Discover the best Italian Lakes for your Summer Holidays

It is easy to see why the Italian lakes feature on so many holiday bucket lists. Lake Garda’s beguiling beauty, Lake Maggiore’s serene setting, Lake Como’s romantic allure and Lake Orta’s seductive charm – no tour of Italy would be complete without visiting at least one of the country’s biggest attractions. Each has a distinct character, which makes it difficult to decide which you should visit. We are here to make your choice slightly easier.

Lake Garda

Garda is Italy’s largest lake and probably its best known. It has been the holiday destination of the rich and famous for years. Everyone from Clooney to Churchill to Goethe have stayed here. And it is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their life.

Cool in the summer and mild in the winter, Garda is a great destination for those who enjoy their summer holidays without the extreme temperatures. The lake has formed a microclimate around itself, best described as sub-Meditteranean. The area also has an evocative mild lemon scent that wafts from local groves.

But enough of the weather, it is the sights that really matter. Lake Garda doesn't disappoint with its clear and stunningly blue H2O. Open water swimmers will love the ability to dive in almost anywhere. Others can just enjoy a casual boat trip or official tour to take in the magnificence of the entire lake. The region is one large beauty spot with plenty of places to camp and picnic for those who can't afford one of the expensive villas.

What sets Lake Garda further apart is the array of things to see and do away from the shore. Choose between Botanical Gardens, The Rocca Fortress, or a tour of the Grotta Tanella cave to see superb stalagmites.

Each of the villages around the lake are well worth a visit and offer their own unique character. Large cities are also easily accessible including Brescia, Milan or Verona. Connoisseurs of the grape should definitely visit Bardolino, especially around the time of its late summer wine festival where you can taste this famous vintage at source.

Lake Maggiore

If you are looking for a more peaceful Italian lake experience then Lake Maggiore may be your choice. It is the second largest in Italy and also has a foothold in Switzerland – two stamps for your passport in one visit.

All around the shore are superb sights, medieval towns, ancient forests, churches, castles, fortresses, gourmet restaurants and places where you can simply zone out of life.

Despite its leisurely air, this is an area that has inspired poets and musicians for centuries. Ernest Heningway used the lake for ‘A Farewell to Arms’ in a scene where the heroes escape from the local police.

One of your highlights of any boat trip will be your first sight of The three Borromean Islands. Stunning and fascinating in equal measure, each is a must-visit on your holiday. The landscaped gardens and ornate places on Isola Bella are legendary. Isola dei Pescatori offers a village seemingly unchanged by time and Isola Madre provides beautiful, lush and peaceful bliss.

Many stay in Verbania when they visit Lake Maggiore. It is an elegant town with great places to eat and walk. For the most romantic, Stresa offers cobbled streets and a real sense of the golden age as well as some excellent shopping. If you want to experience Swiss hospitality then Locarno is an ideal base and one of the warmest spots in the country.

Lake Como

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written during a stay by Lake Como and it is a place that ignites the imagination. Just an hour’s car journey from Milan, you will find yourself in a paradise that exudes beauty, glamour and romance. You may never want to leave.

Like the other lakes on this list, the body of water is encircled by a series of utterly charming towns and villages, each with its own claim to being the best in the region. Bellagio and Varenna are most popular but for a slightly more urban experience the city of Como itself should be on your itinerary. Book a ride on the funicular up to Brunate for a panoramic view of the region.

You will also want to make time to visit the historic villas that can be found at Lakeside. Balbianello, Monastero and Melzi are amongst the many with amazing stories to tell and open to the public for exploration. Others have a more recent history such as the villa in Mezzegra where Mussolini and his mistress were held as prisoners during the Second World War.

A guided boat tour is often the best way to see the main highlights on offer but it is also hard to beat a walking tour round the lake to discover hidden charms for yourself. And if you are visiting for the water sports then you will not be disappointed by the many options available.

Although Como has a reputation for attracting the jet set there are plenty of cheaper options for those who want to visit and stay there. Likewise, you can opt for the famous restaurants or choose to dine in smaller establishments where the prices are lower but the food is equally as delicious.

Lake Orta

Small but beautiful, Lake Orta is a meagre seven square miles of water and a minion compared to its better known cousins. But some people will tell you it's actually the best looking of the whole bunch. And the fact it is overlooked by many tourists means it offers an even bigger Italian welcome than other regions.

Based at the foot of the Swiss Alps, there are fewer buildings and other distractions around the lake resulting in a clearer view of natural beauty. But it is also interesting as well as placid. For those looking for a real getaway in Italy, it should definitely be high up on the list.

Like most of the other lakes, there is an island in the middle of the water. Isola San Giulio could well be the best boat trip you ever take. The buildings seem to be drawn from a sumptuous period drama. The roads are enchanting with their cobbled surface and winding character. Old churches peal their bells and mysterious villas lie behind large, ivy-ridden gates, - who knows what secrets they keep? Try out the high quality restaurants and do it on a warm moonlight night if you and your partner want the most romantic holiday moment of your relationship.

For a mainland trip try Orta San Giulio, the area’s main town. Once again, narrow streets and magnificent architecture await as does some of the best Italian cooking around. It is elegant and uniquely Italian. Wherever you go in this region it feels like somewhere else in time.

If you want all-inclusive luxury to go with your glorious Italian landscape then Club Med Pragelato Sestriere offers the ideal choice. In winter this is a prime skiing resort that is based in a part of the Alps traversed by Hannibal on his way to fight the Romans. In summer it offers the best in Alpine sunshine, beauty and things to do. And there are plenty of lakes in the region for those looking for aquatic satisfaction.

This is a region rich in culture and gastronomy populated with lakes, vineyards and high mountains. Piedmont has no less than 96 protected natural areas and 5 UNESCO Heritage sites.

A village of chalets in the heart of Piedmont, our own Alpine hamlet is the perfect base for exploring the summer mountains. Instead of big buildings, you will find little three storey chalets. Everything is made all the more charming by the neighbouring swathes of fir trees on the mountainside.

Hike to the massive Fenestrelle Fortress straddled across cliffs and peaks. Practise your swing in view of the Alps at Europe’s highest altitude golf course. Or play with the kids in our indoor and outdoor pools. After a day of exploration, relax with Genovese focaccia and a glass of wine in our cosy restaurants or on our cobbled town square.

With a proud gastronomic heritage – local specialties include Fontina fondue, Les Gressins, Alba white truffle and Nutella – Piedmont is also one of the main wine regions of the country producing both Vermouth and Barolo. We would recommend a visit to the latter during your stay. It is also the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement and only second to Lombardy when it comes to the most Michelin stars in Italy.

For Italian Lake lovers, Vallone 13 Laghi is an area that is well worth a hike. There are 13 of them in total, all with distinctive names such as Drajo, Ramella and the Walnut, although one is now underground. Take the chair lift left over from the ski season if you don't fancy the climb.

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