A Guide to the Italian Lakes

The Italian Lakes region offers an endless supply of artful landscapes, surrounded by Italian design and Michelin-star restaurants. A popular holiday destination since Roman times, there are five major lakes, each with its own particular character for you to uncover. Discover more about each one here.


Lake Maggiore

Boasting spectacular views with imposing mountains and green hills, forts and villas. Lake Maggiore has long been a popular destination for European nobility since the days of the “Grand Tour”. Today the lake is a peaceful location with some fantastic walking and biking routes and golfing locations. Isola Bella is a definite highlight, with a Baroque palazzo and terraced gardens commanding impressive views, the best vantage point being from Stresa, which overlooks the Borromean Islands.

Discover Lake Maggiore from both Italy and Switzerland on our Italian Lakes & Swiss Mountains Small Group Journey.

Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore from bird view

Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore

Lake Orta

Located in the Piedmont region lies the captivating Lake Orta. Discover the picturesque medieval villages of Orta San Giulia, Omegna and Pettenasco overlooking the marina and take a boat trip to Isola San Giulio, which is home to a monastery that still houses a community of nuns. It may be one of the small lakes, but its tranquil atmosphere makes for an ideal romantic getaway.

Lake Como

One of the most famous, stylish Lake Como attracts its fair share of celebrities and tourists. Voted as one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the world, it’s no surprise why. Hemmed by mountains with traditional Italian lakefront villages, impressive villas, and stunning gardens. Bellagio is one of the most famous villages to check out, as are Varenna and Menaggio. If you are a James Bond fan you will want to visit Villa del Balbianello featured in Casino Royale. We recommend you enjoy a lunch at Isola Comacina the lakes only island and George Clooney’s favourite eating spot.

Italy, Lake Como, Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello at Lake Como featured in Casino Royale

Lake Iseo

While Lake Iseo is the smallest of the lakes in the Lombardy region it boasts the biggest lake island, Monte Isola. The island has a peak of 600 metres above sea level and is sprinkled with picturesque fishing villages. While you are there make sure to take a trip to nearby Franciacorta, producing the country’s finest sparkling wine.

Italy, Lake Iseo

Italy, Lake Iseo

Lake Garda

As Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda boasts crystal clear waters and a great diversity of landscapes – from gentle hills in the south, to the cliffs of the Dolomites that fringe the waters in the north. The lake is an outdoor enthusiast dream, offering tourists a number of sports from windsurfing and canyoning, to mountain biking and hikes.

Unwind in the thermal baths at Sirmione or eat your heart out at one of the lakeside cafes or restaurants. You can also discover glimpses of the past at locations such as Vittoriale degli Italiani where one of Italy’s greatest poets once resided, and Castello Scaligero where Goethe was briefly imprisoned in 1786.


Discover these lakes and more on our Highlights of Italy (North) and Italian Lakes & Swiss Mountains Tours.