The beautiful lakeside settings of the lakes in Italy are without a doubt some of the most stunning places to visit in Europe. And with over 1000 enchanting Italian lakes to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice.
Discover small glacial mountain lakes accessible only on foot or head to the popular destinations of Lake Garda and Lake Como, two of the most breathtaking lakes in the Italian Lake District. No matter which lake in Italy you decide to visit, one thing is for sure – it will leave you with a lasting impression.
In this post, I have asked fellow travel bloggers to tell me about their favourite lakes in Italy to help you choose the perfect ones to visit on your next Italian lakes holiday.
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Most Stunning Lakes in Northern Italy
Lake Como – Lago di Como #1
Located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy is Lake Como, the third-largest and deepest of the Italian lakes and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Known for its scenic beauty, mountain vistas and palatial lakeside residences, it is one of the favourite lake destinations in Italy for both Italians and tourists.
The area is so beautiful it has attracted the Hollywood jet-set who have set up homes in the Lake Como luxury villas that are scattered around its shores. Don’t be surprised to see George Clooney in the local delicatessen!
Of course, there are many things to do on Lake Como apart from spotting A-listers! Head out onto the water and skipper a boat for the day. Or explore the elaborate mansions on Lake Como, such as Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta, famous for their history and their sensational gardens.
And no trip to Lake Como would be complete without a visit to the famous town of Bellagio, known in its heyday as being the place to be seen on the Italian Riviera. Wander along its narrow lanes and stop at a traditional trattoria for some local Italian cuisine washed down with a glass of sparkling white Lombardy wine.
Lake Como is an enchanting place to visit and a perfect destination to include on a European road trip itinerary.
Where to Stay on Lake Como
For a modern stay on Lake Como, look no further than the Filario Hotel and Residences in Lezzano. A stunning property with a lakeside restaurant and swimming pool.
Lake Iseo – Lago di Iseo #2
Contributed by Michela from She Goes The Distance
Between the most famous lakes in Italy of Como and Garda is Lake Iseo. It is an ideal escape from the more touristy and crowded sites, offering an authentic and more budget-friendly experience of Italy’s lake region.
Lake Iseo is full of gems, and the first is unmissable. In the middle of Lake Iseo is the largest lake island in Europe, Monte Isola. The island can be reached by ferry or private boat. There is another small island nearby called Loreto, on which sits a Medieval storybook castle. It’s private property, so it isn’t possible to enter, but it makes for a picture-perfect view.
And one of the most unique areas on Lake Iseo is Bogn. This is a place where the cliffs resemble Norwegian fjords, and the water reflects a vibrant turquoise green. Visitors can find parking for Bogn at the nearby village of Riva di Solto.
When it comes to Lake Iseo’s shores, several charming, laidback towns are worth a stop, like Sarnico and Lovere. And a fabulous place to experience Lake Iseo is at Darsena21, a characteristic house and dock turned bar eatery. It is the perfect location for a sunset aperitivo.
The best way to experience Lake Iseo is by renting a boat to hop around the various towns and see the incredible landscapes. Lake Iseo also has an extensive ferry system to get around on a budget. Because of its vicinity to popular areas in northern Italy, Lake Iseo can seamlessly fit into any Italian itinerary for those wanting to go a little off the beaten path.
Where to Stay on Lake Iseo
Book a stay at Relais I Due Roccoli for stunning views of Lake Iseo and the surrounding mountainside.
Lake Garda – Lago di Garda #3
Contributed by Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers
Lake Garda is the largest Italian lake and one of northern Italy’s best Italian lakes to visit. It’s a fabulous day trip from Milan, but you can also spend longer and explore the area over a couple of days.
Not only is Lake Garda breathtaking, with its crystal clear water, but there are many charming towns to explore and outdoor activities to enjoy in Garda.
The Madonna Della Corona, founded in 1625, is a must-see! Situated along a mountainside, the church’s location is a view not to be missed, and the church itself is magnificent, with ornate dedications and a lovely steeple.
When you want to head into nature, take the cable car for the more energetic hike up Monte Baldo (there are also kid-friendly routes) and admire the stunning surrounding views on your journey.
Another way to explore Lake Garda is to hire a boat from Limone. After a quick lesson on how to drive the boat, you will be on your way. Head out to see one of the many stunning waterfalls around Lake Garda or visit the world-famous James Bond tunnel.
The best plan if you are visiting for a few days is to hire a car and travel around the lake exploring all the beautiful towns. The drive itself is pretty impressive too.
There are plenty of popular things to do in Limone Sul Garda, and if you are travelling with kids, a great way to break up the many days of exploring the sites of Lake Garda is to visit Gardaland Theme Park which has rides for the whole family.
Where to Stay on Lake Garda
Lake Garda has many wonderfully quaint villages with accommodation options to suit everyone, from romantic, to luxurious to family-friendly!
