On the largest of the lakes – Lake Garda – you can enjoy a huge range of scenery surrounded by city gates built by the Venetians. The north has higher mountains on the narrower part of the lake and the south is flatter, home to pebble beaches leading down into the water, and those famous Bardolino vineyards. Explore Sirmione’s 13th-Century cobbled streets, the Roman ruins of Grotto di Catullo and the thermal baths and hot springs. Action-packed Lake Garda offers the perfect climate and props for windsurfing, paragliding and kayaking while its northernmost points are idyllic for mountain hikes and climbs. You can cross town to town by ferry to make the most of all the distinctive character on offer. And if you fancy hopping on the train, you can be in Verona in half an hour.
Lake Como is where the jet set and the Milanese like to hang out. Take the funicular to the top of Brunate Mountain for panoramic views of the lakes and Switzerland, hop on board a boat to the exclusive village of Bellagio, and visit the stately Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. Grand Hotel Tremezzo has a floating pool in the lake and is the perfect spot for aperitivo as the sun sets on shimmering waters.
From Lake Como, take a boat trip to the Borromean Islands, home to three tiny islands and two islets. On Isola Bella you’ll find a magnificent Baroque Palace and renaissance tiered gardens where peacocks like to roam. Head to the resort of Stresa for cobblestoned streets, spellbinding views and plenty of café culture, shopping and art galleries, and take a cable car to the summit of Mount Mottarone for both Lake and Alps views.
Where are the Italian Lakes?
In the north of Italy surrounded by mountains that edge into Switzerland, just half an hour from Verona and close to both Milan and Venice.
Hiring a car is one of the best ways to make the most of exploring all that this region has to offer. But even without a car, the Italian Lakes are easy to navigate. You can criss-cross through all the towns and resorts in the Lakes by ferry or private boat. Exploring on foot is simple when you reach each resort or town, as most are quite small. There are also buses and taxis.
Expect everything from bespoke Italian suits and Lake Como silk scarves to Garda wines and grappa. Head to organic rustic shops to pick up picnics of freshly made pasta, cheeses and hams, as well as award-winning whites and sparkling wines. The Italians love to snooze though – so it’s best to visit shops before noon and after 3.30pm. Half an hour outside of Como, you’ll find the Armani Outlet, a great place to pick up heavily discounted designer clothes.
Food & drink
Fresh lake-to-table trout and laverello sautéed in butter and sage, lemons, strawberries and peaches on a plate, and that famous Italian gelato… the Italian Lakes don’t disappoint when it comes to food and drink. The extraordinary setting means all kind of fresh produce is readily available – flavoursome mountain cheeses, olives and Bardolino wines. Expect seafood risotto, thin-crusted pizza and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Wild boar is an autumn favourite, polenta is a popular side and sun-dried shad is a generations-old regional dish.