Lakes in Northern Italy
Countless tourists flock to Italy and go no further than the historic and art-filled cities of Rome and Florence. Others swoon their way through Venice, never looking further afield. But thousands more, many of whom couldn’t care less about art or history, flood the banks of Italy’s lakes each year. And once you’ve set eyes on the lakes in Italy’s northern regions, you may well understand the devotion.
There are several lakes in northern Italy which are, taken together, considered the country’s lakes district. A few of the lakes garner more attention than the others, but there are lots of smaller lakes in the area which are also beautiful and may be less crowded – especially in the high season. Take note that if you’re planning a trip to Italy’s lakes during the busiest summer season, you’ll want to be sure to book well in advance. In addition to the American tourists who are catching on to the appeal of the lakes of Italy, the bulk of the tourist influx to this region in the summer comes from Germany and the United Kingdom, so no lake town is left deserted in summer.
Because several of these Italian lakes are easily reachable from cities like Milan and Venice, they make not only great day-trips for tourists but popular weekend getaways for locals – which means that they’re often crowded with as many (or more) Italians as visitors. The climate around the lakes tends to be a bit more moderate than the surrounding regions further from the water, but the winters are still likely to be chilly. The summer months are easily the busiest on any of the lakes in Italy, so if you’re looking for a balance of nice weather and not as many tourists, try for either June or September – but be sure to still book ahead!
Northern Italy’s Major Lakes
- Lago di Como, or Lake Como – Lake Como, possibly Italy’s most beloved lake, is home to international celebrities and all kinds of beautiful people. It’s shaped more or less like an upside-down “Y,” and sits entirely within the Lombardy region. Lake Como towns worth noting are Como, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Menaggio, and Varenna.
- Lago Maggiore, or Lake Maggiore – Lago Maggiore is Italy’s second-largest lake, and one of its most popular with visitors. The lake stretches from the Ticino canton of Switzerland down into the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy, and runs about 65km long. Some of the towns along the shores of Lake Maggiore which are worth noting are Stresa, Cannobio, Arona, Verbania, and Baveno.
- Lago di Garda, or Lake Garda – Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, and touches three northern regions: Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto, and Lombardy. It’s about halfway between Venice and Milan, making it a great day-trip destination from either direction. Notable towns along Lake Garda are Riva del Garda, Garda, Sirmione, Malcesine, and Desenzano del Garda.
- Lago d’Iseo, or Lake Iseo – Lake Iseo really takes a back seat to its more popular neighbor lakes, but if you’re looking for Italian lake charm without the tourist hordes this is definitely one to consider. This lake is entirely within Lombardy, and a few of the noteworthy towns along the shores are Iseo, Sarnico, Riva di Solto, Lovere, and Marone.
- Lago d’Orta, or Lake Orta – Lake Orta, in the Piedmont region of Italy, is another oft-forgotten Italian lake. It’s quite small, but it’s not far from Lake Maggiore so it’s easy to combine visits to both lakes. Some of the Lake Orta towns worth noting are Orta San Giulio, Omegna, Ameno, and Armeno.
- Lago di Lugano, or Lake Lugano – Lake Lugano lies mostly in Switzerland, but it ducks in and out of Italy on both ends. In Italy, the lake lies in the Lombardy region. It gets its name from the primary Swiss town on its banks, but some of the Italian towns on Lake Lugano worth noting are Valsolda and Porlezza, and the “exclave” of Campione d’Italia, which is completely surrounded by Switzerland.