All About the Italian Lakes
Our Lakes Service
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Como (Lago di Como) is one of the famous Italian Lakes destinations, just
half an hour from noisy, bustling Milan, in the north of Italy. Lake Como
is long (50km), slender and extremely deep. The southern end forks into
two long 'legs', with the picturesque town of Bellagio situated on the
promontory between them. Like the other Italian Lakes, Lake Como has been
popular as a resort since the days of the Roman Empire. For centuries
visitors have admired the blue lake waters and relaxed in luxurious villas
in the wooded lakeside slopes above. Today, most of the scenic towns around
the shores of Lake Como are popular for the wide variety of sports the
lake area has to offer: wind surfing, swimming, water skiing, swimming
and hand gliding.
Lake Como is a jewel-like oasis of tranquillity, a magical combination
of lush Mediterranean foliage and snowy alpine peaks. Como is a lively
and pleasant town with an appealing historical centre and a scenic location
at the southern end of the east branch of the Lake. The impressive cathedral
(Duomo), like most in Italy, was built and added to over a period of centuries,
so you can admire Gothic and Renaissance features including some fine
tapestries and paintings. The town's earlier cathedral (built in the tenth
century), San Fedele, is another fine sight, as are the tall nine-hundred-year-old
gateway, Porta Vittoria, and the Romanesque church Sant'Abbondio. The
town's art gallery (Pinacoteca) is also worth a visit. For a short trip
out of town, take the funicular up to Brunate above Como, where you can
enjoy spectacular views. If you're a hiker, take the footpath up to Monte
Travelling along the western perimeter of the lake, you can stop in at
the Tempio Voltiano, a surprising classic temple with marble columns and
mosaic floors. A bit farther on are the beautiful formal gardens and park
of Villa dell'Olmo, a sumptuous lake home named after an elm forest mentioned
by Pliny the Younger in the days when Como was a flourishing Roman outpost.
From Como, it's just a short drive to Cernobbio, whose old town features
a delightful collection of picturesque houses and narrow alleys. Nearby
is one of the grandest hotels in all Europe, the Villa D'Este, whose rooms
are almost like museum galleries. A few minutes away is Toriggia, where
you can visit Villa Passalacqua, a late 18th-century home where Vincenzo
Bellini once stayed.
As you travel north you'll see Como's only island, Isola Comacina. The
best day of the year to take the ferry over to the island is the week
end after June 24th, when St. John's Day is celebrated with a mass at
Santa Eufemia’s basilica, followed by a costumed procession and
Lake Como is renowned for its exquisite villas, and probably the most
famous one is Villa Carlotta, a perfect combination of luxurious interiors
(beautiful stuccos, lovely ceiling frescoes and a great art collection,
including an Eros and Psyche by Antonio Canova) and luxuriant exteriors
(over 500 species of plants, trees and shrubs from all over the world).
Tremezzo is another lovely lakeside town. There's a classic lakeside
promenade, as well as many wonderful old villas (some of which have been
converted to hotels), and it's from here you can take a car ferry over
to Bellaggio and Varenna, on the opposite shore.
Varenna may be the most picturesque town on the lake, its steep winding
alleys lined with charming homes, flowering balconies and lace-curtained
windows. Just above it is the ancient castle where Theodolinda, Queen
of the Lombards, is said to have died in the 7th century. Two famed villas
to visit here are Villa Cipressi, with terraced gardens cascading right
down to the shores, and Villa Monastero, a true showcase.
On the southern shore is Bellaggio, la perla del lago (the pearl of the
lake), considered by many to be the most beautiful town in all of Europe.
Its narrow cobbled streets, breathtaking views, impeccable homes and glorious
villas make it a most enchanting spot.
is located on the eastern shore of Lake Como. This small town, has escaped
mass tourism and is is surrounded by a lovely landscape characterized
by beautiful lakeside walks. The old town centre is characterized by interesting
tight alleys with medieval houses, arches that date back to the 17th century
and Baroque courts.
The beautiful lakeside towns around Lago di Garda have charmed foreign
visitors for centuries. Even for the ancient Romans, the area was a luxury
summer destination; in Sirmione and Desenzano you can visit ruins and
mosaics that record their presence. Lake Garda is long and slim with a
southern end that is low lying. In contrast, the northern end is surrounded
by towering mountains.
