Although they share many things – dreamy vistas, quality local cooking and sheer romance, to name but a few – the Italian Lakes each have a very different character and it’s worth thinking about the type of holiday you’re looking for before you book.
The mountainous regions behind all the Lakes provide great hiking and mountain-biking opportunities but the combined winds to its north and the presence of Monte Baldo make Lake Garda the destination for on- and off-water thrill seekers.
Watch the sun set behind Isola San Guilio on Lake Orta or from the Lake Como waterfront at Varenna or, alternatively, hole up in Gargnano on Lake Garda for a winter like D.H. Lawrence and his mistress did in 1912.
Visiting lakeside villas
Lake Como offers the best selection of romantic waterfront residences with dreamy gardens to visit, although belle époque villas and sumptuous palazzi are dotted around the shore lines of all the lakes.
With Franciacorta and the various DOC regions to the south and southeast of Lake Garda – including Bardolino, Valpolicella and Lugana – you’re never far from somewhere to try a local vintage or two.
The microclimate of this corner of Lake Maggiore make the Isole Borromee and gardens in Verbania some of the most glorious gardens on the lakes, although competition is steep.
Travelling by public transport
A quick train ride from Milan, Varenna is at the heart of the most spectacular part of Lake Como from where an excellent boat service will ferry you around to explore further.
Holidaying with kids
With older children you can’t beat the activities available on and around Lake Garda – from windsurfing or castle climbing to the theme and water parks in the southeast of the lake. Younger children might enjoy the shorter distances around the centre of Lake Como more, the family-friendly resort of Cannobio on Lake Maggiore, or the dragon stories linked with Lake Orta.