Lake Maggiore in Italy

Visiting Italy is an experience that you will cherish for a lifetime. From the spiritual home of Christianity to the fashion capital of the world, Italy has an eccentric dichotomy to it.

As a melting point of art, history, and modernity, Italy continues to be one of the most visited places on the planet. In 2014, nearly 49 million tourists visited Italy and the numbers have only swelled since.

There are quite a few tourist attractions in Italy that covering them in a single blog post is a tall order. However, as this one is dedicated to lake travel, Italy sure doesn’t disappoint on this front too! With easy visa requirements to Italy ensuring you have a hassle-free trip, check out our guide to the perfect Italian lake holidays.

The Best Time to Visit Italy’s Spectacular Lakes

Italy’s magnificent lakes shine in different seasons, each offering their own charm and activities. While summer sees peak crowds, the weather allows full enjoyment of the water sports, beaches, gardens and Alpine trails. Travel during shoulder seasons of spring and fall for fewer crowds and pleasant weather, though some attractions may have reduced hours. Each lake region has microclimates, so check for rainfall and temperatures at specific lakes.

Spring still carries a chill in higher elevation lakes like Lake Como, best visited later from May to June when flowers bloom and before summer crowds. The warmer lakes like Garda and Maggiore welcome swimmers by April. Autumn dazzles with fall foliage reflecting on Lake Orta or Trasimeno’s crisper sunlit days.

By November, most lakes grow quiet when rain or mist shrouds the mountains. Winter is least crowded but freezing temperatures limit outdoor activities, though Christmas lights glitter from December through January before the snow comes and ferries reduce schedules. Whenever you decide to travel, Italy’s lakes offer inspiring beauty.

Most Beautiful Lakes in Italy

1. Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como gets its name from the Como province in Lombardy, Italy. Known for its celebrity residents (many famous celebrities have their mansions here!), the lake comes to life in summers.

Getting to Lake Como is easy, as it is just an hour’s drive away from Milan. Getting around at the lake is easy, with easy availability of boats and steamers. Most tourists head to the nearby towns of Bellagio, Como, Menaggio, and Varenna for sightseeing and affordable accommodation.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Bellagio, Varenna, Como, Brunate, Villa Carlotta, Villa Balbianello
Best For: Glamour, romance, luxury escapes
What to Do: Take ferry boat tours, stay at lavish lakefront villas, soak up alpine views on funicular rides, explore elegant gardens, sample world-class Italian cuisine

2.Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is one of the most popular lakes of Italy, and its popularity dates to the 19th century. It remained a favorite tourist destination for the affluent families of Italy, and it has never gone out of vogue since then.

Located under Mount Rosa, Lake Maggiore is easily accessible from Milan and Piedmont. As Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and largest of the pre-Alpines, it is quite popular among travelers from around the world.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Stresa, Borromean Islands, Cannero Riviera, Ascona, Locarno
Best For: Island hopping, breathtaking scenery, tranquil escapes
What to Do: Tour the Borromean Islands by boat, soak up old world charm in lakeside towns, sample locally grown wine and cheese, play golf along the lake


3.Lake Garda

Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, and the most varied. Stretching from north to the south, Lake Garda offers tourists varied terrains. Many adventure activities are available to tourists including sailing, windsurfing, rappelling, and mountain biking. The lakeside towns serve as the perfect place for spending some quality time with family and friends. The best towns to stay around Lake Garda include Sirmione, Riva del Garda, Gardone Riviera, and Malcesine.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Sirmione, Riva del Garda, Desenzano del Garda, Limone sul Garda, Gardaland
Best For: Windsurfing, hiking, family vacations
What to Do: Sail, windsurf or kayak on the lake, cycle mountain trails, tour olive oil farms and vineyards, explore well-preserved castles and Roman ruins

4.Lake Orta

Lake Orta

If you haven’t heard about Lake Orta till now, you are not alone! This is precisely the reason why we have this lake up on our list, as it is a hidden gem devoid of the chaos that sometimes engulfs other Italian lakes. Less number of tourists should not be equated with dearth of sightseeing and accommodation – the lake is as scenic and picturesque as it gets.

