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Complete Road Tripping the Italian Lake District Itinerary

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

The Italian lake district is a road tripper's dream! This stunning region offers everything from crystal-clear lakes and snow-capped mountains to charming villages and historic cities. If you're looking for a breathtaking vacation that will take your breath away, the Italian lake district is definitely worth considering. In this blog post, we'll explore five of the best lakes in the area and share some of the top sights and attractions you won't want to miss.



Why you should visit the Italian Lake District

Italy's lake district is a place of natural beauty and tranquility, where families come together to enjoy lake life at its best. It offers something for everyone – from romantic getaways for couples to family-friendly activities that the whole gang can enjoy. Here are some reasons you should consider adding this region to your travel plans!


Top Italian Lakes you will see on your Road Trip

  1. Lake Como: Lake Como is the most famous lake in Italy, with villas dotting the shores and views so picturesque they look like paintings! The lake is also home to Bellagio, one of Italy's most luxurious resorts - it was even featured in "The Hangover."

  2. Lake Maggiore: Nestled between the Alps and Italy's Piedmont region, Lake Maggiore is a nature lover's paradise. From the Borromean Islands to the gardens of Isola Bella, there are plenty of things to see and do on this lake.

  3. Lake Garda: With its dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters and lovely towns and villages, Lake Garda is one of Italy's most popular tourist destinations. From water sports to wine tours, there's something for everyone here. Lake Garda is one of Italy's most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its stunning setting and diverse attractions. The lake is divided between the provinces of Verona (to the south), Trento (to the north) and Brescia (in the middle).

  4. Lake Iseo: The smallest and least known of the five lakes, Lake Iseo is a hidden gem that offers a quieter, more relaxed experience than some of its larger counterparts. With charming villages like Monte Isola and Sulzano, as well as a lakefront promenade perfect for a leisurely stroll, Iseo is definitely worth a visit.

  5. Lake Lugano: Bordering both Switzerland and Italy, Lugano is the only lake in the district that offers views of two countries. This makes it a popular destination for those looking to enjoy both cultures at once. With its mix of Italian and Swiss architecture, cuisine and traditions, Lugano is a fascinating place to explore. Lugano has been voted one of Europe's top destinations by National Geographic Traveler, and it's easy to see why. With its blend of Italian and Swiss culture, stunning lake views, lush gardens and world-class shopping, Lugano is a can't-miss stop on any trip to the region.


Top things to do in the Italian Lake District

There's no shortage of things to do in the Italian lake district – from hiking and biking to sailing and swimming, you can enjoy everything from active outdoor pursuits to relaxing lakefront strolls. Here are some of the top activities to enjoy on your trip!

  • Hiking and biking: The lake district is home to some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Italy, so it's no surprise that hiking and biking are popular pursuits here. There are trails for all levels of hikers, from beginners to experienced mountaineers, and plenty of bike trails for those looking to explore the area on two wheels.

  • Sailing and windsurfing: With its many lakes and sheltered bays, the lake district is a popular destination for sailing and windsurfing enthusiasts. From beginners to experienced sailors, there's something for everyone on the water.

  • Swimming and sunbathing: With its crystal-clear waters and lovely lakefront towns and villages, it's no surprise that swimming and sunbathing are popular activities in the Italian lake district. Many of the lakeside towns have beaches where you can take a dip or relax in the sun.

  • Sightseeing: From the lakeside villages of Bellagio and Varenna to the dramatic cliffs of Lake Garda, there's no shortage of things to see.

Your Ultimate Italian Lake District Road Trip

Verona, Italy

It's not on any of the Italian lakes but Verona is a great place to start your road trip. With it's own airport, this is where you can arrive from anywhere in Italy. Two of William Shakespeare's plays are set in Verona: The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet, which also includes a trip to Mantua. It is unknown if Shakespeare ever visited Verona or Italy, but his plays have lured many visitors to Verona and surrounding cities. Verona was also the birthplace of Isotta Nogarola, who is said to be the first major female humanist and one of the most important humanists of the Renaissance.


