4 Dreamy Italian Lake Trips
4 Dreamy Italian Lake Trips

4 Dreamy Italian Lake Trips

From beautiful Como to quieter Iseo, northern Italy’s lake district has timeless appeal. Thanks to the warm temperatures and sparser crowds, spring is the perfect time to visit, so here’s where to stay, what to eat and the best things to see…
By Sherri Andrew
B&B Ca 'Spiga
B&B Ca 'Spiga


Lake Como

Synonymous with beautiful vistas, pretty lakeside towns and George Clooney, Lake Como is perhaps Italy’s most famous lake. One of the deepest in Europe, it’s in the Lombardy region at the foothills of the Italian Alps. Como has a glitzy reputation as the playground for aristocrats, artists and celebs, and it’s been featured in countless films, including the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale. Hotels don’t come cheap, but there are a few affordable options.

As with all the lakes in this list, a boat tour is non-negotiable. Hire a private taxi boat or take the ferry around the lake to explore the 40km-long stretch of water. From the deck of a boat, you can see the picturesque ravine at Nesso, spot Clooney’s 18th-century villa, and see the palatial Villa Fontanelle where former owner Gianni Versace entertained the likes of Sir Elton John and Princess Diana. Back on land, explore the historic streets of Como town to see Como Cathedral and Broletto di Como, the medieval town hall.

For great shopping, the fishing village of Varenna on the lake’s eastern shore is a must. Its narrow, cobbled alleys and piazzas are dotted with lovely artisan boutiques and clothes shops, as well as cafés, restaurants and gelaterias. It is also home to some of the area’s most elegant villas with botanical gardens. Nearby towns worth visiting include Tremezzina, Lecco and Cernobbio. Tourist Italy offer numerous guided tours around Italy's most beautiful lakes – we like the sound of the sunrise tour around Lake Como and the surrounding area. 


Affordable: B&B Ca 'Spiga

This small B&B occupies a pretty yellow building on the southwestern tip of Como. Set away from the crowds, the property has beautiful  views of a less assuming part of the lake. Rooms are simple but have old-world charm, and each one has a view of the lake – Tulipano room is our favourite for its beamed ceilings and characterful design. Guests can enjoy a generous continental breakfast and use the jacuzzi in the vaulted cellar.

Rooms from £130 per night.

Visit CaSpiga.it


Luxe: Grand Hotel Tremezzo

You’ll likely recognise this iconic property from its orange and white parasols and lakeside pool. The family-owned Grand Hotel Tremezzo is in an Art Nouveau palazzo on the western shore of the lake, looking out towards Bellagio. There’s elegance and glamour around every corner, but the atmosphere is far from stuffy. Guests can use the impressive spa and relax on the little private sandy beach. For a special trip, it’s worth booking – even if it's just for a single night.

Rooms from £750 per night. 

Visit ElegantResorts.co.uk


Lake Iseo

Lake Como’s little sister has more of a relaxed vibe – expect to see locals fishing at sunset and swimming in summer. Set in between the cities of Brescia (famous for its excellent food scene and sparkling wine) and Bergamo, it is surrounded by scenic bicycle routes while the town of Iseo has lots of boutiques for an afternoon of shopping. For the ultimate experience, book a private boat tour of the lake with Bellini Nautica, a company which offers trips in a range of vintage boats, including a 1970s Riva Aquarama. 

The island mountain in the middle of the lake – Monte Isola – is the largest of its kind in Europe, and the village of the same name is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. The island is known for its traditional products like Monte Isola salami, extra-virgin olive oil and dried sardines, all of which you can sample in the many restaurants. In the centre of Iseo, visit the churches of Pieve di Sant’Andrea and Santa Maria del Mercato, and the cobbled Piazza Garibaldi, which is lined with colonnaded buildings. Plus, you don’t want to miss the open-air market on Fridays. The town is full of places to eat and drink, from scenic spots on the waterfront to wine bars and trattorias hidden down medieval lanes. On the southern shore of the lake, Sarnico is a lively town and popular for walks along the lakefront, while Pisogne on the lake’s north-eastern shore is a quaint old town full of narrow streets and ancient pastel-coloured buildings. 

Finally, the region of Franciacorta to the south of the lake produces one of Italy’s best sparkling wines. We recommend booking a day trip to visit the Bellavista wine estate that’s owned by the nearby L'Albereta hotel. During a tour, you’ll learn about the estate before heading into the cellars and enjoying a wine tasting.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Grand Hotel Tremezzo



Affordable: Castello Oldofredi

This is one of the few hotels on Monte Isola, offering excellent value for money. With great views of the lake, the hotel is set in a restored mansion which was recently renovated with the addition of spacious rooms in the main building, plus self-catered apartments overlooking the olive tree-lined garden. Guests can dine under parasols on the terrace, relax in the hammock in the garden, fire up the BBQ, or try activities like cooking classes or Pilates by the lake. 

Rooms from £60 per night.

