14 Gorgeous Italian Lakes – Why, When, and How to Visit Them (+ Map)

When you think of Italian Lakes, you probably immediately picture the Italian Lakes District in Northern Italy and its famous lakes – Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Lake Iseo, and Lake Orta.

While those lakes are gorgeous and definitely worth a visit, Italy is home to over 1500 lakes, and many of them are worth exploring. Rent a car and visit a few of them on your trip!

The list below will take you to 14 of them, but here are my ‘Best of’ the Italian Lakes:

Best of the Italian Lakes:

Best Italian Lake for Families:  Lake Garda
Best Italian Lake for Romance:  Lake Como
Best Italian Lake for Water Sports:  Lake Garda
Best Italian Lake for Gardens:  Lake Maggiore
Best Italian Lake for Sailing: Lake Bolsena
Best Italian Lake for Photographers: Lake Braies
Best Italian Lake for Luxury: Lake Como
Best Italian Lake for Wildlife: Lake Massaciùccoli

Italian Lakes Map

North Italy Lakes

Lake Como (Lago di Como)

View of Bellagio on Lake Como on a sunny day in Northern Italy.

Location: the Lombardy region in northern Italy
Best For: dramatic scenery, picturesque little towns
When to Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 3 days
Activities:  shopping, hiking, cycling, boat trips, swimming, culture, exploring little villages
Where to Stay: Bellagio
How to Get There: by train, from Milan Central Station to Como San Giovanni (40 minutes)
Fun Facts:

  • Como is Italy’s deepest lake. At 1,345 feet, it’s as deep as some of its surrounding mountains are tall.
  • Villa Balbianello, an FAI (Italian National Trust) property is a spectacular villa you can’t miss and Villa Carlotta has amazing gardens.
  • Lake Como, the most famous of the Italian Lakes, is famous for the production of silk.

Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore)

Lake Maggiore with Stresa in the foreground and Isola Bella seen in the lake.  You can see the towering mountains in the background on a sunny day in northern Italy.

Location: the Lombardy and Piedmont regions in northern Italy and Switzerland
Best For: scenery, island visits and beautiful gardens
When to Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 3 days
Activities: swimming, hiking, boat trips, paddle boarding, sailing, culture
Where to Stay: Stresa
How to Get There: by train from Milan Central Station to Stresa (1 hour)
Fun Facts:

  • Two-thirds of the lake are in Italy and the other third is in Switzerland.
  • The Borromeo Islands, especially Isola Bella with its Villa Borromeo, are a must-see. White peacocks roam the gardens of Isola Bella.
  • The lake is home to some of Italy’s loveliest gardens like the Villa Taranto and the gardens on Isola Madre.

Check out our Local’s Guide to Stresa and our Guide to Isola Bella!

Lake Garda (Lago di Garda)

Sirmione castle as seen from the beautiful blue water of Lake Garda in Northern Italy.

Location: Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige and Lombardy regions in north-west Italy
Best For: fun and sports, kids of all ages (babies and toddlers to teens)
When To Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 3 days
Activities: water sports, sailing, windsurfing, wine tasting, nightlife, shopping, biking
Where to Stay: Sirmione
How to Get There:

  • by car on the A4 Turin-Trieste highway
  • by train from the city of Verona to the towns of Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano, then by bus or taxi to Sirmione

Fun Facts:

  • Sirmione has a 12th-century castle and sulfurous spa water.
  • Gardaland, Italy’s biggest theme park, is close by.

Lake Orta (Lago d’Orta)

Orta San Giulio island on Lake Orta in northern Italy.

Location: the Piedmont region in northern Italy
Best For: romance and relaxation
When To Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: shopping, people-watching in cafés, culture, walking, swimming
Where to Stay: Orta San Giulio
How to Get There:

  • by car, a 30-minute drive from Stresa on Lake Maggiore
  • by train from Novara (50 minutes)

Fun Facts:

  • Lake Orta has an island (Isola San Giulio) with a Benedictine Convent. The nuns live there in total silence.
  • The Sacro Monte di Orta (above the town of Orta), with its 20 devotional chapels packed with statues, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read our Local’s Guide to the Village of Orta San Giulio.

Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano)

Lake Lugano seen through a villa gate on a cloudy day in northern Italy.

Location: on the border between Italy and Switzerland (the Lombardy region and the Swiss canton of Ticino)
Best For: elegance and mountain scenery
When To Visit: all year round
How Long to Stay: 2 days
Activities: hiking, art and culture, sailing, mountain biking, windsurfing, shopping and fine dining
Where to Stay: Lugano
How to Get There:

  • by car on the A2 Milan-Basel highway
  • by plane from Geneva or Zurich (Lugano has its own small airport)
  • by train from Milan Central Station

Fun Facts:

  • Despite most of the lake is in Switzerland, the Ticino Canton is Italian speaking.
  • Lugano is full of high-end stores, but head up into the surrounding mountains like Monte Brè or Monte Generoso to experience all the beauty of the pre-Alps.
  • In Lugano’s elegant restaurants you’ll still enjoy Northern Italian cuisine, but combined with Swiss specialties like raclette and fondue.

