Milan enjoys a really privileged location and the day trips that can be organised from the city are countless. Lombardy might not have the sea, but the region boasts 52 lakes, inclusive of some of the largest in the country, 28 rivers, 13 thermal springs, the Alps, hills and extensive countryside. The landscape changes drastically from the mountain Valtellina area bordering Switzerland and the southernmost area that stretches towards the Adriac sea following the Po river and so does the food that is as varied as its 12 Città d’arte. The lakes are definitely a characterising element of the landscape and here I have selected 5 that I believe are the best to visit.
With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, Lake Maggiore covers parts of Piedmont, Lombardy and the Ticino region of Switzerland. The second largest lake of Italy, its main attractions are doubtless the Borromean Island: Isola Madre and Isola Bella with their lavish subtropical parks and grand villas and the tiny lovely village on Isola dei Pescatori, perfectly intact, its quaint cobbled streets busting with cafés and lake fish restaurants. Yet the lake is dotted with charming little towns: the elegant Stresa, the largest resort town on the Italian part of the lake, with its stunning views on the Borromean Islands from the lakeside promenade, Stresa is well known for its posh hotels, beautiful art galleries, smart shops and upscales restaurants and its busy cultural and music calendar all year round; Verbania, on the other side of the lake, is known for Villa Taranto’s botanical garden, one of the finest in Europe and Villa Giulia; Cannobio, near the Swiss border, is famous for the Oratorio San’Anna, a white church beside a deep gorge that’s spanned by a stone arch bridge, and Cannero Riviera also near the Swiss Border, is probably the prettiest town on the Lake. Talking about extraordinary constructions, the lake has much more to offer: the Hermitage of St. Catherine is one of the most spectacular monasteries of the country, carved into a narrow terrace in the steep cliff and The Rocca di Angera, a perfectly preserved medieval fortress with its Medieval gardens and its Doll and Toys museum. I was almost forgetting the Mottarone Cable Car for stunning views on the Alps, 7 blue lakes and the Padana valley.
A glacier lake, shaped like an inverted Y, described and made famous by the words of Alessandro Manzoni in The Betrothed: “quel ramo del Lago di Como…”, running beneath the Italian Alps, Lake Comos’ shores are dotted with little characteristic villages and a very special atmosphere that makes it an all time favourite of aristocrats, writers, artists and movie' stars. There are many beautiful villas in the area: Villa del Balbianello, my absolute favourite, Villa Melzi in Bellagio, Villa Carlotta near Tramezzo, Villa Monastero and The Gardens of Villa Cipressi in Varenna, just to mention a few. The lake showcases also beautiful towns and villages, among the most famous Bellagio, Menaggio, etc. A real gem, where subtropical vegetation, highly styled and curated gardens, elegant villas, art and antiques and lots of history awaits you.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It’s a glacier lake on the edge of the Dolomites that touches three regions: Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige. The southern shore is lined by beaches and backed by low hills, while the north is more dramatic, with sheer cliffs and mountains, especially on the western shore. The area on and around the lake is dotted with fortified castles, Roman remains and lovely postcard little towns, such as Sirmione, with its 12th century fortress, Desenzano del Garda, great base for exploring the lake since most boats leave from here, Lazise with its medieval town walls and its castle, Torri del Benaco with the cypress-clad promontory of San Virgilio and Garda. Among the other attractions of the area is Isola del Garda, a stunning private island just off Salò with beautiful formal gardens and a Neo-Gothic Venetian Villa. Very famous are also the Grotte di Catullo, the Roman Poet with its huge bath complex, the Cascata del Varone, a 100m waterfall thundering down an immense gorge, the Parco archaeologic Rocca di Manerba, a nature reserve protected by Unesco with its exceptional orchid meadows, the Giardino Botanics Fondazione André Heller, the sculpture garden of the artist and much more.
One of Italy’s best kept secrets, when it comes to lakes. this little lake west of lake Maggiore has nothing to envy to its most famous counterparts and yet, still being out of the tourist radar, it remains one of the most enjoyable places to visit, if you like a more intimate and “off the crowds” experience. The little medieval town of Orta San Giulio is a little jewel and from there at a short boat ride you can reach the little island in the middle of the lake: Isola San Giulio. The picture-perfect little town is built on the slopes of a steep hill called the Sacro Monte on which we can find one of the nine Sacri Monti, little mountainside sanctuaries characteristic to the region and named a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its little ochre streets are elegant and a little decadent, with some outbreaks of baroque.
The second best kept secret after Lake Orta, for what lakes are concerned, is Lake Iseo, located near the northern border of Italy at the foothills of the Alps and surrounded by the Dolomites Mountains, despite it being the fourth largest lake of Lombardy, it has escaped mass tourism and large crowds and remains still a quiet and authentic corner of Italy. Its indigo waters are tucked between lake Como and Lake Garda and the lake is surrounded by densely wooded mountains. Tiny pastel colour villages bring life to its shores and in the lake’s centre soars Monte Isola, the largest lake island in all Western Europe with its 600m height. Nearby stretches the Valle Camonica to the north, famous for its Stone Age rock carvings and the Franciacorta’s hills to the south, where the best Italian sparkling wines are produces and the slopes are coved in vineyards.
Before you book:
The Lake Experience includes a one-day excursion to one of the following lakes:
- Lake Maggiore
- Lake Garda
- Lake Como
- Orta Lake
- Ideo Lake
The experience includes:
Discussion and preparation of itinerary prior the date.
Meet up at an agreed place at 8.30 am and proceed to visit the city as per the itinerary previously discussed.
End of tour: 19.30
Change in timing can be modified upon agreement.
Food and drinks
Anything not expressively mentioned
Ferry and boat trips, if they will be included in the itinerary
Entrance to the villas, gardens, museums or other attractions
Transport will be organised in my car (up to 4 passengers). Alternatively, if you are in the area or prefer to travel by train, I can pick you up at an agreed spot and then we can move around by car.
This trip is available for a maximum of four people. For larger groups, please get in touch.
In case of participants with disabilities or special needs I suggest you get in touch before booking. We can then evaluate and discuss together the best solution that I can work out for them.
Please note cancellation or rescheduling is possible up to 7 days before the booking date. After that a no-refund policy will be applied. I highly recommend you to take up a travel insurance.