The towns around the lake are all pretty, pleasant places to stay.
Sirmione is on the southern shores of Lake Garda, a pretty town near the
end of a long promontory. Sirmione's most striking feature is the moated
castle, Rocca Scaligera. Sirmione's narrow medieval streets bustle with
colour and life. At the very tip of the peninsula there are the extensive
remains of a grand Roman villa; visitors can wander through the ruined
walls and admire archaeological finds in the small museum.
Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano is primarily a practical destination. Transport is easy from
Brescia Airport and by train from other parts of Italy. It's easy to take
a bus to Verona for day trips, and connections with other areas of Lake
Garda are good, although it's a long way to Riva del Garda at the far
end of the lake. Around the harbour the streets are pretty, and from the
castle up the hill (outdoor concerts in the summer) there's a lovely view
over the lake. In the evening you can join in the popular activity of
promenading, the passeggiata. There are plenty of good restaurants, shops,
and busy bars.
Riva del Garda
Riva is at the northern end of Lake Garda. The pretty public gardens by
the waterfront have a quaint air to them. The town is large enough to
support a market and shops; while the lakeside area is packed with gelaterie
(ice cream parlours), cafes and restaurants.
The waterfront is dominated by one of Garda's fortresses, the Rocca,
which contains the town's museum. Steep wooded slopes tower above, with
ruined towers emerging from the trees to tempt the energetic explorer.
North of Riva, walking or driving excursions give access to some of the
region's most dramatic scenery. This includes a 287-ft waterfall at Varone,
the remains of a Bronze Age settlement at Lake Ledro and the crags and
fortifications of Castello d'Arco.
Malcesine is pretty and atmospheric. The town, on the eastern shore of
Lake Garda, is charming, a maze of historic alleys. A castle (open to
the public, with great towers to climb) guards the waters, while mountain
slopes rear up behind the clustered buildings.
A cable-car takes you right up to the high grassy summit of the Monte
Baldo ridge, where the air is fresh and cool, the views are stupendous,
and you can refresh yourself at several cafe-restaurants. Walkers can
begin high-level hikes here then return to Malcesine to browse the shops
or enjoy an ice cream.
Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore), Italy's second-largest lake, divides the
regions of Piemonte and Lombardia. The lake's northern end, in the Alps,
stretches into Switzerland, where Locarno is a popular lakeside destination.
Like the other northern Italian lakes, Lake Maggiore has been popular
for centuries, with many illustrious visitors enjoying themselves in luxurious
lakeside villas and verdant gardens.
The most popular Lake Maggiore resorts origintaed on the western shores
of the lake. Stresa is a lovely town with beautiful villas and gardens
(some open to the public), a good climate and lake views. From the town
a cable car takes you up Monte Mottarone, where from a height of over
1,500 m you can enjoy views of the Alps and the other lakes.
More recently, the east side has increased in popularity, particularly
with high quality developments such as Golfo
di Ghiffa and near pretty towns such as Maccagno, Ghiffa and also
If you spend time at Lake Maggiore, you will soon become familiar with
the name of the Borromeo family, who still own the islands named after
them. The Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore are not to be missed and
one of its prime attractions. There are three open to the public, containing
beautiful gardens, small settlements and restaurants.
Parks and Reserves of the Italian Lakes
The lake area has a number of national parks and nature reserves. They
are noted for their dense woods, moor lands and variety of wildlife. Some
Parco Pineta di Appiano Gentile e Tradate, Parco Regionale della Spina
Parco Regionale della Valle del Lambro. For extensive details of the parks
and reserves of the area visit http://www.parks.it/regione.lombardia/index.html#Como
Read about the award winning marina development on Lake Maggiore - Golfo
Gabella Resort where natural scenery, technological innovation and
sophisticated design combine to create a real estate development able
to compete on the global market. Winner of two Gold awards at the prestigious
Homes Overseas Awards for best Italian apartment and best interior designed
Sport and leisure in the Italian Lakes
The lakes are perfect for water sports. Lake Garda offers excellent windsurfing,
waterskiing and sailing facilities, as does Lake Como. Torbole, on Lake
Garda, is a particularly prime spot for windsurfing. The lakes also boast
a number of great beaches. The Italian Grand Prix is held on the second
Sunday in September at the Monza track, 15km northeast of Milan.
