With the ease of Italian sprezzatura, the lakes of Lombardia will charm even the most experienced world traveler. A French Riviera atmosphere in a Swiss setting, the alpine lakes of Northern Italy ooze with luxury and beauty. But it’s the luck of serendipity and your own personal findings that will make the trip memorable.
1 Lake Garda. How do you approach a destination so famous and, alas, crowded with tourists as Lake Garda? You find your own places. Like the residence of Gabriele d’Annunzio in Gardone Riviera, the former home of an Italian adventurer, chock full of artifacts showcasing his eccentric life style. Or you drive beyond the western shore’s mountain tunnels, featured in the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace”, and base your stay at Riva del Garda, exploring the northern part of the lake.
2 Lake Iseo. Situated west of Garda, Lake Iseo is in many ways the opposite to its bigger brother. The rather anonymous lake, locally known as Sebino, is the one attracting least tourists. Set course towards Sarnico, Marone or Iseo for a refreshing antidote to the mainstream crowds of Sirmione. Browse the local markets, selling everything from fish to vintage clothing, and go for a late day espresso. Hike the surrounding hills and take a long walk along the lakeside.
3 Lake Como. The old fashioned kind of luxury found at Lake Como is almost overwhelming. From the floating swimming pool at the Hotel Villa d’Este to the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, the extravagant landmark of Bellagio. But the soul of Lake Como is found elsewhere, far away from the superficial jet set life. Go for lunch in Varenna, its most romantic city, and head to the small fishing villages of Domaso, Nobiallo, and Santa Maria Rezzonico.
4 Lake Maggiore. When Ernest Hemingway fabricated the scene for the romantic reunion in A Farewell to Arms, he chose the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees on the western shore of Lake Maggiore. Knowing the region well from personal experience, he wrote about the impressions in a letter to his parents in 1918: “I’m up here in Stresa, a little resort on Lake Maggiore. One of the most beautiful Italian lakes”. Today, 100 years later, the sentimental touch might have faded but it’s still the given destination for the incurable romantics.
5 Lake Orta. Situated just west of Lombardia, in the Piemonte region, Lago di’Orta is the forgotten lake of northern Italy. Head to Orta San Giulio, the lake’s capital city full of small-town life, family owned restaurants, and beautiful houses. Leave your bags at the Hotel Leon d’Oro or rent yourself a seaside villa along the cobblestone promenade. Five hundred steps up is the UNESCO world heritage Sacro Monte di Orta, overlooking the monastery on San Giulio Island.
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