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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Italian Lakes

Things to do in the Italian Lakes

Among the most famous of the Italian Lakes are Garda, Como and Maggiore, all offering the opportunity to soak up the scenic atmosphere and get on the water. You can visit stunning lakeside castles, enjoy watersports, or meander down elegant cobbled-streets. Whichever lake takes your fancy, many boats service the area and a bit of village-hopping is highly recommended.

Stunning lakeside villas and castles

Lake Como is considered the most glamorous of the Italian Lakes, thanks to the remarkable villas that jut out from the lakeside. Some are private residences but others are open to visitors. The most famous of them all is Villa del Balbianello located on a stunning wooded peninsula in the commune of Lenno, visitable by boat.

The villa was built in the 18th century and is surrounded by elegant terraced gardens from where you can admire the striking mountains of the Lombardy region. You might even recognise it from Casino Royale and the lake retreat scenes in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.

Sublime Lake Maggiore is home to the Borromean Islands and, if you're staying in the main area, Stresa, it's easy to get to by boat. The islands boast terraced gardens and aristocratic villas.

The largest of all the lakes, Garda surrounds the famous Scaliger Castle, which sits on Sirmione promontory. Dating back to the 13th century, the large fortress is surrounded by water. You can take a walk across the drawbridge that leads to the walkways above the walls that used to shelter the Scaliger fleet.

Historic villages

Adorning the lakes are a host of picturesque villages, all offering something unique. Wherever your base is, regular boats and buses during peak season are a great way to look around.

Lake Garda is a lake of contrasts, with green hills in the south and steep rugged mountains in the north beginning at lovely Gargnano. Further north sits one of the most picturesque villages you'll come across, Limone. Named after the lemon trees that grow in the region, it's best approached from the water so you can take in the full splendour of the Italian buildings perched on the side of the steep cliff face.

Lake Como is best known for an area called Bellagio fondly named the 'pearl of the lake'. It's a gorgeous area brimming with fantastic restaurants, cafes and high-end shops among the centuries-old buildings that cluster the maze of cobbled streets. You can also enjoy panoramic views of the lake from here.

Windsurfing, kayaking and sunbathing

Whether you're into hiking, sailing or swimming, book Italian Lakes holidays for fantastic opportunities to get active. Bellagio is great for kayaking, with tours beginning at Pescallo harbour beach to visit hidden nature spots, passing aristocratic villas alongside Bellagio promenade. Other tours include kayaking across the lake to Villa del Balbianello or the town of Varenna.

Lake Garda is the perfect spot for sailing and windsurfing because of the constant winds. One of the most striking spots and best catered areas is Riva del Garda and Malcesine in the north, where the rugged mountains feature as the stunning backdrop. Courses are available for adults and children.

There are also many wonderful hiking trails throughout the lakes including in Varenna and Menaggio beside Lake Como. You can beat your own path or join a guided route. Around many of the villages are lovely lakeside beaches, which either belong to a hotel or are open to the public, providing idyllic sunbathing and swimming opportunities. And with no saltwater getting in your eyes, holidays in the Italian Lakes are sure to be a pleasurable experience.