News & Views from the Italian Lakes Paul Rickard, Inntravel | Posted: 01 June 2017

Inntravel routefinder 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’.

We offer a selection of walking holidays here, including Lake Ledro to Lake Garda, Secret Lake Iseo, Lake Orta to Lake Maggiore, and Along the Via Spluga to Lake Como (the finale on Como’s shores follows earlier sections taking in an ancient Swiss trading route). To these we have now added an enticing SlowMotion journey – Italian Lakes Explorer – on which you can travel between Lakes Maggiore, Como, Iseo and Garda by car.

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.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

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.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

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.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

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.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

From the tiny to the majestic, our Lake Ledro to Lake Garda walking holiday remains popular among those who fancy more of a challenge (grade 2-3). Beginning in the lofty Trentino mountains, our route crosses over to the western shores of Lake Garda, where elegant, liberty-style villas backed by olive-clad hills and lemon trees lend a distinctly Mediterranean flavour to your final three nights in splendid Gargnano. Close to your lakeside hotel 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.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

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.


Self-guided holidays in the Italian Lakes

By air
No fewer than four airports serve the Italian Lakes, and there’s a wide – and ever-expanding – range of international flights to choose from. From the UK, these include the recently launched BA services to Milan Linate from both London City and London Stansted.
Listed from west-to-east, the main gateways to the Italian Lakes are as follows:  
• Milan Malpensa is located 50km north-west of Milan and is the best choice for the western lakes of Orta, Maggiore and Como.
• Milan Linate is not far from the city centre and is well placed for most of the lakes, particularly Lake Como. A shuttle bus serves Milan's Centrale station, where regular trains run to Maggiore, Como, and the southern shores of Garda.
• Bergamo Orio Al Serio is a short drive away from Lake Iseo, but is also a gateway for both Como and Garda. It is set to become Italy's third largest airport, after the main hubs of Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa.  
• Verona Villafranca is the most easterly of these access points and is the most convenient choice for Lake Garda.

By rail
The Italian Lakes can also be reached by Eurostar and the high-speed TGV from Paris, which whisks you down the Rhône Valley before taking a scenic route through the Savoie Alps, arriving in gastronomic Turin just in time for dinner. Elegant and stylish, the Hotel Grand Sitea is situated in the Baroque heart of Turin, close to Piazza San Carlo and Piazza Castello, with a wide choice of restaurants within strolling distance.

Self-guided holidays in the Italian LakesThe following day, board the high-speed Frecciarossa (red arrow) to Milan Centrale railway station, an impressive gateway to the Italian Lakes with a 200-metre-wide façade and 72-metre-high ceiling. From Milan, Lakes Orta, Como and Iseo are just a 90-minute journey away, by local train and a short taxi ride. Our Lake Ledro to Lake Garda holiday is a little further afield via Verona. We can also offer a range of spectacular and leisurely routes to Italy via Switzerland – there is plenty of scope for creativity while crafting your perfect itinerary!


Further information

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 >

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