Lake Iseo (Lago d’Iseo)

Lake Iseo in Northern Italy as seen from above on a sunny day.

Location: the Lombardy region, between the towns of Bergamo and Brescia, in northern Italy
Best For: picturesque towns and relaxation
When to Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: swimming, wine-tasting, walking, people-watching in cafés
Where to Stay: Iseo
How to Get There:

  • by car from Milan (1 hour)
  • by train from Milan Central Station to Brescia, then Brescia to Iseo

Fun Facts:

  • Monte Isola, the lake’s only island is filled with shops, restaurants, and narrow cobblestone alleyways.
  • Internationally renowned artist Christo created a ‘floating pier’ in 2016 which drew one and half million visitors in just over two weeks!
  • Italy’s famous wine-producing region, Franciacorta, is close by.

Lake Braies (Lago di Braies/Pragser Wildsee)

Lake Braies in the Dolomites in Italy on a cloudy day.  You can see the boat dock and a couple of boats in the crystal clear lake.

Location: in the Dolomites, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, in northern Italy
Best For: unspoiled nature and spectacular landscape
When to Visit: all year round
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: hiking and biking
Where to Stay: Dobbiaco
How to Get There:

  • get to Dobbiaco by train from Venice, or by car on the Brenner Highway (Autostrada del Brennero) from Verona
  • by car or by bus from the town of Dobbiaco

Fun Facts:

  • Set in the Fanes National Park it is surrounded by pine forests and towering peaks.
  • It is the most beautiful lake in the Dolomites due to its emerald green color.
  • The lake became famous recently in Italy as it was featured in the TV series Un Passo dal Cielo (One Step from Heaven).

Lake Dobbiaco (Lago di Dobbiaco/Toblacher See)

Cloudy day on Lake Dobbiaco in the Dolomites in Italy.  The water is different shades of green and turquoise.  You can see the forested mountains in the background

Location: in the Dolomites, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, in northern Italy
Best For: alpine scenery and unspoiled nature
When to Visit: all year round
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: walking, hiking, biking, pedal boating, picnicking
Where to Stay: Dobbiaco
How to Get There:

  • get to Dobbiaco by train from Venice, or by car on the Brenner Highway (Autostrada del Brennero) from Verona
  • get to the lake by car or by bus from the town of Dobbiaco

Fun Facts:

  • There are cafés and restaurants at the northern end of the lake where you can enjoy some typical specialties of the South Tyrol like canederli (dumplings) and strudel.
  • Over 60% of the population in this area speak German as their mother tongue.

Lake Misurina (Lago di Misurina)

Lake Misurina with the dramatic Dolomite mountains in the background in northern Italy on a gorgeous sunny day.  You can see people walking along the edge of the lake.

Location: the Cadore Area, in the Veneto region, in northern Italy
Best For: fairytale scenery and mountain views
When to Visit: all year round
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: hiking, paddle boating, and even ice skating in winter!
Where to Stay: Cortina d’Ampezzo
How to Get There: by bus or car from Cortina d’Ampezzo

Fun Facts:

  • The lake has an amazing view of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo (Tre Cime di Lavaredo).
  • There are hotels around the lake or stay in the bustling little town of Cortina d’Ampezzo, which hosted the 1956 Olympics.
  • Many films have been shot in the surrounding mountains, including a James Bond (For Your Eyes Only) movie and the Sylvester Stallone action thriller Cliffhanger.

Lake Resia (Lago di Rèsia/Reschensee)

Spectacular colors at Lake Resia in northern Italy.  The lake is a beautiful green blue and the grass on the shore is a golden yellow.

Location: the Trentino-Alto Adige region, in South Tyrol, in northern Italy
Best For: alpine landscape and a fairytale view
When to Visit: all year round
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: Nordic walking, hiking, and all kinds of water sports (especially kitesurfing)
Where to Stay: Merano
How to Get There: by train from Merano to the town of Malles (around 1 hour 20 minutes) and then by bus to Lake Resia  

Fun Facts:

  • This is an artificial lake built for hydroelectricity.
  • The villages of Curon and other little hamlets were flooded in 1950 to create the lake and inhabitants and farmers were forced to move elsewhere. The steeple of the 14th-century church of Curon can be seen emerging from the water. Local legend has it that you can still hear the bells ringing from the deep!
  • The lovely spa town of Merano is a great base for exploring the area.

