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Lakes & Como
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Map showing Parma in ItalyWhy choose the Italian Lakes?
“One can't describe the beauty of the Italian Lakes, nor would one try if one could," wrote Henry James. The extravagant beauty of the Italian Lakes: Como, Garda and Maggiore has attracted visitors since the times of the Roman Empire, inspiring poets, writers, and musicians with idyllic landscapes of tranquil lakes ringed by soaring snow capped mountains which descend to meet the lakeshores.

The property market in the Italian Lakes
The Italian market now accounts for 9 per cent of all overseas property sales in Britain, making it as popular a choice of location as France. Property in the popular Lake Como area usually achieves a healthy resale value but, as in all scenic parts of Italy, prices can be steep. Last year a three-bedroom villa with a lake view, private terrace, cellar and covered car parking space sold for €475,000. Small two-bedroom apartments in the Lake Como and Lake Maggiore areas, with lake views and access to a pool and tennis court were selling for €350,000-plus last year. Because this region is so popular with Italians and so close to the Alps, property prices rise more quickly than most other parts of Italy.

All About the Italian Lakes

Lake Como

Our Lakes Service
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Lake Como
Lake ComoLake 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 Boletto.

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 night-time fireworks.

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.

Bellano 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.

Lake Garda
Lake Garda 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
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 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
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
Lake Maggiore 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 Gabella, Cure di Ghiffa and near pretty towns such as Maccagno, Ghiffa and also near Laveno.
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 suggestions are:
Parco Pineta di Appiano Gentile e Tradate, Parco Regionale della Spina Verde and
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

Golfo Gabella 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 apartment.

 

 

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

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.

 

Golf
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:
http://www.e-golftravel.com/italy/courses.htm#como

http://www.golfing.it/golflake.shtml

http://www.mastergolf.it/Milan.html

http://www.golfitalia.co.uk/italianlakes_golf.htm

Skiing
Sestriere  in the Valle del ChisoneIn 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:

http://www.venere.com/cgi/search/big_area.php?area_tag=alps&lg=en&ref=2960

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 river.

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

By Air
Fly to Milan, Bergamo or Verona with numerous airlines.

By Car
The A8 and A9 motorways link Milan to the Italian Lake Region

By Train
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 main station.

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

By Air
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 – www.apt.vr.it.
For information: Tel 0039-0309656511 or www.aeroportobrescia.it

By car
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 ).

By train
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 lines.
Bus information: APTV 0039-0458057911 – www.apt.vr.it.

Information about Lake Garda boating services:
www.navigazionelaghi.it

Getting to Lake Maggiore

By Air
Lake Maggiore is reachable by train from Milan and Turin, both of which have airports served by UK budget airlines.

By Car
The A8 motorway connects Milan with Varese, south-east of Lago Maggiore.

By Train
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.

By Bus
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 waterfront.

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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buy house in italy italian villas, italy farmhouse a place in the sun italy
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buy house in italy italian villas, italy farmhouse a place in the sun italy