Italy in my mind’s eye is always beautiful whatever the time of year; Rome with its art, culture and awe inspiring architecture or Sardinia with its emerald green sea. The Lakes are known to be one of the most beautiful places in Italy to visit and attract many famous visitors each year (George Clooney always springs to mind!) artists, poets and musicians have all remonstrated the beauties of the Italian lakes.
The collection of lakes are considered areas of outstanding beauty and are made up of many lakes with the main being Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Garda, Lake Orta and the best known – Lake Como.

Lake Como

The third largest lake in Italy is home to the town of Bellagio which is reputed as the most beautiful town in Italy, with its lime trees and Oleanders with brightly coloured flowers which line the main promenade with panoramic views of the lake.

Villa Melzi dates back to 1808 and has stunning gardens to stroll around with gorgeous azaleas and rhododendrons as well as a museum and chapel. It was built for Francesco Melzi d’Eril who was nominated Duke of Lodi by Napoleon. This is a magnificent construction and well worth visiting. There are several buildings of interest in Bellagio with rich historical backgrounds such as San Giacomo church with its mosaics, a 12th century cross and a 15th century triptych.

Picturesque walking paths take you along the lake and through the hills where small hamlets and fisherman’s villages can be explored.

Both spring and summer are perfect for taking a boat tour or enjoying the many water sports that are on offer. Each year there is a spring/summer and an autumn festival – Lake Como festival where live music can be enjoyed in beautiful locations around the lake. Winter time can be spent enjoying skiing in the nearby mountains.

Lake Garda

Villa Selva, Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes. Absolutely stunning with Morainic hills, mountains, sparkling blue waters and an abundance of green vegetation. Scenting the air are lemon groves, cypresses and orange groves. Olive groves, palms and oleanders grow freely and add to the majestic landscapes.

There are many towns around Lake Garda with various activities to take part in. Riva del Garda is the place to be for great windsurfing and swimming. There are many hiking trails and cycling is a great way to explore and enjoy many of the amazing views and landscapes of this area.

In the main square of Riva del Garda is the Apponale tower, climbing the 165 steps is well worth the effort to enjoy the panoramic views over the lake. Again there are many interesting historic buildings to explore and the architecture is fabulous. Riva del Garda is home to Bastione a Venetian fortress that dates back to 1508.

You can get to Verona, Venice or Milan easily from around Lake Garda and a city visit to watch an opera of enjoy some shopping is a great way to spend a day.

Lake Maggiore


Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second largest lake. On the southern side of the Alps and extending into Switzerland there is plenty to do and see in tranquil and picturesque surroundings. Camelia, azaleas, rhododendrons and magnolias all flourish in the gardens and the lake is a haven for Mediterranean olive and lemon groves.

The town of Stresa is ideally situated for exploring and enjoying Lake Maggiore. The Mottorane cable car will take you to Mount Mottarone where you will have a splendid 360 degree view over 7 lakes and spectacular views of the Alps, where depending on which time of year you visit, you can enjoy some skiing!

From Stresa visit the Borromean Islands just a ten minute boat ride away – three Islands that lie in a wide gulf on the western side of Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori and Isola Madre. Isola Bella is much famed for its Baroque palace and elegant and refined Italian gardens. Grand architecture, ornate furniture, sparkling chandeliers and master works of art adorn this elaborate palace. Each of the three Islands is a pleasure to explore with a contrasting experience from each, Isola dei Pescatori has a beautiful village hardly changed by time and Isola Madre is almost over taken with its’ exotic gardens.

The Spirit of Woodstock festival takes place at the end of July/beginning of August – a festival of rock music where nearly every genre of rock music can be heard. Situated in the north-Italian province of Novara in the beautiful hills that run between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta this three day festival is a relaxed fun event.

If you want to enjoy some city life then Milan is only an hour away by high speed train where you can shop or visit one of the many museums or galleries.

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano is named after the sophisticated and vibrant city Laguno which is in Switzerland. The Lake is part Swiss and part Italian and the city of Laguno is a fusion of both countries with a very Italian accent to all parts of the city’s personality. You can experience wonderful Italian cuisine as well as much acclaimed Italian architecture and art galleries. The Via Nassa shopping centre is a fully encompassing shopping experience.

Lake Lugano is surrounded by pretty towns and villages cloistered amongst the mountains and hills explore and discover medieval churches, parks and gardens, museums and art galleries.

The Lake itself offers a myriad of watersports and the surrounding hills and trails provide perfect opportunity for cycling horse riding and hiking.


For a day out with a difference why not visit the Alprose chocolate factory renowned for producing excellent Swiss chocolate and just a short trip from Lugano with a museum depicting the history of chocolate making a tour of the factory with free samples to delight your taste buds and a factory shop to stock up on some of the delicious chocolate that is made here.

Zoo Al Maglio is a short distance from Lugano on the banks of the Magliasina river and is a lovely day out with over 100 animals and birds, you can learn and appreciate species from around the world.

The Italian Lakes – while beauty is in the eye of the beholder I don’t think anybody would dispute that the lakes and surrounding areas are truly spectacular – book a villa and enjoy the many attractions, outdoor activities, glorious Italian cuisine, art and culture that are in abundance.

Written by Kirsti Banyard, a travel writer for HomeAway. For great accommodation visit Oliver’s Travels on HomeAway or Homeaway in Italy.

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