If you are looking for a peaceful retreat, you can stay in the beautiful town of Orta San Giulio. The cobbled streets and beautiful village houses will remain with you as a poignant memory for a long time.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Orta San Giulio, Sacro Monte di Orta, Isola San Giulio
Best For: Undiscovered romantic escapes, island time travel
What to Do: Wander medieval streets on Isola San Giulio, admire the baroque architecture on Sacro Monte di Orta, photograph dreamy lake vistas, sample regional food and wine


5.Lake Iseo

Lake Iseo

Like Lake Orta, Lake Iseo is also frequented than other lakes in Italy, but the reason it is on our list is because of its sheer beauty and sightseeing activities. The hills adjoining the lake make for a memorable amateur hiking experience, but for serious hikers, the challenging trail of Punta Almana with the promise of majestic views of Monte Isola is there to be taken. Talking about food options, a visit to Lake Iseo is considered incomplete if you haven’t tasted tinca or tecnh fish in Clusane. We highly recommend giving the dish a try, as the fish directly comes from Lake Iseo.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Monte Isola, Sulzano, Lovere, Sarnico, Zone
Best For: Cycling holidays, off-the-beaten-path adventures
What to Do: Hike and bike on Monte Isola, visit hilltop castles, explore tiny Franciacorta vineyards and wine cellars

6. Lake Bolsena

Oval-shaped Lake Bolsena has a fascinating volcanic history, forming over 300,000 years ago following a massive eruption that led to the collapse of the mouth of the vast volcanic crater that once stood here. Today, two tiny islands – Bisentina and Martana – dot the lake, remnants of volcanoes within the crater. The lake offers plenty for visiting travelers, including lakeside medieval towns where narrow stone lanes show off ancient churches and castles with stunning lake views.

Don’t miss a laidback meal of the local lake fish while gazing out over the sparkling water. Go for scenic hikes along the lush, forested shores to discover tiny coastal villages seemingly lost in time before capping it off with an evening passeggiata lakeside promenade.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Bolsena, Montefiascone, Capodimonte, Marta, Bisentina Island
Best For: Volcanic lake adventures, island castles and villages
What to Do: Swim in the lake’s warm sulfurous waters, hike through lush nature reserves along the shore, explore maritime history

7. Lake Trasimeno

Lake Trasimeno provides a unique Norwegian-esque experience amongst central Italy’s landscape of rolling hills. Its relatively shallow waters dotted with three islands offer breathtaking fjord-like views. The attractive lake town of Passignano sul Trasimeno makes an idyllic, tranquil base to explore the islands and surrounding countryside while feasting on freshwater fish from the lake.

Magione and Tuoro are other lakeside towns worth exploring to absorb their ambiance. Take a ferry out to visit Isola Maggiore to explore its quaint fishing village with narrow cobblestoned streets and 15th century ruins before stopping at uninhabited Isola Polvese to discover impressive birdlife.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Passignano sul Trasimeno, Tuoro sul Trasimeno and Isola Maggiore Island
Best For: Norwegian-style fjord landscapes in Italy, peaceful escapes
What to Do: Island hop to Isola Maggiore, cycle along rural roads, visit Olive oil farms, enjoy fresh lake fish dishes

8. Lake Bracciano

Lake Bracciano offers the classic combination of alluring mountainous scenery, historic hilltop villages and a glittering blue lake dotted with tiny islands – along with the bonus of Trevignano Romano’s popular beach. This lakeside town provides an easy homebase for your explorations where you can soak up the lively atmosphere or relax along stretches of manmade beaches created from imported sand.

Don’t miss Bracciano’s impressive medieval era castle and take a ferry to explore unspoilt Isola di Martana. For amazing panoramic views hike high into nature along trails in the surrounding Monti Sabatini park before returning to the glittering waters of the lake as the sun sets behind the hills.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Trevignano Romano, Anguillara Sabazia, Bracciano
Best For: Beach vacations and water sports by a lake
What to Do: Swim along Trevignano Romano’s popular lake beach, sail to Martana Island, tour Bracciano’s medieval castle

9. Lake Albano

Nestled below steep forested slopes around 20 miles south of Rome awaits the hidden gem of Lake Albano. Encircled by the craters and woods of the Colli Albani, this scenic crater lake offers a convenient escape to nature from the nearby capital. The lake stretches out next to Castel Gandolfo, renowned for its Papal palace.