From Verona, it's just a short drive to Lake Garda.


Sirmione, Italy

Sirmione is a small town on the southern tip of Lake Garda. It's one of the most popular destinations in the area, thanks to its charming medieval centre, lovely lake views and thermal baths. The Scaliger Castle is a must-see attraction in Sirmione, as is the Grotto of Catullus, a natural cave on the lake shore that was once a favourite spot of the Roman poet Catullus.


Malcesine, Italy

Malcesine is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, and one of the most popular holiday destinations in the lake district. It's known for its pretty lakeside promenade, Venetian castle and excellent restaurants. The cable car from Malcesine to Monte Baldo is a must-do attraction – the views from the top are stunning.



Riva del Garda, Italy

Riva del Garda is a town on the north-western shore of Lake Garda and one of the busiest holiday destinations in the area. It's known for its lovely lakeside setting, excellent restaurants and bars, and windsurfing and sailing facilities. The medieval castle at Riva del Garda is well worth a visit. Riva del Garda is a vibrant Italian town on the northern tip of Lake Garda that serves as a vacation spot for tourists. Riva sits serenely on the beach, with mountains rising on either side and a stunning backdrop of lake, valley, and hills.


Limone sul Garda, Italy

Limone sul Garda is a small town on the western shore of Lake Garda that's popular with holidaymakers. It's known for its pretty lakeside setting, excellent restaurants and bars, and windsurfing and sailing facilities. The medieval castle at Limone sul Garda is well worth a visit. From Limone it's easy to explore the rest of the lake district.


Limone sul Garda is famous today for its lemon groves, its exquisite olive oil, and for the longevity of its inhabitants.


In the 1970s, a pharmacologist from Milan discovered that the residents of Limone have a mutant form of apolipoprotein (called ApoA-1 Milano) in their blood, which causes a healthy form of high-density cholesterol, resulting in a lowered risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.



Tremosine, Italy

Tremosine is a small town on the western shore of Lake Garda, in the province of Brescia. It's known for its pretty lakeside setting, excellent restaurants and bars, and windsurfing and sailing facilities.


The cuisine of Tremosone is typical of Lombardy, with dishes based on rice, polenta, beef and pork. Fish features prominently in the local cuisine, as does wild game such as venison, hare and boar. There are also plenty of delicious vegetarian options available.


One particularly famous dish from Tremosone is risotto alla trevisana, a risotto made with pumpkin, sausage and Parmesan cheese.


The wine of Tremosone is mainly white, and includes the local wines Bardolino Chiaretto, Groppello di Valtenesi and Lugana.


Gargnano

Gargnano possesses one of the most beautiful historical centers of Lake Garda. The Palace and the Villa Feltrinelli and Villa Bettoni certainly deserve a visit. Gargnano and the hamlets of Villa and Bogliaco sit on the shore of Lake Garda and offer a typical Mediterranean landscape, while the inland area gradually climbs the hill to include Valvestino Lake, a genuine fjord nestled between the mountains of the Valvestino Valley. The lakefront towns have preserved the picturesque, romantic characteristics of ancient fishing villages and the small hillside hamlets still have their old, rural homes and narrow streets winding through the grassy meadows that were once the basis of mountain economy and now offer a marvelous panorama of Lake Garda and views that take us back in time. Gargnano offers visitors a striking setting full of art and history, with its historic villas, palazzos, beautiful churches, gardens, and lemon groves. Gargnano is also the sailing capital of Lake Garda. The hamlet of Bogliaco is the starting point each September for the prestigious Centomiglia International Regatta, the most important yacht race on Italian lakes.


Salò, Italy

Salo is situated in a natural inlet at the southern end of the Gardone Riviera and on the western side of Lake Garda. It is a quiet town in an attractive setting backed by mountain scenery and fronted by the lake.


Salo, which is known to have historical roots dating back to Ancient Roman times, rose to prominence during the reign of Mussolini's republic in the Second World War.


