A Holidaymaker’s Guide To The Italian Lakes

This expert holidaymaker’s guide to the mesmerising Italian lakes outlines the unique charm of the top four lakes to help you find your favourite

The Italian Lake District is one of the country’s most-visited areas, popular with tourists and locals alike. Comprised of eight lakes set in the shelter of the Alps mountains, this region offers a peaceful and picturesque holiday destination within easy reach of cosmopolitan cities.

Each lake has its own spectacular scenery and a wealth of things to do, from serene sailing to invigorating hikes. This holidaymaker’s guide to the Italian lakes outlines the unique charm of the top four lakes to help you find your favourite.

Lake Como

Beloved by celebrities the world over, Lake Como has a glamour that cannot be denied. It is an essential stop for Italy tours that include Milan, boasting the same fashionable flair but a blissfully restful atmosphere.

Terracotta-roofed villas with walls of rich ochre sit close to the shoreline, contrasting perfectly with the turquoise water and vibrant pink bougainvillaea. Visitors can sail the smooth waters, take the cable car to Brunate for spectacular clifftop dining, or summit the striking Monte Boletto. 

Lake Garda

At the very eastern edge of the Italian Lake District is Lake Garda, around an hour by car from the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city of Verona. This lake is the largest of the collection, almost a 100-mile loop all the way around.

There is an abundance of activities on offer at this natural playground which blends alpine woodland with Mediterranean countryside. Follow mountain bike trails through the trees to spectacular viewpoints, or wander along the olive and lemon groves that line the lake.

Lake Maggiore

On the other side of the region, you will find Lake Maggiore, the second largest lake which spills over into Switzerland. There is much history to be explored, with ancient castles and fortresses built into the foothills overlooking the water. Most remarkable is the 800-year-old Santa Caterina del Sasso monastery that was constructed on the side of a sheer cliff face. 

Out on the lake, you will discover three picturesque islets known as the Borromean Islands. These can be reached via ferry from the main town, Stresa, and provide a picturesque place for lunch. 

Lake Orta

Just west of Lake Maggiore is Lake Orta. This lake is little-visited by tourists but is a favourite with locals – one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. 

It is reasonably small but oozes old-world charm. Colourful villages wind up the mountain side and towns with traditional architecture offer outdoor dining right on the water. Its idyllic surroundings and enduringly peaceful atmosphere have made Lake Orta a haven for creatives of all types, from artists to writers and poets. German philosopher Nietzsche spent two years here in the late 19th century when writing his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

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