These are just some of Italy’s most stunning lakes
Italy, as you know, is a country of immense natural beauty and diverse landscapes. Its coastlines and beaches are of course a perfect example of that – and very much a reason to start planning a summer visit (did we mention that Il Pellicano and Mezzatorre are open for business?).
But they’re only a part of the bigger picture. The country’s lakes, found from north to south throughout the Bel Paese, are in fact another water wonder you might consider when coming to Italy, and not just for the respite they, too, can offer from the heat.
From the stunning vistas of Lake Como to the serene atmosphere of Lake Orta, here are five of Italy’s best lakes to fall in love with.
Perhaps Italy’s most famous lake, Lake Como, just a short drive from Milan, is a picture-perfect basin with deep blue waters and stunning mountain scenery, thanks to its enviable position at the foot of the Alps. Add to that charming towns and ancient mansions, breathtaking vistas, and a chic yet understated atmosphere all around, and you’ll see why it has long been considered a quintessential romantic getaway – not to mention a favourite hotspot among A-listers and jetsetters alike.
Take some time exploring Lake Como’s many stunning villas and their perfectly-manicured gardens – Villa Carlotta, Villa Melzi d’Eril, Villa Serbelloni, Villa del Balbianello – then take a stroll down its fairy-tale-like towns: Pretty Bellagio, colourful Varenna, quaint Menaggio. A boat is the best way to go around, as it will take you along the lake’s shore.
Book lunch at Ristorante Alle Darsene di Loppia, an elevated waterside venue in Bellagio that does modern Italian cooking.
Passing by Como? Then stop at L’Antica, a historic restaurant in the town centre serving traditional, seasonal Italian cuisine.
Ristorante Alle Darsene di Loppia
Via Melzi d’Eril, 22021 Bellagio CO
Via Luigi Cadorna, 26, 22100 Como CO
Lake Iseo is a minor lake located in the Lombardy region (just like Como), and it’s a hidden gem that’s often overlooked by tourists. That’s too bad, as this smaller reservoir is surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush green hills and boasts crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches – the perfect tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The hills surrounding Lake Iseo offer a fantastic variety of hiking paths for people of all skill levels. So hit up the trails, and soak in glorious views of the Alps and the lake below. Done? Next up, head to Monte Isola, the island in the middle of Lake Iseo. Essentially a small, wooded mountain, the islet is dotted with agricultural and fishing hamlets around its shores and slopes, and is home to several frescoed churches built between the 15th and 17th centuries fill with statues and art, as well as the well-preserved mediaeval castle Rocca Martinengo, a must-visit.
Lake Iseo is a short throw from Franciacorta, one of the country’s premiere wine regions and home to our fanciest bubbles. Take some time exploring its vineyards and wineries to learn about the winemaking process, then make a reservation at Dispensa Pane e Vini, a combination of fine-dining restaurant, wine bar, modern osteria and enoteca that brings together the best of Franciacorta’s gastronomic and enological delights.
In Monte Isola, make sure to sit down at the outdoor terrace of Ristorante Locanda al Lago. Run by the Soardi, a local fisherman family, it’s been serving freshly caught lake fish and other regional dishes since 1948, and it’s as authentic as it gets.
Via Principe Umberto, 23 – fraz, 25030 Torbiato BS
Ristorante Locanda Al Lago
Località Carzano, 38, 25050 Monte Isola BS
Located just 20 miles north of Rome, Lake Bracciano is a popular destination for locals and travellers alike. Of volcanic origins, it is one of the cleanest lakes in Italy, making it perfect for swimming, fishing, and other water activities. Besides its outdoorsy side, it’s the lovely towns around its shores that’ll make you fall hard for it: Anguillara, Bracciano and Trevignano – each one a perfect gem of cobbled lanes and mediaeval buildings.
In Bracciano, a small town that overlooks lake Bracciano from a hilltop, meander through the narrow streets, peek at the historic buildings, and make sure to pop by the impressive Odescalchi Castle, a fortress built in the 15th century. Now a museum, it boasts stunning mediaeval architecture and fantastic views of the lake.
