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Paul Rickard , 01 June, 2017
Inntravel route-finder and Italian expert Paul Rickard is quite an authority on the ‘Great Lakes’ of Lombardy – not least because he lives on the shores of Lake Garda and can call this magnificent area ‘home’.
With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to summarise the latest news, highlights and curiosities from across the 'Great Lakes'...
The Mottarone cable car is now back in action after a complete renovation during 2016, allowing you to reach higher as you walk from Lake Orta to Lake Maggiore. From the summit, there are sweeping views from the Po Valley to the summits of the Alps, and in case you don’t make it to the top on the journey between the two lakes (we offer a lower route in case of bad weather), Mottarone can be reached the following day from the valley station at Stresa, where you spend two nights.
Lake Orta is the most westerly of the Italian pre-alpine lakes and is a truly enchanting spot, set within the Piemonte region that is home to some of the best vineyards in the country. In particular, the reds are magnificent, and include the well-known Barolo and many other high-quality wines such as Dolcetto d’Alba and Barbera d’Alba. The area is also renowned for its excellent cuisine, and boasts a fine selection of restaurants. These include the Michelin-starred Villa Crespi in Orta San Giulio, set in an historical residence serving contemporary Mediterranean food in interesting combinations, and headed by acclaimed chef, Antonio Cannavacciuolo. Lake Orta was also chosen as a location for the 2016 film The Correspondent, starring Jeremy Irons and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Several scenes were shot in the historic streets of Orta San Giulio and across the calm waters of this evocative lake.
Further east, the more celebrated Lake Como offers some of the most dramatic lake scenery in the region, and while it is deservedly popular with visitors, our chosen spot of Lenno and the charming Hotel San Giorgio offer a more sedate feel amid luxurious villas and gardens. One of these is the staggeringly beautiful, 17th-century Villa Balbianello (managed by the Italian National Trust), which rises from a breathtaking promontory, providing glorious views across to the lake's central and most beautiful part, where it forks like an inverted ‘Y’ with the fine old towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna marking the intersection of the lake’s three branches. Lenno also has its own ferry quay, so you can sail around the lake to soak up the spectacular scenery on a memorable end to our holiday Along the Via Spluga to Lake Como.
Beyond is low-key Lake Iseo, one of Inntravel's first holidays in the region from back in 2003, and still receiving great feedback from customers. After Christo's 'Floating Piers' large-scale project in 2016 ('walking on water'), the lake has returned to its customary serenity and tranquillity, and continues to delight with its outstanding cuisine and interesting wines. The Franciacorta vineyards, which you can explore on your final day, produce amazing, Vouvray-like spumante wines of great complexity and character, plus refined reds – among the great secrets of Italian wine.
Far better known is Lake Garda, whose elegant, liberty-style villas backed by olive-clad hills and lemon trees lend a distinctly Mediterranean flavour. Close to your lakeside hotel in splendid Gargnano is Villa Igea, where D.H. Lawrence resided just over 100 years ago: his collection of essays, Twilight in Italy, relates some of his experiences and impressions of the area. Close to Lake Garda, Verona is probably the region's most magical city, and is a perfect complement (and delightful contrast) to your week’s walking.
Our latest addition is the SlowMotion itinerary, Italian Lakes Explorer, which takes in many of our favourite lakes on a self-guided journey by car. With stays in some wonderful spots, such as the handsome Hotel Cannero on Lake Maggiore near the Swiss border, this extraordinary road trip allows you to explore as you please, discovering this majestic corner of Italy for yourselves.
The Italian Lakes
The Italian lakes are famed for their beauty and elegance, from tiny Lake Orta in the west, to the much larger Lake Garda in the east. Choose to explore on foot on one of our walking holidays, or journey by car through these magnificent landscapes. More about our holidays in the Italian Lakes >