Salo has two faces: a long lakefront walk and a compact but picturesque ancient city. The Piazza Vittoria, the arrival point for boats from other parts of Lake Garda, is where you may begin your tour. Behind this square lies the historic town, which continues along the coast in both directions from here, with a tiny harbour to the south.

Monte Isola, Italy

Monte Isola is a small island in Lake Iseo and is the largest lake island in Europe. The only town on the island is Monte Isola itself, which has a population of just over 2000 inhabitants.

The history of Monte Isola dates back to pre-Roman times, when it was known as Insula Martana. It remained an important strategic point throughout the Middle Ages, playing an important role in both the Venetian and Austrian empires.


Today, Monte Isola is a popular tourist destination, with plenty of things to see and do. There are numerous churches and chapels on the island, including San Michele Arcangelo, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sant'Anna dei Miracoli, and Santa Maria Assunta.


There are also a number of museums, including the Museo della Tonnara (Tuna Fishing Museum), the Raccolta dei Santini (Collection of Sacred Images), and the Museo Etnografico delle Tradizioni Popolari (Ethnographic Museum of Folk Traditions).


Monte Isola is also well known for its wine production, with a range of wines available including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Barbera d'Alba, and Moscato di Scanzo.

The island is connected to the mainland by ferry, and there are also regular hydrofoil services connecting it.

Bergamo

Bergamo is a city in Lombardy, northern Italy, and the capital of the province of the same name. Bergamo prospered under Venetian rule in the sixteenth century and became an important center of trade, industry, and art. The city's architecture is a mix of Renaissance, Gothic, and Romanesque styles.


Bergamo is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Città Alta (Upper Town), which is a walled medieval town perched on a hilltop overlooking the plains below; and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of St. Mary Major), which was built in the eleventh century in Lombard Romanesque style.


The city is well known for its food, with dishes including casoncelli (a type of pasta filled with ground meat and herbs), ossobuco alla milanese (veal shank cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce), and cassoeula (a pork and cabbage dish).


Bergamo is also home to the Accademia Carrara, one of Italy's oldest art academies, which was founded in 1796. The academy's collection includes works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli.


There are plenty of things to do in Bergamo, whether you're interested in history, art, food, or nature. Some of the highlights include:

  • Visiting the Città Alta (Upper Town), a walled medieval town perched on a hilltop overlooking the plains below;

  • Visiting the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of St. Mary Major), which was built in the eleventh century in Lombard Romanesque style;

  • Seeing the Accademia Carrara, one of Italy's oldest art academies, which was founded in 1796 and includes works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and Botticelli;

  • Eating casoncelli (a type of pasta filled with ground meat and herbs), ossobuco alla milanese (veal shank cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce), or cassoeula (a pork and cabbage dish);

  • Going for a walk or a bike ride in the Parco dei Colli di Bergamo, a park on the hills overlooking the city.

So if you're looking for a beautiful and interesting place to spend your holiday, consider Bergamo, Italy. There's something for everyone here, from history and art lovers to foodies and nature enthusiasts. So come and explore this charming city for yourself!

Varenna

If you're looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to spend your holiday, consider Varenna, Italy. Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Como, Varenna is a small town with a population of just over 3000 people.


The town has a long history dating back to pre-Roman times, when it was known as Insula Martana. It remained an important strategic point throughout the Middle Ages, playing an important role in both the Venetian and Austrian empires.

Today, Varenna is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning lakeside setting and charming medieval architecture. There are plenty of things to see and do in Varenna, including:

  • Visiting Castello di Vezio, a castle dating back to the eleventh century that overlooks the town and lake;

  • Taking a walk or bike ride along the lakeside promenade;

  • Visiting Villa Monastero, a fifteenth-century villa that now houses a museum of Lombard art (the Museo della Seta);

  • Eating local cuisine such as risotto alla Varenna (rice cooked with vegetables and meat) or pesce in carpione (fish cooked in vinegar).

So if you're looking for a peaceful and picturesque place to spend your holiday, consider Varenna, Italy. With its stunning lakeside setting and charming medieval architecture, Varenna is sure to enchant.

