Il Bel Paese … no other county compares with its undulating vineyard-covered hillsides, charming medieval hill towns, 5000 miles of dramatic coastline, and the jutting alpine peaks of the Dolomites in the north. But Italy is also blessed with some of the most alluring lakes, views that will take your breath away.
What could be more beautiful than a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks? The Dolomites are home to some of the most stunning mountain lake scenery in the world.
Here are some of my favorites: Lago di Misurina, not far from Cortina (the formerly grand hotel at the far end of the lake puts me in mind of Wes Anderson’s film “Grand Hotel Budapest” J), Lago di Braies and Lago di Dobbiaco—all of which are easy to visit, no hiking required.
Italy’s most famous lake of all is Lago di Como. Considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe it is shaped like an upside-down Y with the ever-popular town of Bellagio at the top of the east and west fork.
One ferry stop northeast of Bellagio is the charming lakeside town of Varenna.
Take a 45-minute hike from town to discover the Castle of Vizio, with its spectral inhabitants, captivating carved figures and splendid vistas.
Lago di Garda is Italy’s largest lake and a favorite of cyclists and sporting enthusiasts. It features many fairy-tale lakeside towns, especially further north.
At the southernmost point you’ll find the popular resort town of Sirmione with its iconic medieval castle.
Lake Maggiore, less than an hour from Milan and often overlooked for the glamour of Lake Como, is a favorite of mine with its old-world charm and quiet air of sophistication.
I especially love its beautiful Borromean islands—Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori in particular—which you can get to by ferry from the town of Stresa on the lake’s western shore.
An undiscovered jewel not to be missed west of Lago di Maggiore in Piemonte, is the picture-perfect Lake Orta, which (thankfully) remains one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
Nestled between the northern cities of Bergamo and Brescia in the Franciacorta wine region is Lago d’Iseo with its quaint villages and lovely lakeside promenades.
Central Italy is also blessed with three particularly stunning lakes. Lago di Trasimeno is in the green heart of Umbria, amid beds of reeds and white water lilies. It’s shallow and abundant in fish —19 different species — and is home to wild ducks, cormorants, and kingfishers.
Lazio’s Lake Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe, formed by a great eruption 370,000 years ago. Encircled by a crown of hills, its shores are dotted with enchanting medieval villages. Rarely overcrowded and abundant with beautiful black volcanic sands and crystal-clear waters, it is a favorite getaway for Italians and bird watchers. (You can reach it easily from Rome or Orvieto.)
A half-hour drive from Rome, you will reach another volcanic beauty—Lake Bracciano—and feel transported to another world. Romans looking for a quick escape from the city enjoy its exceptionally clean waters and its quietude—powerboats are banned. Surrounded by greenery, olive groves, quaint villages and the imposing Orsini Odescalchi Castle (a popular spot for lux weddings), it is also a favorite spot for bird watchers.
Italy’s lakes are gleaming jewels not to be missed in a country already rich in a multitude of natural treasures!