There are 20 regions in Italy, some of which are household names – Tuscany and Sicily among them. There are also parts of Italy that, while not technically regions, are still familiar to everyone who has ever planned an Italian vacation. The Italian lakes region in the north is one of those areas. Here’s an overview of the northern Italian lakes to help you plan your trip.
Any peninsula is defined by water, and the Italian peninsula is no exception. But the seas that surround the country aren’t the only bodies of water in Italy that make it a popular vacation destination. Take, for instance, the big, blue spots in northern Italy, often known as the Italian lakes region.
Now, there are lakes elsewhere in Italy that are popular vacation destinations. The collection of lakes in the northern part of the country, however, are often visited as a group and described in the same way travelers talk about England’s “lake district.” That’s why I’m dedicating a page to the Italian lakes region here.
As you can see on the map below, several of the major lakes almost fan out from Milan (at the bottom of the map), which is part of the reason they are such popular day trips from Milan. Verona is in the lower right corner of the map, closest to Lago di Garda, which is – you guessed it – a popular day trip from Verona.
Some of the larger lakeside towns have train stations, including the towns of Como (on Lago di Como) and Stresa (on Lago Maggiore) with regular service from Milan. Once you’ve reached the lake you want to visit, further exploration can be done either by boat or (sometimes) local bus, if you’re not renting a car.
In addition to simply strolling through picturesque little towns, browsing shops and stopping occasionally for a snack, the Italian lakes offer opportunities to go on some serious hikes and mountain bike rides (these lakes are in the foothills of the Alps and Dolomites, after all), as well as explore some historic monuments. There’s even an amusement park near Lago di Garda if you need a roller coaster break.
While many of the pretty towns that surround each of these lakes are flooded each summer day with day-trippers, they’re not exactly abandoned at night. The shores of the Italian lakes don’t have sandy beaches, but plenty of vacationers spend time at the lakes during the high tourist season – and that includes vacationing Italians and travelers from elsewhere in Europe.
In other words, make any overnight plans during the high season well in advance.
The lakes mentioned here are not the only lakes in northern Italy, either. There are lots of smaller lakes in the area, sometimes very close to one of the big lakes. You stand a better chance of finding quieter towns around the smaller (less famous) lakes, but in summer even these can be busy. Also note that it’s not as easy to get to the less famous lakes without your own car.
It’s important to keep in mind that the lakes are primarily a warm-weather tourist destination. Sure, many of the towns function perfectly well during the winter (and the crowds shrink and prices drop, which is always nice). But those impressive mountains that surround the lakes come with their own impressive winter weather, some of which impacts the lakes, too, in the form of increased rainfall. Winter visits to the lakes can be lovely, provided you’re prepared with appropriate rain gear and you’re not expecting to spend all your time outside.
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