Visit OldofrediResidence.it

Luxe: L'Albereta

This charming, family run hotel has been lovingly maintained over the last 30 years. Set in a beautiful 19th-century villa surrounded by the vineyards of Franciacorta, near the southern shore of Lake Iseo, the Relais & Château property has stunning views from every corner and oozes glamour. Its 53 rooms and suites vary in size and décor: some are contemporary, others feature period furniture, and a few have balconies overlooking the vineyards. One of the main draws here is the Espace spa that offers detox and wellness programmes with over 30 experts. Guests can relax by the indoor and outdoor pool, use the tennis courts and explore the surrounding hills on the hotel’s bikes. The main restaurant, LeoneFelice Vista Lago, serves a selection of typical Italian and regional dishes, while delicious pizzas are available at La Filiale where celeb chef Franco Pepe heads up the kitchen. 

Rooms from £310 per night.

Visit Albereta.it


Lake Garda

Just an hour’s drive from Verona, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and one of the country’s top tourist spots. Bordering three regions – Lombardy, Trentino Alto-Adige and the Veneto – it’s a great base to explore pretty towns, enjoy lakeside beaches and try activities like water sports, cycling and hiking. For panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, ride the Malcesine cable car which ascends Monte Baldo.

Places not to be missed include Malcesine, a pretty town with cobbled lanes dominated by the medieval Scaligero castle; the Roman town of Sirmione with its Rocca Scaligera, one of the country’s best-preserved castles; and Limone, a cobbled town surrounded by citrus groves – walk along the ‘floating’ footpath suspended above the lake for exhilarating views. We’d also recommend visiting Riva del Garda, which sits beneath the Dolomite mountains and has lots of cool waterside cafés; and Torri del Benaco, one of the lake’s most beautiful villages, surrounded by remnants of 10th-century walls.

Borgo Tre
Borgo Tre



Affordable: Grand Hotel Fasano

Hotels don’t come cheap in the region, but there are a few affordable properties, including the smart Grand Hotel Fasano, which offers the glamour and grand interiors of the luxe properties on this list, without the price tag. Set in a former 19th-century mansion, there are three excellent restaurants to choose from, as well as a small private beach with cabanas and sun loungers.

Rooms from £220 per night.

Visit GHF.it

Luxe: Borgo Tre

Set to open this spring, Borgo Tre is one of Italy’s most exciting new hotels. Taking over a renovated 18th-century farmhouse in the hills overlooking the lake, it’s surrounded by cypress and olive trees, with the town of Torri del Benaco within walking distance. Here, it’s all about slow living and reconnecting to nature. Guests can relax at the spa, enjoy yoga retreats and book experiences like Vespa road trips and guided hikes. There are six suites with private gardens and terraces, some with lake views while others have free-standing baths and space for multiple guests. 

Rooms from £515 per night.

Visit BorgoTre.com



Lake Orta

If you’re after a relaxing holiday without the crowds – even during high summer – Lake Orta in the Piedmont region is just as picturesque as the others on this list, with sleepy medieval villages, faded waterfront villas and cultural sites. Plus, it’s just an hour from Milan, so you could combine a shopping trip with a few days in the sunshine.

You could easily spend days exploring the lakeside towns: Orta San Giulio with its cobbled streets, pastel-coloured buildings and busting food markets; Isola San Giulio, home to beautiful and richly decorated churches; and Pella where there’s a slower pace of life – the perfect place to stop for an espresso and watch the boats bob along. 

Book a boat tour to take in the surrounding Alpine peaks or hike the Sacro Monte trail with its lush landscape dotted with chapels and religious monuments. There’s also the option to go kayaking or paddleboarding – just hire equipment or book a lesson at Canoe Lago d'Orta.


Affordable: Lacqua By The Lake

With its pool overlooking the lake and chic interiors, this hotel is perhaps the best value for money on this list. There are 18 modern apartments with neutral décor, Crittall windows and marble accents. Most have a private balcony or terrace, while some have lush gardens and a jacuzzi. Guests can kick back at the beach club where you can use paddleboards, e-boats and e-bikes, and swim in the heated infinity pool. There’s a wellness area for treatments, plus a restaurant headed up by celeb chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo. 

Rooms from £130 per night.

Visit LaquaByTheLake.it

Luxe: Casa Fantini

This hotel was designed by world-famous Italian architect Piero Lissoni. A celebration of the area’s slow pace of life, the hotel is filled with beautiful vintage furniture and artwork. As well as a pool and plenty of entertaining spaces, there are nine spacious bedrooms and two suites. Super Rooms have a spacious terrace with lakefront views overlooking the gardens, and all bedrooms have modern en-suites, complete with steam room showers and Fantini Rubinetti bathroom fixtures. You can also rent the entire property for a bucket list trip.

Rooms from £400 per night.

Visit CasaFantiniLakeTime.com



Spring (April to June) and autumn (September and October) are ideal, with comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds. The gardens that line the shores are at their best between April and June. July and August see the highest temperatures, making them a great time to swim in the lakes, but they are also when visitor numbers are at their peak.


For Como and Orta, fly to Milan Malpensa (2hrs from London). For Garda and Iseo, fly to Verona (2hrs from London).

Borgo Tre
Borgo Tre


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