Spa resorts are popular throughout north Italy becuase of the abundant
supply of springs in the area. We have discovered a wonderful restoration
of a spa centre at Antiche
Cure di Ghiffa Residential Park, facing the splendid shores of Lake
Maggiore, is a piece of Paradise, the ideal place for those who are not
simply looking for a home, but a new way of living in time and space.
This extremely captivating building that used to host the ancient facilities
of "Cure Naturali di Ghiffa", is the core of the whole complex.
One of golf's best kept secrets is the availability of beautiful and challenging
golf courses in the lake area of Northern Italy, in particular around
Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta and Lake Varese. Near Milan, you can be playing
in delightful sunshine on a championship course against a background of
snow capped Alpine mountains. There are two new clubs near Lake Orta:
Castelconturbia, a triple-nine designed by Trent Jones, and Bogogno, with
its two courses designed by Robert von Hagge. For a more traditional atmosphere,
try Varese, with its clubhouse in a former monastery; and Villa d'Este,
set in beautiful woods beside little lake Montorfano.
One of the world's finest golf resorts is to be found in the luxurious
Palazzo Arzaga near Verona, with a golf academy, tennis courts and a spa.
For more details of the golf courses on offer in the lakes visit:
the north-west of Italy, Turin is one of the most convenient budget airports
for ski holidays. It is also the base for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Directly
west of Turin, and very close to the border with France, lies the Valle
di Susa, a valley on the Turin-Paris train line. In this area there are
several busy ski resorts, including Sauze d'Oulx, Bardonecchia and the
fashionable and modern Sestriere (2035m). Sestriere lies in the Valle
del Chisone, and is a well-developed resort with 20 ski-lifts, an ice-skating
rink and cross-country trails. Buses run to Sestriere from Turin; alternatively
local buses travel from Oulx station on the Turin-France railway.
Further north lies the Valle d'Aosta, a large area with a distinct identity
of its own. French is spoken here as well as Italian. Castles, pine forests
and wooden chalets shelter in the shadows of high peaks including some
of Europe's mightiest mountains: Gran Paradiso, Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn,
Monte Rosa. Courmayeur is one of Italy's best and most glamorous ski resorts;
offering masses of downhill skiing, ice-skating, cross-country skiing,
cable-cars, chairlifts and helicopters. The resort lies at the foot of
Mont Blanc, and caters for summer as well as winter skiing. Other good
destinations in this area include Breuil-Cervinia, the spa town St Vincent,
Pila and Cogne.
Over to the north-east of Italy are the Dolomites (Dolomiti), an extensive
mountain range offering countless possibilities for winter sports and
summer holidays. 12 different skiing areas are linked together to form
the 'Dolomiti Superski' network. Resorts in this area include the popular
Madonna di Campiglio and Cortina d'Ampezzo, one of the most well-known
ski resorts in Italy. For more details visit:
Walking in the Lakes
Menaggio is situated halfway up Lake Como, on the western shore. The tourist
information office can provide information about walks, and there are
plenty of hiking possibilities in the surrounding area, or just across
the narrow lake at Varenna.
Several buses a day run from Menaggio to Lugano (with its equally lovely
waters) and from Menaggio up to the modern hill village of Breglia. From
Breglia a well-signposted and popular route climbs up to Rifugio Menaggio
in under two hours where there are fine views of the lake. A tougher extension
continues to the summit of Monte Grona, with its big all-round panorama,
including snow-clad Monte Rosa to the east. A much shorter walk also heads
from Breglia through woods to the spectacularly sited chapel of San Domenico.
There is also a steep walk of about two hours from Croce, from there you
can either hike down a little alpine track to the lakeshore again via
Griante which is the village connected to Cadenabbia and Tremezzo, or
- for walkers who can cope with the challenge of a long day the domed
summit of Monte di Tremezzo (1700 metres) awaits. Descent from this is
long but easy, an old military road runs from just below this summit all
the way down to the slopes above Argegno.
There is also a most beautiful little walk, well signposted from Griante,
up alpine pastures - flowers and butterflies all the way - to the chapel
of San Martino, high on a big ledge above the lake.
