjoyable to arrive by boat. Wander its cobbled alleys and stepped streets and admire its many beautiful pastel shaded buildings along the lakeside. For fantastic views across the lake stroll up to the Romanesque church of San Giacomo and its tower, or alternatively visit some of Bellagio’s magnificent residences and their superb manicured botanical gardens.
Built in the 17th century for the Milanese marquis Giogio Clerici, this exceptionally stunning villa situated in the village of Tremezzo on the western shore of Lake Como is one of the lakes most visited attractions. Covering an area of over 70,000 square metres this beautiful residence boasts numerous masterpieces of art including sculptures by Canova and Thorwalsden, as well as splendid gardens with many beautiful flowers and fountains to enjoy walking around at your leisure.
As the biggest of all the Italian Lakes, Lake Garda is one of the more popular lakes to visit. Sheltered by the magnificent Dolomite Mountains, this fjord like lake offers a diverse amount of attractions for its visitors. Its clear waters make it the ideal location for many tourists to come and try a hand at windsurfing and sailing. Fringed by beaches the lake is also popular with families who come to swim and spend time by its luxuriant shores. There is also the popular Canevaworld Waterpark located just a short distance from the lake on its eastern side.
Aside from its water activities there are plenty of lakeside promenades that dot the shoreline to visit and unspoilt picture postcard villages to explore. Lake Garda also has a vibrant nightlife for those who wish to delve into its glamorous bars and nightclub, alternatively there are plenty of lakeside bars with stunning vistas which are perfect to sit and relax with a glass of wine.
As one of the most popular sights to visit on Lake Garda, this beautiful spa town may not be the most famous destination in the Italian Lakes but it is certainly one of the most interesting and most attractive. It’s most famous attraction is the photogenic Scaligera Castle. Built in 1259 this medieval looking castle is the trademark building of the della Scala family of Verona. You can spend time exploring its narrow alleys amidst its fruit stands and outdoor cafes and even climb the tower to enjoy panoramic views of the lower part of Lake Garda. Alternatively, escape the crowds and discover Sirmione’s pleasant gardens and the famous Grotte de Catullo, the ruins of a great Roman villa covering 5 acres amid shady olive trees and cypress trees.
Isola del Garda
At 68km long, this stunning lake is the second largest lake in Italy. Located south of the Alps, the majestic Lake Maggiore with its three beautiful and enchanting islands is often referred to as the most scenic lake of them all. Seductively relaxing, this lake is surrounded by picturesque villages, snow-capped mountains and an abundance of tropical plants and exotic palms, lining the lakeside promenades. Head to Stresa, one of the lakes most popular lakeside towns and spend time wandering its streets, shopping in its boutique or simply relaxing on the waterfront and enjoy the splendid scenery. Alternatively take a panoramic boat cruise on the lake and visit the Borromean Islands of Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Bella the most famous of the three islands.
As the largest and most popular of the Borromean Islands, Isola Bella is often visited as part of the popular boat trip from Stresa. Named after a countess Isabella D’Adda, the once craggy island was transformed in the 17th Century into a monumental Baroque palace with beautiful manicured gardens and towering terraces. This beautiful villa is full of treasures but its beautiful gardens with spectacular views across the lake and a towering pyramid if fountains what attracts visitors the most.
Although technically belonging to the Swiss, Lake Luguno can also be visited from Italy since it sits directly on the border between the two countries. This glacier lake is the smallest lake of them all but it doesn’t certainly doesn’t lack in beauty, character or charm. Its moderate climate brings visitors to its shores all year round. Spend time in the picturesque town of Porlezza to visit the lake from the Italian side or drive to the vibrant city of Lugano, on the Swiss side where you will find an array of fine hotels, an abundance of picturesque promenades to walk down and plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy a glass of the regions finest wine. There are also abundant medieval churches, art galleries, museums and sub-tropical parks and gardens to discover in the area.
Very little tourists ever make it to Lake Iseo or have even heard of it as it is the least known of Italy’s northern lakes. Nestled in the foothills of the majestic Alps, this beautiful undiscovered gem has plenty to offer the adventurous and active traveller, from climbing to sailing to culture, history and plenty of delicious wines to taste whilst relaxing and admiring the area’s stunning scenery and tranquillity.
Aerial view of Lake Como
Enjoy the stunning bird-eye view of one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy - Lake Como
Best time to visit
Tourists visit Italian Lakes from May to September
The main travel season to the Italian Lakes runs from Easter time to the end of October. May, June and September are considered perfect times to visit the Lakes. The weather is warm but not scorching hot or too humid like August. Spring can also be a good time to visit, with far less tourists than in the summer months and the spring flowers in bloom however the weather can be a little unpredictable so pack a raincoat.
The airports in Milan are probably the best airports to fly into to reach the Lakes if you are travelling from outside of Italy. From there you can rent a car, take a bus or train up to the lakes which are located only a few hours away. Alternatively Zurich airport is also within accessible distance from the Italian Lakes, and makes a splendid scenic drive too! If you are travelling to the lakes from anywhere else in Italy they are very well connected by autostradas and they also have main train stations which can be reached via large cities such as Milan and Genoa.