Follow scenic hiking trails through the hilly nature reserves above the lake’s largely undeveloped shores blanketed in chestnut and oak forests then descend to Stunning views over the tranquil emerald waters. Unwind lakeside in the posh village of Castel Gandolfo or continue further to the ruins of magnificent Roman emperor Domitian’s villa.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Castel Gandolfo, Albano Laziale, Ariccia
Best For: Easy lake getaways from Rome, hikes with panoramas
What to Do: Tour the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo, follow scenic trails past waterfalls in parklands above the lake

10. Lake Viverone

Tucked away in a valley of the Italian Prealps in northwest Italy just 50km from Turin lies the gleaming Lake Viverone. Surrounded by gentle hills and mountains, Viverone attracts travelers looking for an active outdoor getaway centered around its aquamarine waters. The lake is especially popular for watersports like windsurfing, kayaking, pedal boating and swimming during the summer months.

Lake Viverone’s eastern shoreline features an appealing crescent-shaped beach and lakeside promenade bustling with cafes and attractions like an amusement park. Use the small town of Viverone with its colorful buildings as your base for exploration then spend languid days soaking up spectacular views across the lake to the majestic snow-capped Monte Rosa massif.

Places to Visit Near Lake: Viverone, Azeglio, Roppolo Natural Reserve
Best For: Watersports holidays with Alpine views
What to Do: Windsurf, stand up paddleboard or kayak on the lake, relax along Viverone beach and lakefront promenade, take in mountain views on gentle hikes

These were some of the best places to visit in Italy as far as lake travel is concerned. There are many other top lakes in Italy that haven’t made to this list, as we have made a conscious effort to give you a mix of popular lakes and those that are less frequented. You can share your Italy lake travel experience with our readers.

Frequently Asked questions

What is the best way to travel between the lakes?

The most scenic option is to travel by rail between the lakes, choosing trains with lake view cars when possible. High-speed train lines connect Milan to Lake Como and Lake Garda. From Milan or Verona, regional trains run to Lake Garda with stops in towns like Desenzano del Garda. For Lake Maggiore, the fast trains stop at Arona. Driving also allows flexibility for stopping at small towns, taking ferries, and accessing more remote nature access points.

When is the best time to take a lake cruise?

The peak cruise season runs from April through October when the weather is mildest and you’ll have the most schedule options. Boats may have enclosed and open upper decks. July and August have the most frequent daily departures but also the most crowds. Shoulder months like May, June or September are still warm and less crowded. Cruising is limited from November to March when storms or fog can occur.

Which lakes are closest to which major airports?

The closest major lake to Milan airports is Lake Como, around an hour drive. From Milan, Lake Garda can be reached in 1.5 hours and Lake Maggiore in just over an hour. From Venice airport, count a 1.5 hour drive to Lake Garda while Lake Maggiore is just over 2 hours. Those flying into Rome can reach Lake Bracciano in 1 hour and Lake Albano in under 40 minutes.

What is the best way to experience the islands on Italy’s lakes?

Taking ferries is the most relaxing way to explore Lake Como’s Bellagio, Lake Maggiore’s Borromean Islands, and tiny islands like Isola San Giulio or Isola Maggiore. Opt for hop on, hop off ferries to set your schedule. Tours allow guided walks through opulent island villas and gardens. Renting kayaks also paddling out for island picnics. Just ensure islands have public access, as some exclusive ones are privately owned.

Do the lakes get cold for swimming?

Lakes set in higher mountain elevations like Lake Como and Maggiore stay cold year-round, reaching around 75°F at most in late summer. The warmer lakes with lower elevations and adjacent mountains like Garda and Trasimeno can get quite comfortable for most, up to 84°F or warmer. Pack a wetsuit to comfortably swim year-round, especially if you have kids. The peak open water swimming season is July and August.

What towns offer the best nightlife at Italy’s lakes?

Lake Garda has the liveliest nightlife scene, especially in revamped harbor fronts in towns like Desenzano, Peschiera, and Sirmione. Pubs and dance clubs cluster here, popular with younger crowds. Also try fashionable Riva Del Garda or Limone sul Garda. On Lake Como, seek out scenic rooftop cocktail bars in Bellagio. For late dining and drinks choose Cernobbio or Villa d’Este resort. Lake Maggiore offers bustling summer events and nightlife in Verbania and Stresa.

2 thoughts on “Best Lakes in Italy for an Unforgettable Lifetime Travel Experience”

  1. Lake Orta is my favorite as well. Might be the smallest and less known of the pack, but that means it’s also less crowded, and has the same amazing scenery as his more popular siblings.

    1. Hi Dan. Yes, lake Orta is less known, but one of the most beautiful or you can say an offbeat place in Italy. It was wonderful time I have spent with my dear ones 🙂

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