Try walking at Varenna, the walk leads up a mule path (signposted from
the village) in under an hour to a ruined mediaeval castle perched right
above the settlement. From there you can also walk on, contouring through
woods and an olive grove, to the shortest river in Italy, Fiumelatte,
which rushes from a cave a couple of hundred feet above the village of
the same name. It takes an hour to get from the castle to this mysterious
Food and Wine
The area around the lakes has its own very distinct cuisine. Short grain
rice is used to make the very creamy and delicious Rissotto, which is
served in a variety of ways, the saffron yellow Risotto alla Milanese
is the most popular. Another bright yellow dish particular to the region,
is Polenta, made from maize meal this is served as an accompaniment to
many dishes. The region is also well known for the skill of its cheese
makers, with the wonderful Gorganzola and Bel Paese, and the creamy sweet
Mascarpone are some of the best known.
Getting to Lake Como
Fly to Milan, Bergamo or Verona with numerous airlines.
The A8 and A9 motorways link Milan to the Italian Lake Region
Como is on Italy's main railway network, and trains run from Milan to
Como frequently, taking around 40 minutes. They depart from Milan's Stazione
Centrale and Stazione Porta Garibaldi, and arrive at San Giovanni, Como's
Steamers, boats and buses serve all the main towns on Lake Como. A frequent
boat service connects the central resorts, Lenno, Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta,
Cadenabbia, Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna, including a car ferry. A less
frequent but faster boat travels the full length of the lake from Como
(with stops at most of the above). Buses run approximately hourly all
the way up the west coast from Como round to Colico at the north-east.
Getting to Lake Garda
Verona/Villafranca airport is situated approx. 10 km south west from the
city centre. For information: Tel 0039-0458095666 or www.aeroportoverona.it.
Ryanair fly to Brescia Airport, located 20 km from Brescia (and 52 km
from Verona), which is convenient for Lake Garda. There are a couple of
different bus shuttle services to Brescia bus station. One coincides with
Ryanair flights, and costs €15.49 return. The other runs 3-4 times
a day and costs €7.23 return.
From Verona Railway Station there is a shuttle-bus service to and from
the airport every 20 minutes. Tickets fare Euro 4,20. The Bus stop is
in front of the Railway Station. For information: APTV 0039-0458057911
For information: Tel 0039-0309656511 or www.aeroportobrescia.it
Lake Garda is reached by the A4 Motorway Serenissima (Milan-Venice –
exit Peschiera del Garda) or by the A22 (Motorway Brennero - Modena –
exit Rovereto or Affi ).
The main railway station is “Verona Porta Nuova”. Another
one is Peschiera del Garda on the Milan - Venice line. Trains run from
Brescia to Desenzano del Garda roughly every half hour. The journey takes
less than twenty minutes. From Verona there are frequent trains to Desenzano
del Garda from Verona Porta Nuova Station. For information about time
tables and prices: www.trenitalia.com.
From the Railway Station you can reach lake Garda by using regional bus
Bus information: APTV 0039-0458057911 – www.apt.vr.it.
Information about Lake Garda boating services:
Getting to Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is reachable by train from Milan and Turin, both of which
have airports served by UK budget airlines.
The A8 motorway connects Milan with Varese, south-east of Lago Maggiore.
Stresa is on the Domodossola-Milan train line. It is possible to go to
Locarno in Switzerland by train to Domodossola and then change trains.
You can ferry back from Locarno to Stresa.
Stresa is linked by bus to destinations around the lake (all of the western
shore) and also to Milan, Novara and Lago d'Orta. Buses depart from the
Ferries and Hydrofoils
All the western shore towns are connected by ferry and regular boats also
access the lake resorts and Villa Taranto. These are operated by Navigazione
Lago Maggiore (www.navlaghi.it, tel. 0323 30393 or toll free 800 551801).
The ticket office is in Stresa at the landing stage, Piazza Marconi 14-16.
There is a car ferry between Intra (Verbania) and Laveno (eastern shore).
Distances from Milan to:
Como 54 km
Bellagio 75 km
Stresa 88 km
Varenna 88 km
Sirmione 131 km
Distances from Como to:
Bergamo 99 km
Brescia 144 km
Verona 200 km
Venice 317 km
Rome 642 km
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