Our favourite town to stay in was Limone Sul Garda. The Appartamento Delux Villa Castello in Limone is not only spacious but has three different balconies giving you the most breathtaking views of Lake Garda.
Lake Maggiore – Lago di Maggiore #4
Contributed by Anda from Travel For A While
Lake Maggiore, Italy’s second-largest lake, is one of the places you shouldn’t miss on your Italian lakes itinerary.
You can drive to Stresa village or take the train there from Milan. From Stresa, you can hop on the ferry and visit one or more of the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore. Each island has its own identity, yet they are all stunning little worlds to explore.
On Isola Bella, you can visit the striking Baroque palace and the beautiful gardens. I guarantee the architecture is different from anything you’ve seen before. And a visit to Isola Madre is to see its perfectly manicured English Gardens around the palace.
Isola dei Pescatori is a charming little village frozen in time. However, the island is inhabited, and you can explore the Italian village on this small patch of land. Isola dei Pescatori is also an excellent place to have lunch and enjoy the atmosphere and food in one of the few family osterias.
When you have finished island-hopping, there are many more things to do on Lake Maggiore, from water sports to hiking or exploring the gardens and villages.
Where to Stay on Lake Maggiore
A great place to spend the night is in Stresa at the Grand Hotel Bristol.
Lake Bolsena – Lago di Bolsena #5
Contributed by Claudia from Strictly Rome
The region of the Tuscia Viterbese – about 1.5 hours from Rome and spreading across Northern Lazio, Southern Tuscany and Umbria – is packed with charming lakes. One of the prettiest of these Italian lakes is Lake Bolsena which is also one of Italy’s cleanest lakes. With a perimeter of 43 km (26.7 miles), this is known to be the biggest volcanic lake in Europe; the lake fills the caldera of Volsini Volcano, which last erupted in 100 AD.
Driving around the lakeside, you will find many lovely beaches with fine volcanic sand and clear waters. The main town facing the lake is Bolsena, a fun place to explore for a day or so. The church of San Flaviano is its main attraction. You can also see the tomb of German Bishop Johannes Defuk, known for his appreciation of the Est! Est!! Est!!! A wine produced in the local area.
Not far from Bolsena, you will also find the charming village of Capodimonte. It is a good place to rent kayaks or catch boat rides to Bisentina and Martana islands. You should also visit Marta, a fishing village where you can find excellent local restaurants.
The region of Tuscia where Lake Bolsena is located is ideal for a road trip, so make sure you rent a car if you are planning to explore. Base yourself in Viterbo, the main city, as it has the most extensive range of hotels and restaurants.
Where To Stay in Viterbo
Palazzo Verdi Hotel is nicely located near the main theatre and steps away from all the attractions in Viterbo. The best restaurant is Al Vecchio Orologio, where you will be able to taste dishes of the local tradition with a modern twist.
Lake Bracciano – Lago di Bracciano #6
Contributed by Joanna from The World In My Pocket
Lake Bracciano is located 25 kilometres north of Rome and makes a fantastic day trip for the locals and visitors, especially in summer, when the temperatures are too high for comfort in the Italian capital.
Three towns are on the shores of this beautiful Italian lake, each charming and worth visiting. Bracciano, Anguillara Sabazia, and Trevignano Romano are all accessible by public transport. The easiest way to get to the lake is by taking the direct train from Rome Tiburtina or Via Aurelia stations to Bracciano.
The town of Bracciano is famous for the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, one of the best medieval castles in Italy. Visiting the castle is a must, as it is one of the best things to do in Bracciano and around the lake.
Lake Bracciano is extremely clean, as it serves as one of the main drinking water reservoirs for Rome. Except for one small ferry connecting the towns during the summer season, any other motorboat is banned from the lake. This local law allows the water to stay crystal clear, perfect for swimming.
There are a few beaches along the lake, all with volcanic black sand and pebbles. You can either bring your towel to sit on or rent a lounger and an umbrella from one of the beach clubs for a few euros a day. You can also hire pedalo boats and kayaks to explore more of the lake at your own pace.
Beautiful Italian Lakes in the Dolomite Mountains
Lago di Brais – Pragser Wildsee #7
Contributed by Krisztina from She Wanders Abroad
If you’re looking to visit a breathtaking lake in Italy, look no further than Lago di Braies, otherwise known as Pragser Wildsee. This gorgeous Italian lake is located in the Dolomites region of northern Italy and is renowned for its clear, emerald waters.
One of the most popular things to do at Lago di Braies is to rent a rowboat and go for a leisurely paddle around the lake. You’ll be rewarded with some of the most incredible views of the surrounding mountains. A boat rental costs 19 EUR for 30 minutes and 29 EUR for an hour (2022 pricing).