Menaggio

Menaggio is a picturesque town of ancient origins overlooking Lake Como. Menaggio is loved by tourists all over the world, especially because of its elegant lake promenade. Thanks to its central location, Menaggio is an excellent starting point to discover Lake Como and the mountains that surround it. Menaggio is an ideal place to practice sports, spend a fun evening or taste the local cuisine in a restaurant with lake view.


It was a town of note in ancient times because of its privileged geographical position, at the point where the Via Regina (road bordering the western side of the lake) met the road leading through the Val Menaggio to Lugano and the valley of Ticino. The walk around Menaggio, which begins in Piazza Garibaldi, takes you to the city's most notable attractions. It passes through the historic city center, climbing from the train station toward Castello, which was built during the Middle Ages and is now a museum.


In case there are children walking with you, the tourist office suggests the amusing puzzle tour you can do together with this itinerary. This way discovering Menaggio also becomes fun for families.

Tremezzo, Italy

Tremezzina is located on the western banks of Lake Como, right in front of Bellagio, and is the result of a recent merger of the comunes of Lenno, Mezzegra, Ossuccio, and Tremezzo.

Tremezzina is a lovely island that's worth visiting. It has all the qualities of an enchanting destination: history, atmosphere, and attractions. Did you know that some Star Wars' scenes were filmed here?

Lenno, Italy

Lenno is located on the western banks of Lake Como and is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Como, Lombardy, Italy. Lenno is surely less crowded than other villages around the lake, it could definitely be a lovely destination for a daily tour, but also a comfortable basis for a weekend or a longer stay in Lake Como.


Lenno has the magnificent Villa del Balbianello, one of the loveliest homes on the lake and the site of one of film history's most unforgettable moments. George Lucas chose this villa to film Star Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002).


The lovely marina of Lenno, with its panoramic views of Punta Balbianello to Bellagio, is a must-see. A stroll, a coffee break, or dinner in one of the restaurants overlooking the water... so charming!


Bellagio, Italy

This is our own favourite lake district town of Italy. Make sure you rent a private taxi boat for a tour of Lake Como. Your trip to Lake Como is incomplete without a visit to its Pearl: Bellagio, one of the most beautiful places in the region of Lombardy, Italy.


The village of Bellagio, on the shores of Lake Como's northern arm, is at the junction where the lake divides into two branches to the south-east and south-west. It is sometimes referred to as "the pearl of the lake," owing to its beauty as well as its location midway between the two branch divisions.


Como, Italy

Como is a beautiful, lakeside town that is perfect for a relaxing holiday. There are plenty of things to do in Como, from visiting the historic sights and sampling the delicious cuisine, to taking a boat trip on the lake. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Como:

  • The Duomo: This imposing cathedral is one of Como’s most famous landmarks. The Gothic architecture is stunning, and it’s worth visiting the interior too. This imposing cathedral is one of Como’s most famous landmarks. The Gothic architecture is stunning, and it’s worth visiting the interior too.

  • Villa Olmo: This elegant villa dates back to the 18th century and is home to a beautiful garden. It’s well worth a visit, especially in the summer when the flowers are in bloom.

  • The Lake: Como is famous for its lake, which offers lovely views of the town and surrounding countryside. There are plenty of boat trips available, or you can simply relax on one of the many beaches around the lake.

  • The Restaurants: Como is a great place to sample some of Italy’s finest cuisine. There are restaurants serving all sorts of dishes, from pizza and pasta to seafood and steak.

Como is a beautiful town that’s definitely worth visiting. So why not book a holiday there today?


Cernobbio

Since the early decades of this century, Cernobbio has been a favourite vacation place for wealthy family from Como and Milan, testimony to this would be the large number of villas and gardens spread throughout the territory. Today, Cernobbio has adapted itself to the needs of a mass tourism, by creating an efficient accommodation organization, protecting nature, offering its visitors a beautiful lakeside promenade adorned by lovely fountains.


