Running along Italy’s border with Switzerland is a sequence of lakes that offer gorgeous scenery and a chance to experience a region in Italy that, while not undiscovered, has been ignored by many travelers. The Italian Lakes, which spread through the Piedmont and Lombardy regions, each have a different flavor, although all offer beautiful scenery and colorful towns, comfortable restaurants and unexpected treasures.
The lakes were created by glacial scouring and generally are defined by an elongated shape, as well as being known for great depths. The juxtaposition of these azure-blue lakes and the snow-capped Alps heightens the spectacular beauty of the area. In addition, although several of the lakes extend between Switzerland and Italy, the towns along the lake are Italian through and through, regardless of the country in which they are located.
- As might be expected, most lakeside towns are small and hotel rooms can be in high demand. Staying at a prime property along any of the lakes will cost you, but what a way to go.
- Lakes Maggiore and Como are the most popular with tourists. Lake Garda is very popular for water sports and as a vacation place for Italians seeking respite from the summer heat that pervades much of the country.
- Be sure to check out our Photo Guides for more details and some great photographs of the area’s leading attractions.
- Lake Maggiore is the westernmost of the lakes and its northern edge is within Switzerland. One of the Lake’s most popular towns is Stressa, the gateway to the picturesque Borromean Islands that are well-known for their scenic gardens. Be sure to see the palace and gardens on the island of Isola Bella. Stressa is also known to literary buffs for its role in Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms”.
Lake Lugano is mainly in Switzerland (in the Canton of Ticino). Although a minor portion of its shoreline is in Italy, the villages of Lake Lugano have an Italian flavor and the city of Lugano is a terrific place to visit and easily accessible from Italy.
- Lake Como is widely regarded as the most beautiful of the Italian Lakes. The lake offers spectacular views of the Swiss Alps. The glaciers responsible for scouring the trough of Lake Como, dug deep, slightly over 1300 feet. It is the deepest of the lakes, with a bottom well below sea level.
- Be sure to see the town of Bellagio for its country charm and beautiful setting. Cernobbio is a another delightful lakeside town that is very popular.
- Next, Como is an interesting town and a center for boat travel along the lake, as well as offering car-ferry services to a limited number of destinations. For those interested, Lake Como is where the actor George Clooney bought a beautiful, rambling, lakeside villa.
- Only a short distance from Milan, Lake Como attracts many tourists looking for a chance to slow down after a tour of Italy’s major cities.
Lake Garda is the largest and most popular of the lakes in this region of Italy. Noted as a recreational center, Lake Garda is very popular with northern Italians (and is the closest lake to Venice). The villages and accommodations along Lake Garda are the most modern of any of the Italian Lakes and there is a wide variety of accommodations.
- Although a favored by tour groups (due in part to the availability of larger hotels), we think the Lake Garda is the least interesting of the Italian Lakes, at least in terms of scenery and culture. However, if you are looking for a place to play that is crowded but lots of fun, this may be just the stop for you.
- If you are considering a trip to the Italian Lakes, we highly recommend that you visit www.italianlakes.com. Although it is not an official site for the region, we think it is the best site for understanding the allure and culture of this attractive area. As a matter of fact, we suspect that visiting the site will convince you to travel to the Italian Lakes.