Central Italy Lakes

Lake Bolsena (Lago di Bolsena)

Sunset over Lake Bolsena with its castle peeking above the lake.

Location: the Lazio region, in central Italy
Best For: picturesque historic towns and crystal-clear water
When to Visit: May to October
How Long to Stay: 2 days
Activities: swimming, sailing, boat rides, sports fishing, and kite surfing
Where to Stay: Bolsena
How to Get There:

  • by car from Rome or Florence
  • by bus to Bolsena from the town of Orvieto

Fun Facts:

  • The largest volcanic lake in the whole of Europe formed around 370,000 years ago, Lake Bolsena even has ‘tides’ with a high and low difference of 20 inches!
  • The lake is on the Via Francigena an ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury in England to Rome and eventually to the Holy Land.
  • The lake is surrounded by towns worth visiting, like Montefiascone, Capodimonte, Marta, and the incredible Cività di Bagnoregio.

Lake Trasimeno (Lago di Trasimeno)

Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy as seen from afar.  It's surrounded by low forested hills and farmland.

Location: the Umbria region, in central Italy
Best For: castles, churches, and monasteries
When to Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 2 days
Activities: music, culture, swimming, Umbrian cuisine, visiting medieval villages
Where to Stay: Passignano sul Trasimeno
How to Get There: Passignano is about 30 minutes by train from the city of Perugia

Fun Facts:

  • Lake Trasimeno is home to one of the most important blues music festivals in Europe, the Trasimeno Blues Festival, which takes place every year in late July.
  • The Castello di Magione is a 12th-century castle built for pilgrims traveling to Rome or Jerusalem and can still be visited.

Good To Know: You can even visit Lake Trasimeno on a Day Trip from Florence.

Lake Massaciùccoli (Lago di Massaciùccoli)

Location: the Tuscany region, in central Italy
Best For: culture, flora and fauna
When to Visit: April to October
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: bird watching, walking, cycling, boat trips, fishing visiting Roman ruins and opera!
Where to Stay: Lucca
How to Get There: by car from the E80
Fun Facts:

  • The delightful walled city of Lucca is a perfect base and Massaciùccoli is a lovely day trip. It even makes a great day trip from Florence.
  • It’s not far from the sea and these wetlands are the remains of swamps and marshes that covered the coastal plain.
  • It’s a unique environment and a paradise for birdwatchers.
  • Renowned composer Giacomo Puccini lived in the town of Torre del Lago on the lake and a famous opera festival is held every year in his honor.

Southern Italy Lakes

Lake Bracciano (Lago di Bracciano)

Waves lapping the shore of Lake Bracciano in Lazio, Italy.  You can see the pretty village of Anguillara Sabazia in the background.

Location: the Lazio region, about 20 miles north-west of Rome, in southern Italy
Best For: clean water and sports
When to Visit: May to October
How Long to Stay: 1 day
Activities: sailing, canoeing, SUP, swimming or just lounging near the shore
Where to Stay: Bracciano
How to Get There:

  • by car from Rome (1 hour)
  • by train from Rome to Anguillara Sabazia or Bracciano

Fun Facts:

  • Bracciano is a volcanic lake and its water is used for the city of Rome.
  • No motorboats are allowed and the lake is teeming with fish.
  • Visit the 15th-century Odescalchi Castle or the historic Air Force Museum and explore the lake’s other pretty villages of Trevignano Romano and Anguillara Sabazia.

More Beautiful Italian Lakes

Spectacular view of Lago Blue in the Aosta Valley in Northern Italy.  Clear, sunny day with the Matterhorn and larch trees in the background.
Lago Blue in Valle d’Aosta in northern Italy

Lake Varese

Another of Lombardy’s beautiful lakes. Visit the Velate Tower, the Palude Brabbia (for birdwatching), the splendid Villa Panza and the ‘mini-Versailles’, Palazzo Estense.

Lake Ledro

A crystal clear lake close to Riva del Garda, famous for its bronze-age pile dwellings (Neolithic huts built on stilts). Great for those who love running, walking, and cycling.

Lake Levico

Located in the province of Trento, it’s a mecca for sports fans offering canoeing, sailing, SUP, windsurfing, and kayaking. Lots of winter sports in the surrounding area, as well as a great Christmas market.

Lake Mergozzo

A stone’s throw from Lake Maggiore, this charming little lake is one of Italy’s cleanest. It’s perfect for swimming and all kinds of water sports. It’s also a gourmet destination with a 2-Michelin star restaurant, Il Piccolo Lago.

Lago Blu (Lac Bleu)

Surrounded by centuries-old larch trees, this little lake is in the Valle d’Aosta (Aosta Valley), in northern Italy. On a clear day, there are amazing reflections of the Matterhorn in its azure waters.

I hope this has inspired you to visit one of Italy’s picturesque lakes! Buon viaggio!

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