It’s hard not to catch yourself day dreaming about a relaxing few days lakeside in Northern Italy.
Most longer Italian itineraries that I plan for my clients involve at least a three or four night stop along the shores of either Lake Como, Lake Garda or Lake Maggiore. Their tranquil waters and striking mountain backdrops make this area an enchanting and magical escape from the bustle of nearby Milan.
Lake Como is certainly the most famous of the three lakes in this region. Known for its charming towns, stately homes, snow-capped Alps and a Hollywood heart-throb named George Clooney, a stay at Lake Como is a bucket list travel experience for many. It is shaped like an upsidedown Y, with a longer stay allowing a thorough exploration of both arms of the lake.
The town of Como offers easy access by road and rail from Milan as well as being the hub for ferry services to other towns around the lake. However, if you have more than a couple of nights, I would make the extra effort and travel to one of the resort towns further along the lake. My pick is Bellagio – known as the “Pearl of Lake Como”. Its location on a small headland in the middle of the “Y” gives visitors easy access to all parts of the lake. There is a great range of quality accommodation here as well as wonderful restaurants, cafes and gelati bars, so you will be able to keep your Italian holiday weight gain progressing nicely!
Lake Maggiore is about 90km north-west of Milan. It straddles Italy and Switzerland and is framed by the alps to the north. It is a long, narrow lake but has many pretty towns dotted along its edges as well as some beautiful islands within. The main entry point is Stresa which serves as a great base for a stay on the lake.
Lake Garda lies halfway between Milan and Venice on the doorstep of Verona. It’s the largest of the three lakes and has quite a different feel. Mountains run along both sides of the lake, with limestone cliffs hugging the western shore, while Monte Baldo runs along the east. The northern end leads to the mountainous Trentino area, yet the southern end is flatter and broader and home to some wonderful vineyards. I think that it’s Lake Garda’s stunning natural beauty and diversity of what the area has to offer that makes it so appealing.
Being a much larger lake means that there are various access points for Lake Garda. Sirmione in the south is a great option if you only have a couple of days to see the lake. If you have longer, Malcesine on the eastern shore makes a fantastic base for exploring the lake.
Wondering what the best way to get around the lakes is? You can certainly do it independently, either via rail/ferry networks or with by car if you’re feeling brave enough to take on the Italians! Rather do it on a tour? Companies such as Peregrine and CIT Holidays offer escorted tours of northern lakes, from snapshot 4 day itineraries through to two week meanders.
There are also some really unique packages available, such as the ones offered by Lake Garda Tours. They have 5 day and 8 day packages which include return transfers from Verona, accommodation in Malcesine and a variety of local touring experiences, from wine tasting to leisurely lunches, sailing trips, visits to hillside villages and Roman ruins, just to mention a few.
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