While finding a please-all destination for group holidays can sometimes prove tricky, the Italian Lakes poses no such problem. It’s virtually impossible not to be seduced by the region’s natural beauty, with charming Med-style villages and elegant lakeside gardens set against glacial lakes and snow-capped peaks. If you’re an outdoorsy bunch, this is a destination made for adventures in the fresh air. You can sign up for hikes and bike rides, or try your hand at the water sports such as stand-up paddle boarding. Meanwhile, foodies and wine buffs can feast on leisurely lunches of lake-caught seafood and sign up for tours and tastings in some of the finest wine producing regions in Italy.
1. Discover Italian Champagne with Lake Como Transfers
If you think Prosecco is Italy’s answer to France’s Champagne, think again. The bubbles you really should be quaffing in this part of the world are known as Franciacorta. That’s the name given to the wine, the region it’s grown in and the method of production. Only 10 wines in all of Europe enjoy such one-name privileges and only three of those are fermented in the bottle: Cava, Champagne and Franciacorta, so this is a fizz that is in pretty good company. You’ll find Franciacorta in the Province of Brescia, around two hours from Lake Como, where the vineyards and cellars are winemaking powerhouses. Take a private tour and you can discover exactly how the various categories of this superb sparkling vino are made.
2. Delve into the history of motorcycling at Museum Moto Guzzi
The oldest European motorcycle manufacturer in Europe, Moto Guzzi has quite a history. Founded in Lake Como in the 1920s, the brand has changed hands over the years but remains an iconic name among bikers. More than 150 pieces from its history are on show in the museum, which not only provides a timeline of the business and showcases the bikes’ production history but also celebrates the associated motorcycling culture. The displays even give a glimpse into the social development of the area. Expect to see dozens of models, as well as experimental engines, prototype bikes and exhibits dedicated to motorcycle racing.
3. Go on a cycling pilgrimage to the Museo del Ciclismo Ghisallo
Superstar cyclists, bike manufacturers, the names behind the biggest cycling clubs and journalists who cover the sport are all paid tribute to at the Cycling Museum. Sports gear worn by champions, antique bikes and around 100 film clips covering the highlights of Italy’s cycling history are among the treasures on display, but it’s the location of the museum that really gets people talking. The 500-metre climb from Bellagio to the museum’s base in the village of Magreglio is an important stage of the Giro d’Italia cycle race and the museum’s neighbour is the 17th-century shrine of Madonna del Ghisallo, who Pope Pius XII made the patron of cyclists. Professional and amateur enthusiasts alike make the pilgrimage here every year in their thousands.
4. Taste-test liquid gold at Paolo Bonomelli Boutique Olive Farm
The Bonomelli family have owned their olive-blanketed estate since the 1950s, but it was only in 1990 that they transformed it into an olive farm and began churning out their superb extra virgin olive oils. There are more than 4,000 olive trees on the estate, including some beauties that are centuries old. The perfect olive-growing micro climate of Lake Garda makes this the most northerly spot for olive oil production in Europe, and you can find out exactly how they do it on a bespoke guided tour of the farm. ‘From field to bottle’ is the estate’s motto, meaning they grow, harvest, press and store the olive oil all on site. Handily, they also offer tastings, so you can try out this award-winning liquid gold yourself.
5. Sightsee like an Italian with Lake Como Motorbike
If you really want to see the lakes in style, the only way to do it is on a motorbike. The Italians are passionate about bikes and you’ll spot classic, vintage and modern models whizzing around the banks of Lake Como. Sign up to a tour with Lake Como Motorbike and you can join the locals as they take in the cinematic scenery from the road. If you’re an experienced rider with your own bike, simply follow the guide in front. If you don’t have your own wheels, you can rent one of their Moto Guzzi or Ducati bikes. Don’t fancy being at the controls yourself? No problem. You can ride pillion with one of the guides instead.
6. Master paddle boarding with SUP Garda
With instructors willing to tailor classes to all ages and abilities, the SUP Garda stand-up paddle boarding school opens up the sport to everybody. And with the beauty of Lake Garda as the backdrop, there is no better place to try it. The classic route to savvy stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP as it’s better known in these parts, is a course of three one-hour lessons, where you’ll master the technique of paddling and increase your stability on a board. You can take up a group course or private one-to-one sessions. And if you can’t squeeze in a full trio of classes, SUP Garda’s instructors offer one-off hour-long lessons for newbies who are short on time, or for slightly more experienced paddle boarders who want to polish up their skills.
Fancy the Italian Lakes for your next group holiday? Round up your pals and pick your favourite place to stay from our collection of luxury villas. And while you’re at it, be sure to read our full travel guide to the area too.