The Italian Lakes are the ultimate romantic break.  The sheer beauty of the blue waters set against a backdrop of majestic mountains and rolling hills is simply breath-taking.  The stunning classical villas, medieval cobbled streets, glamorous film-star vibe, café culture and divine Italian cuisine makes the area a must-visit for everyone’s bucket-list. Although their world-wide reputation means they can be very busy, don’t let this put you off, they’re simply too beautiful not to visit.

So, the big questions are where to go, what to do and when to visit?

The best time to head to the lakes is from April to October. August is the busiest as it’s when the Italians are on holiday but the lakes are at their warmest from July to September. May, June and September are perfect; the resorts are buzzing, the water is warming up, the weather is good and the gardens are in bloom. During the winter months the beaches and outdoor swimming are not always open and it can get quite cold.

Starting with Lake Garda…

which is Italy’s largest lake, its’ romantic shores have inspired poets and painters since the Roman era and the picturesque promenades, historic turreted castles and pretty towns will not disappoint.   With palatial hotels, palm tree-lined esplanades and lemon groves, it has an exotic Mediterranean holiday feel to it. Known for its clear waters, it is perfect for swimming and water sports in the summer months. To the north of the lake steep cliffs fringe the waters and you’ll find the popular resort of Riva with its manicured gardens along the esplanade. To the south of the lake, with its gentle hills, you will find resorts such as Garda and Sirmione set amongst olive groves, orchards and vineyards. To the east, is the small town of Maclesine, which has a maze of tiny mediaeval streets to lose yourself in and heaps of Italian charm. From here take a cable car to the top of the Monte Baldo ridge for a fabulous view. When you’ve had enough of the crowds that can swamp Riva, Limone and Malcesire, take to the water to enjoy stunning trips across the lake.  From Malcesine take a boat to Limone and indulge in divine food and fantastic shopping when you get there.  There are also some quieter villages around the lake like Gargnano which are wonderful to explore too.

The second largest lake is Lake Maggiore…

which is often called the most scenic of the Italian lakes and known by locals as ‘Verbana’ after the flower that grows abundantly along its shores. The main resort on the lake is Stresa which is nestled under the peak of Mottarone and has idyllic views across to the three famous Borromean Islands. Stresa is connected by a beautiful villa-lined road to Baveno, and together they are known for their cosmopolitan lifestyle, elegant boutiques, bustling cafes and stunning architecture.

The elegant lakeside town of Pallanza…

is famous for its beautiful gardens of Villa Pallavicino and Villa Taranto, both open to wander around.  Take a short boat crossing to islands in the lake, Isola Bella is definitely the best to visit if you only have time to see one.  The island is home to the lavish baroque palace, built for the Borromeo family in the 17th century, the terraced gardens are stunningly adorned with fountains and statues.

If you are feeling energetic climb Mount Mottarone for superb views over the lake.  Also visit the peaceful resort of Baveno renowned for its natural hot springs and pink granite.

Moving onto Lake Como…

and you’ll find an enchanting and tranquil lake where stone villages are reflected in the still waters and snow-capped mountains dwarf the grand pastel-coloured villas lining the lake.  Renowned for great sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing as well as its palatial villas, the stylish lake has always attracted A-listers (this is of course where George Clooney has his pad!).  However, despite the celebrities and tourists the lakefront villages still manage to retain a traditional feel.

The grand neo-classical villas that line the lake are backed by impressive gardens, a number of which are open to the public. The most famous being Villa Carlotta, home to a great art collection and magnificent interior which is well worth visiting. The jewel in the lake’s crown is undoubtedly the exclusive resort of Bellagio, a wonderfully picturesque town fringed by cypresses which has been referred to as the most beautiful town in Italy.  This is the place to see and be seen so amble along the elegant promenades, find a café and enjoy watching the world go by.

The pretty village of Varenna…

on the eastern shore with its narrow winding streets is also a must-see.  Take a boat from Varenna, via Bellagio and across to Menaggio and you will see all three arms of the lake with its stunning, ever-changing views.

Although far less famous, the pretty Lake Iseo is a peaceful gem between Garda and Como which offers excellent trekking and mountain biking opportunities. Its’ lake island, Monte Isola, is dotted with picturesque fishing villages, olive groves and vineyards which can easily be explored by bicycle.

Whichever lake you choose to visit, enjoy immersing yourself in one of the most divine parts of Italy. Take a look at some of our Italy Multi Centre holidays, some of which combine these beautiful lakes with some of Italy’s most famous destinations.

Nadine Brown Company Director

Nadine is one of the directors of eShores. She left school at 16 and went straight in to a travel agency. Over the 30+ years she has worked in various sectors of the industry and has also worked as an overseas representative in both summer and ski resorts. She has also travelled to many countries from Europe to the Far East and USA.