If you’re feeling active and want to explore the area around Lago di Brais, you will find plenty of cycling and hiking trails. The easiest option is to follow the 4 km long path around the lake. As the trail is completely flat, it is perfect for a family hike or cycle.
However, be aware that the lake has become really famous in the last couple of years, thanks to Instagram, and can get quite busy during peak season. So if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, try visiting early in the morning!
If you’re on a wider Dolomites road trip, arrive early to secure a parking spot. Although the parking lot is pretty big, it fills up quickly, so try to come no later than 8-9 am.
Where to Stay on Lago di Brais
You can stay at Hotel Lago di Braies, located right next to the lake. This way, you won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, and you can relax and enjoy your time at the lake.
Lake Dürrensee – Lago di Landro #8
Contributed by Linda from Hiking The Alps
The turquoise blue waters of Lake Dürrensee are located in South Tyrol, in the north of Italy and should definitely be on your must-see list when you are in the Dolomites.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Three Peaks Nature Park, near the town of Toblach, this beautiful mountain lake is located at 1400 meters above sea level.
What is unique about the Dürrensee is that it warms up more quickly than other mountain lakes at this altitude. Having few inflows and no outflow, the Dürrensee is an excellent place to swim and cool off in the summer when many other lakes are (still) too cold.
Dürrensee Lake is one of the best Italian lakes to start and finish extensive mountain hikes through the Dolomites. You can set off for a great hike to Monte Piana from this starting point.
There is an impressive open-air museum on the top of Monte Piana at 2324 meters above sea level. It consisted of emplacements, trenches and tunnels from the First World War when Austrians and Italians fought against each other on the mountain plateau.
But even those less fond of hiking or families with small children will love a stop at this lake, as it is conveniently located with easy parking options and exudes peace and quiet.
Lake Dürrensee is also a popular destination for cyclists, as the well-known Toblach-Cortina mountain bike trail passes by the lakeshore. In winter, cross-country skiers use this trail and enjoy the impressive mountain panorama.
On its east side there is a garden and on the west side a small restaurant. Otherwise, there are no services or other activities directly at the lake.
Fusine Lakes – Laghi di Fusine #9
Contributed by Olivia from Inspired by Croatia
Tucked away in the Julian Alps, just a three-hour drive north of the stunning town of Venice, the Fusine Lakes are one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. These two lakes in Italy are of glacial origin and are connected by a series of paths that wind through the surrounding emerald forest.
The most beautiful time to visit these lakes is any time of the year! Each season offers its own magical experience, from enchanting panoramas of snow-capped mountains in winter to the mesmerizing jewel-toned hues of the lakes in summer.
Getting to the lakes is simple, and you can drive there directly from either Slovenia or Italy. The best place to park is to go past Lago di Inferiore (the lower lake) and park in the large parking lot by Lago di Superiore (the higher lake). In the winter, parking is free, while you can expect to pay a small fee to park in the summertime.
After parking your car, walk to Lago di Superiore and follow the trail around the blue lagoon. Entrance to the lakes is free. The path that wraps around the higher lake is 2 kilometres long and mostly flat. During your easy hike around the lake, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Mangart Mountain and breathtaking reflections of the surrounding nature in the lake itself.
Follow the connecting path to the lower lake after completing the loop around Lago di Superiore. You will find a small restaurant (Belvedere) overlooking the lake where you can enjoy some light snacks and an Aperol spritz!
Lake Sorapis – Lago di Sorapis #10
Contributed by Caroline from Veggie Wayfarer
Lake Sorapis in the heart of the Dolomites is one of those lakes in Italy that takes your breath away. Bright crystal-clear turquoise waters surrounded by jutting mountain peaks covered in a permanent layer of fluffy snow.
Lake Sorapis is only accessible by a 14km hike (roundtrip) and is less frequented than the infamous Lago di Braies. Nevertheless, Lake Sorapis has become a highlight for many visitors embarking on a Northern Italy itinerary.
Hiking to Lake Sorapis requires proper hiking shoes as the path is unpaved. The route occasionally needs a little clambering over rocks but is suitable for most fitness levels. Towards the end of the hike, a steep ascent awaits. This is undertaken with a few strategically hung ropes and stairs on the side of a cliff. The stairs are not closed in, meaning there is a possibility hikers who suffer from vertigo might feel uncomfortable at this crucial section of the hike. That said, the sweeping views of Lake Sorapis are certainly one of a kind and the perfect reward for such a challenging hike.
Getting to Lake Sorapis is relatively easy, either via car or bus. For those travellers driving to Lake Sorapis, type in Passo Tre Croci in the GPS. An ample parking lot is available at the head of the trail. Bus number 30 leaves Cortina and takes passengers to the Passo Tre Croci bus stop.
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