THE ITALIAN LAKES – WHY GO?
Heart-stoppingly beautiful, wreathed in Alpine air and fringed in lush gardens, the Italian Lakes can turn the coolest soul into an incurable romantic. Glittering beneath a backdrop of snow-dusted peaks, the region can come pretty close to heaven.
The lakes of Garda, Como, Maggiore and Iseo are the perfect antidote to city life. You can chug your way around the lakes on a steamer, calling in at tiny ports and stopping off for a lakeside picnic or a bottle of local Bardolino wine.
MUST SEE, MUST DO
Lake Como's famously glamorous shores lap at the jetties of opulent Belle Epoque villas. While visitors in the early 1900s had to scale the Simplon Pass to reach this scenic corner of Italy, Como now lies within easy reach. And celebrities including George Clooney have famously snapped up holiday homes there.
Como’s jewels include Varenna, whose tiny alleyways tumble down to the pine-shaded lakefront, and from where you can drift off across the lake on a steamer.
Poised centre-stage just where Como’s two long arms join up, Bellagio is a tableau of leafy promenades and streets of pastel-painted fin-de-siècle houses.
Lake Garda makes the ideal summertime base for music fans visiting Verona’s famous opera festival. Its Riviera shoreline is lined with pretty resorts, and there’s no better way to while away a sunny afternoon than taking a round-the-lake cruise aboard a steamer. The tourist honeypot of Sirmione has an undeniably lovely setting, while Gardone retains its olden-days elegance.
Malcesine boasts the steep funicular climbing the snow-laced slopes of Monte Baldo. Take a wrap – it's cool at the top – but the vistas are superb.
Smaller and less well known than its high-profile counterparts, Lake Iseo is for those in search of the quieter life. You can tour the lake by car, boat or along walking trails: there's a footpath leading down from the hotel I Due Roccoli to the lakeshore. Catch a local ferry to the island of Monte Isola from the town of Sale Marisimo, and hire a bike to pedal around – the island is largely traffic free. Be sure to visit Iseo's Friday market.
Lake Maggiore's lofty palms and oleander-lined promenades give it more of a Mediterranean vibe. Hop on a ferry to Isola Bella in the lake’s centre to visit the Borromean family palazzo and their over-the-top Baroque gardens – a riot of fountains and cherubs.
MAKE A DATE
International musicians and their fans flock to the yearly Lake Como festival, complete with fireworks.
Opera fans staying in the Lakes should snap up tickets for the Verona Opera Festival.
Take your earplugs and Ferrari flag to Monza when the Formula One circus comes to town.
Grab your deck shoes for the 100-mile, Centomiglia sailing regatta in Bogliaco, on Lake Garda.
ITALIAN LAKES ROMANCE
Have a mountaintop picnic at the peak of Monte Baldo, reached by funicular from Malcesine, and enjoy glittering views of the lake below.
Boutique Hotels in Italian Lakes
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