Cernobbio is the starting point for the Via dei Monti Lariani (Larani Mountains Walk), a fascinating walk along paths between 600 - 1200 meters of altitude.From the town you can reach monte Bisbino (1325 mt.), in the peak of which stands a sanctuary from the 1500s.

The most prestigious villa is without a doubt Villa d'Este, today transformed into the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este. The first construction was erected in 1589 for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, following the designs of the famous architect Pellegrino Tibaldi. Back then it was called, the villa del Gàrrovo, from the name of the torrent that here flows into the lake. The complex was purchased, in 1814, by the Princess of Wales, who, believing herself to be a descendant of the illustrious Este family, renamed the villa with this name.



Lugano, Switzerland

Okay, we're clearly not in Italy anymore but you cant visit the Italian lake district and not visit lake Lugano and you can visit lake Lugano and not visit Lugano!


If you're looking for a beautiful and relaxing holiday destination, Lugano, Switzerland is a great choice. Sitting on the banks of Lake Lugano, this charming town offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. There are plenty of things to do in Lugano, from visiting the historic sights to taking a boat trip on the lake. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Lugano:


  • The Historic Centre: This area is home to many interesting historical buildings, including churches, palaces and museums. Be sure to visit Piazza della Riforma, with its beautiful fountains, and the lakeside promenade.

  • Lake Lugano: This lovely lake offers wonderful views of the town and the surrounding mountains. There are plenty of activities available on the lake, such as sailing, windsurfing and swimming.

  • The Shopping: Lugano is a great place to shop for souvenirs or just browse through the stores. You’ll find everything from high-end boutiques to traditional markets.


Varese, Italy

If you’re looking for a charming and picturesque town to spend your holiday in, Varese, Italy is the perfect place. This historic town is located on the shores of Lake Varese and surrounded by beautiful mountains. There are plenty of things to do in Varese, from visiting the museums and churches to hiking in the nearby mountains. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Varese:

  • The Historic Centre: This area is home to many interesting historical buildings, including churches, palaces and museums. Be sure to visit Piazza della Repubblica, with its beautiful fountain, and Via Matteotti, which is lined with elegant bars and restaurants.

  • The Parks: Varese is surrounded by beautiful parks, which offer a great place to relax or go for a walk. The most popular park is Parco Regionale dei Lagoni di Mercurago, which features lakes, forests and gardens.

  • Cuisine: One of the best things about travelling to Italy is getting to try all the delicious Italian cuisine. In Varese, you’ll find restaurants serving everything from traditional dishes to modern fusion cuisine.

Isola Bella

It took almost four hundred years and the collaboration of hundreds of architects, engineers, plasterers, painters, and cabinetmakers to build Isola bella from a rock in the lake into the paradise it is now.


The Borromean Islands, of which Isola Bella is the largest, have been a popular tourist destination since the 1700s. The islands are named after the Borromeo family, who owned them for centuries and developed them into a resort area.


Nowadays, Isola bella is famous for its lush gardens, extravagant palaces and stunning views of the lake. Isola Bella is one of my favorite places in Lake Maggiore. It's so beautiful and relaxing - a perfect place to spend a day or two. The gardens are definitely worth exploring, and the museum is fascinating too. And don't forget to try the local cuisine - it's delicious!

Orta San Giulio

Orta San Giulio is a small town on the shores of Lake Orta in Piedmont, Italy. It's one of my favorite places in the world and definitely worth a visit if you're travelling to the Italian lake district.


The town is famous for its beautiful churches and medieval alleyways, and it's also home to some excellent restaurants serving traditional Italian cuisine. The views from the lakeside are stunning, and there are plenty of things to do in the area, including hiking, cycling and boating. If you're looking for a charming and picturesque town to spend your holiday in, Orta San Giulio is hard to beat!

5 Lakes, Dozens of Towns and Villages, and Endless Scenery

The Italian lake district is one of Europe's most beautiful regions, and there's no shortage of things to do and see here. Whether you're looking for a romantic couples' road trip or a family holiday, the Italian lake district has something for everyone. So why not pack your bags and head off on an adventure in this picturesque part of the world.

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