Italian Lakes

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Historic towns, villas, and villages satisfy any culture vulture, while the outdoor sporting possibilities on and around each of the lakes are endless. Music and film festivals, local events, and sporting competitions are held throughout the year on every lake.

Things to do in Italian Lakes

Beautiful Bergamo

20 miles west of Lake Iseo, Bergamo is one of the most striking Medieval and Renaissance towns in Lombardy. The upper half of the city (Bergamo Alta) is where architectural gems like the 15th century Piazza Vecchia and the 12th century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore are found.

Lake Iseo, www.apt.bergamo.it
Tags: things to do

Centovalli Railway

This tiny train creaks and weaves its way along a single track through the lush, unspoiled so-called Centovalli (the “Hundred Valleys” from Locarno to Domodossola). Take some refreshments – the slow, scenic trip takes around 2 hours – and go early to avoid the summer crush.

Locarno station, Lake Maggiore, 011-41-91-756-0400, www.centovalli.ch
Tags: family | things to do | train

Gardaland

Italy's largest amusement park lies by the shores of Lake Garda, and offers attractions in four categories: fantasy, adventure, energy, and live shows. Rides include six roller coasters and seven water rides. Open Easter through September and select weekends in the winter.

Strada Statale Gardesana Orientale, Veneto, 011-39-045-644-9777, www.gardaland.it
Tags: family | things to do | amusement park

Get Active

Take windsurfing lessons at Torbole on Lake Garda, a mecca for board lovers across Europe. If you don’t surf, it’s still a fun and youthful place to hang out after sunset. Try Conca Windsurf for lessons and board rental.

Conca Windsurf, Lake Garda, Lungo Lago Verona 6, 011-39-0464-548-192, www.windsurfconca.com
Tags: water sports | things to do

Isole Borromeo

These three islands off the resort town of Stresa are Lake Maggiore’s most visited attractions. Isola Madre is the Borrommeo family home. Charles Dickens dubbed the Baroque splendor of Isola Bella “fanciful and fantastic.” And the tiny Isola dei Pescatori is almost perfectly picturesque. Use the public ferries from Stresa or the more costly taxi boats.

Lake Maggiore, Stresa Tourism, Piazza Marconi 16, 011-39-0323-30150, www.distrettolaghi.it
Tags: historic | things to do | outdoors | gardens

Locanda San Vigilio

If you’re priced out of staying at this tiny and very exclusive 16th-century villa, you should at least experience lunch at their lakeside Taverna, enjoy an almost complete view of the lake, swim in the Bay of Sirens, or snooze under ancient olive trees.

Lake Garda, Punta San Vigilio, 011-39-045-7256688, www.locanda-sanvigilio.it
Tags: luxury | expensive | smart splurge | things to do | resort

Orta San Giulio

Get away from the crowds and spend a morning ambling through this exquisite, traffic-free town on Lake Orta. After a leisurely lunch, rent a boat (numerous rental boats are available on the lakeside) and row for 30 minutes over to Isola San Giulio to tour the island’s 10th-century basilica.

Lake Orta, Tourist consortium, via Panoramica, 011-39-0322-905-163, www.distrettolaghi.it
Tags: historic | things to do | outdoors | outdoor activity

Silk Shopping

For 600 years Como was the principal production center for silk in Italy, and you can still buy quality silk clothing and accessories made here – and at good prices.

La Tessitura, Lake Como, Viale Roosevelt 2/A, 011-39-031-321-666, www.latessitura.com
Tags: shopping | things to do

Sirmione

Lake Garda’s spa town boasts an almost perfectly preserved 13th-century castle and some of the most impressive Roman ruins in northern Italy, the Grotto di Cattulo. For a day of spa treatments, head to the Aquaria at the Centro Benessere Termale.

Aquaria, Lake Garda, piazza Don A.Piatti 1, 011-39-030-916-044, www.termedisirmione.com
Tags: historic | things to do

Villa visit on Lake Como

Hop on and off lake ferries to visit 17th- and 18th-century villas and secluded gardens. Make it easy and informative by booking a guide to accompany you on the ferry, which leaves from Como town.

Lake Como, From Como to the Centre of the Lake tour, 011-39 -0341-184-0157, www.lakeofcomo.info
Tags: historic | things to do | outdoors | tour | gardens

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