Lake Como is surrounded by
wooded, hilly hinterlands and the snow-capped Rhaetian Alps, while
the lake’s shoreline is dotted with celebrity-owned, luxury villas
(hello, George Clooney) and high-end resorts. While no one denies
the appeal of this enchanting location, we’ve rounded up some
equally alluring alternatives so you can enjoy Italy’s raw beauty
while avoiding the summer crowds.
These under-the-radar spots are where Italian locals
In between Italy’s two most popular lakes lies this
oft-overlooked oasis. Lake Iseo’s tranquility is interrupted only
by birds chirping and church bells ringing. Stay in sleepy Lovere
for stone buildings with balconies overlooking the lake, and
several family-run pizzerias and gelaterias to work
your way through over a lazy weekend. During the day, rent a boat
and make for Monte Isola, a fairy-tale island in the middle of the
lake, complete with crumbling porticos and ancient fishing
STAY: Borgolago Suites
In the shadows of the snow-covered Alps, views across Lake Orta
are strangely mystical. Hazy horizons are bordered by lush woodland
– it’s no wonder countless writers and poets, such as Lord Byron,
have retreated to its shady shores. Located in the region of
Piedmont, stay in the quiet town of Orta San Giulio and walk the
narrow cobbled lanes to dinner in dishevelled trattorias,
pastel-hued palazzi in view.
Italy and Switzerland
Italy’s second largest lake, Lake Maggiore straddles the border
between Italy and Switzerland and villages surrounding the lake
boast an architectural mishmash of the two. Stay in Stresa for
views of the Borromean Islands; a group of beautiful islets, owned
by the Borromeo family since the 17th century.
STAY: Hotel Cannero
Host to sporting events such as the Canoeing European
Championships and World Rowing Championships, Lake Varese offers
more than sportly gains. With the wild massif of Campo dei Fiori
gently sloping down towards the water, the lake is brimming with
rugged nature and unspoiled vistas. Varese has a pedestrianised
centre, and trattorias offer traditional and affordable Italian
dishes with views of the Unesco-protected Sacro Monte di Varese.
Meander through the towns surrounding the lake, each filled with
elaborate baroque and neo-classical architecture.
STAY: Villa Porro Pirelli
Nicknamed Italy’s belly button for its round shape and central
location, Lake Bolsena dates back 370,000 years. While most of
Italy’s lakes are of glacial origin, Lake Bolsena is formed in the
crater of an extinct volcano. Situated only an hour away from
Rome, the lake is an idyllic
suntrap. Explore the rugged shorelines, sandy beaches and medieval
towns that surround the water.
STAY: Le Porcine
Italy and Switzerland
Like Lake Maggiore, Lugano lies on the Italian-Swiss border.
Walk round the lake’s periphery to admire panoramic mountain views,
or head to Lugano city for a dash of culture. A mini-art hub, stop
by the Museo d’Arte Moderna to see exhibitions showcasing some of
the best artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries.
STAY: Elvezia al Lago
While the sparkling blue waters of this lake are enough to lure
you in, the little towns and villages on the waterfront are the
lake’s biggest draw. Stay in Castel Gandolfo, a sleepy town best
known as the summer residence of the Pope. Wander through grandiose
streets, before ambling round the lush greenery in the Parco
Regionale dei Castelli Romani. Be sure to do a wine tasting when
you’re here – situated next to the Frascati wine region, there’s
much to be sipped.
STAY: Hotel La Culla Del Lago
Previously part of Lake Como, the two are now separated by the
Riserva Naturale Pian di Spagna. Despite being much smaller than
other Italian lakes, Lake Mezzola and the surrounding wetlands
offer beautiful walks around the fauna. Keep an eye out for
dragonflies, grass snakes, toads and impressive birdlife.
STAY: Rifugio Dalco