Lake Country Travel Guide

Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda emit their unique sparkle onto the magnificent surrounding landscape, and attract diverse tourists to their banks. Younger travellers relish the sailing and nightlife experience of Lake Garda; Maggiore is enjoyed from the comfort of luxury hotels; sophisticates from Milan escape to the villas and small towns of Lake Como.

Lake Garda is the most popular of Italy's northern lakes and has a temperate climate to complement its magnificent setting. The lake towns of Riva, Gardone Riviera and Sirmione can be reached via buses, hydrofoils and ferries from Desenzano, and are thoroughly enchanting. In particular, Sirmione's Roman ruins and magnificent medieval castle will appeal to those of a romantic bent, and the Sirmione Spa offers invigorating therapy through its sulphurous waters. Gardone Riviera was once the playground of the rich and famous and is now the recreational haunt for many tourists. The hills beyond Gardone are perfect for walking amid the fragrance of lemon groves, and the alpine cliffs are a great spot from which to hike and mountain bike, with the picturesque pebble beaches below providing a slower, more languid and more tranquil holiday experience.

Lake Maggiore is the preferred holiday destination of the elite, the resort town of Stresa a haven for the Italians, French and Germans who flock to its cobbled streets to appreciate the spectacular mountain and lake views. Just a heartbeat away from Lake Maggiore lie the splendid Borromean Isles. Daily excursion tickets enable adventurous travellers to hop between the islands at their leisure. Of these isles, the Isola Bella is the most visited. Its claim to fame is the magnificent Baroque palace, the Palazzo e Giardini Borromeo, which is replete with priceless masterpieces, tapestries, furniture and paintings. The terraced gardens reach their dramatic apex with the unicorn, the Borromeo family emblem. The Borromeo bambini doll collection resides on Isola Madre, as do a number of portraits of the family. A magnificent botanical garden flows from the house, and includes many exotic trees, plants and flowers.

Craggy backdrops frame Lake Como and magnificent villas festooned with bougainvillea are perched on its banks. Three long lakes converge to form Lake Como, joining in the Centro Lago area with the four towns of Bellagio, Tremezzo, Menaggio and Varenna. These are visited via the boats and buses connecting the towns. Cultural areas of interest include Como's duomo, the former communal palace, the Broletto and the Church of San Fedele. Scenic vistas can be explored from a funicular to Brunate, while hiking trails lead off from here with overnight accommodation en route in the form of modest guesthouses. Across the lake is the Tempio Voltiano, a memorial museum devoted to Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery. There is an outdoor market in Como every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and the whole day on Sunday.