Italian Lakes

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The Italian Lake District is made up of four principal lakes. Lake Maggiore, home to the town of Stresa, is the furthest west (35 miles long, its tip is in Switzerland). Smaller Lake Lugano (22 miles long) is named after its principal city and lies mostly in Switzerland. Lake Como, perhaps Italy’s most famous lake (around 29 miles long) is home to the beloved “pearl” of the lake: the village of Bellagio. Furthest east is Lake Garda (around 37 miles long), home of towns Sirmione, Riva, and Garda. Two smaller lakes that deserve a little more attention include tiny Lake Orta in Piedmont and Lake Iseo, just west of Lake Garda.

Italian Lakes Cities and Regions

Lake Como

Ringed with immense villas and formal gardens, some dating to the 16th century, the glitziest of the lakes attracts wealthy Milanese as well as celebrities like Donatella Versace and George Clooney.

Lake Garda

A mecca for windsurfers and walkers alike, Lake Garda sits in three provinces: Trento, Brescia and Verona. Serious hikers head north into mountainous Trentino-Alto Adige while families converge on Gardaland, Italy’s largest theme park.

Lake Maggiore

The most natural of the lakes – until you reach the town of Stresa and the three Borromean Islands. Loved and occasionally loathed (composer Faure complained that Isola Bella had been tortured into artificiality) the islands are a must-see attraction. Maggiore divides two Italian regions, Piedmont and Lombardy, while its northern tip sits in Ticino, Italian Switzerland.

Lake Iseo

This lesser-known lake, just west of Lake Garda, surrounds Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Europe, popular for its ancient olive and chestnut groves and uninterrupted lake views. Vino lovers keep south for the lush wine-growing region of the Franciacorta.

Lake Orta

Small and tranquil, Orta is a world away from the glitz and crowds of the other lakes. It lies 18 miles west of Lake Maggiore and is separated from it by the mighty Mottarone mountain. The pastel-painted lakeside town of San Giulio d’Orta and the beautiful Island of San Giulio are the draws.

Lake Lugano

Chic and quiet, even during high season, this principally Swiss lake is surrounded by rounded mountain peaks, most of which are accessible via rack railways or cable cars for superb Alpine vistas.

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