Next up, visit Anguillara and Trevignano, two smaller but equally charming villages along the lake. Neither has big landmarks, but they’re worth a stop nonetheless for their sleepy atmosphere, ancient alleys and pretty lake views. Done strolling? Consider hopping on a boat for a tour of the lake. It’s the best way to soak in the huge water basin from a different perspective.
Try Il Pioppo in Anguillara for contemporary offerings and excellent cocktails in charming lakeside settings; stop for a pastry and an espresso at historic Bar Ermete in Trevignano, or make your way to Le Papere in Bracciano, a lovely venue with a fantastic location on a pier stretching into the lake.
Want to make it extra special? Then get in the car and drive to Ristorante The Cesar, at our very own La Posta Vecchia Hotel. It’s only a short drive away, but oh-so worth it. Word to the wise: reservations are essentials.
Ristorante Il Pioppo
Via Lungolago delle Muse, snc, 00061 Anguillara Sabazia RM
Via G. Argenti, 20, 00062 Bracciano RM
Umbria’s biggest lake, Lake Trasimeno is the fourth-largest lake in Italy and is surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque towns. Come here for culturally rich spots like the castle-topped mediaeval towns of Castiglione del Lago and Passignano (both of which belong to the Borghi piu’ belli d’Italia listings of spectacular small towns), and the scenic beauty of dense olive groves, woods of oak and cypress trees, vines and sunflower fields.
One of the best ways to experience Lake Trasimeno is by taking a bike ride along the lakeshore. So hop on a bike and follow one of the several bike paths around – they all offer amazing views of the water and surrounding landscape.
Another popular attraction is the Isola Maggiore, an island in the middle of the lake that is home to a small fishing village and a 14th-century Franciscan monastery. Take a boat tour to the island and explore its charming streets, beautiful gardens, and historic buildings.
In Castiglione del Lago’s hilltop centre, don’t miss Palazzo della Corgna, a 16th-century ducal palace featuring a series of impressive frescoes by Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli and Salvio Savini. The admission ticket also covers entry into the adjacent 13th-century Rocca del Leone, the pentagonal-shaped fortress that dominates Castiglione’s skyline – a stellar example of mediaeval military architecture.
Don’t leave without trying La Locanda dei Pescatori del Trasimeno, a simple restaurant where local fishermen themselves roll up their sleeves and cook classic dishes of the lake, alongside their partners.
Da Sauro, which opened in 1964, should also be on your list. It makes classic lake dishes from ancient recipes including the carpa in porchetta, one of their signature dishes.
Locanda dei Pescatori del Trasimeno
Via Martiri di Cefalonia, 37, 06063 Sant’Arcangelo PG
Albergo Ristorante da Sauro
Via Guglielmi, 1, 06069 Isola Maggiore PG
In the heart of the ancient Etruscan region known as Tusciaand close to the Tuscan border, Lake Bolsena, in the Lazio region, is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and is known for its clear blue waters and unspoiled natural beauty. All around it are charming towns, ancient ruins, and beautiful countryside.
Besides the lake itself, which can be best admired on one of the many scenic trails that surround it, Lake Bolsena’s most popular attraction is the town of Bolsena, a beautiful borgo known for its rich history and beautiful architecture.
Get lost in its mediaeval centre, home to several historic buildings like the Church of Santa Cristina, which houses the relics of a 4th-century martyr; and visit the magnificent Rocca Monaldeschi. A massive square-plan building garnished with four towers, the fortress was erected by the Orvietians between the 13th and 14th centuries, and today houses a museum that includes artefacts dating back to the Etruscan and Roman times as well as more recent pieces. The panoramic view from the top is spectacular.
Naturally, freshwater fish is the king of the local cuisine, and a must-try if you’re in the area, especially coregone (lake whitefish), which is either cooked dredged in flour and pan fried in butter; or alla Bolsanese, baked in the oven with vinegar.
You can taste that at Trattoria Picchietto or Gio Ristocantina, which also boasts an excellent wine list.