When travelers think of spending time on the water in Italy, they generally think of vactioning on the beautiful Amalfi coast, in Venice or even on the Cinque Terre. And though those areas are undeniable beautiful, Italy has many equally picturesque lakes throughout the country. And though we certainly can’t cover all of them today – I have chosen five that might be worth a visit.
Located in Lombardy, Italy, Como is a 50 km glacier lake. It has a stunning panoramic view with its lakeside towns and snow-capped mountains in the distance. With the ferry service on the lake, you can get to the surrounding towns of Tremezzo, Bellagio, and Varenna. You’ll be able to experience the Italian lifestyle, which focuses on the lake and waterfront.
Cafes, restaurants, nightlife attractions and beautiful beaches are all over. It’s no wonder that George Clooney owns a villa here – who can deny he’s got some great standards of taste! Actually, Lake Como is known for its attractively romantic villas and for being a popular spot for the wealthy since Roman times. Since this lake is actually the deepest in Italy at 1320 ft, it is a special historical tourist destination, a perfect place to visit!
Lake Garda is also a glacier lake in the Lombardy region, and the largest lake in Italy at that. It is surrounded by the provinces of Trento, Breschia, and Verona. One of the most famous towns on the lake is Sirmione, known for its Virgilio and Catullo spas, as well as cultural life. There are also medieval castles near Lake Garda, like the 13th century Scaliger castle. Visitors can also go to the ruins of Grotte di Catullo (Grotto of Catullus), which was once an ancient Roman spa. Sulfur springs, which are fabled to have healing powers are another popular option.
And of course, if you go to Lake Garda, do not miss out on Gardaland, one of Italy’s most famous theme parks. It has roller coasters and water rides, including Escape from Atlantis, Magic Mountain, and Sequoia Adventure. On the lake itself, many people take up swimming, windsurfing, and sailing on its clear blue waters.
Lake Lesina is one of the largest in the south of Italy, although it’s actually a shallow lagoon. It links to the Adriatic Sea through two canals; Acquarotta and Schiapparo. Though it may be an unconventional destination, the lake is known for its eel population, which provides a rich income for local fishermen.
If you ever want to experience fishing for an eel yourself, Lesina is teeming with them (my Dad used to fish for eel with his Grandfather, so I know people do it!). It is believed that the area was inhabited dating back to prehistoric times. If you are looking for a less touristy lake, Lesina is great, because there are quite a few hotels, bed & breakfasts, as well as campsites in the area.
Formed by geologic fractures, Lake Trasimeno is 3 million years old. It is located in Umbria, and has always been an important environmental landmark for the region. It was actually the Etruscans who first inhabited the area of Lake Trasimeno. Speaking of the Etruscans, this lake was mentioned in the novel Under the Tuscan Sun – it can be seen from Cortona and other parts of Tuscany.
Perhaps it is such a beautiful sight because of its surrounding hills rich in olive and fruit trees, or maybe it’s the lake’s three islands, Isola Maggiore, Isola Polvese, and Isola Minore. Both Maggiore and Polvese islands house ruined castles, like the Gugliemi Castle on Maggiore. Parts of the mainland area also have ruins to explore, such as the Vernazzano leaning tower, which is said to lean just as much, if not more than the leaning tower of Pisa. Lake Trasimeno is an interesting area, full of Italian history as well as that famous Italian beauty.
In central Italy, you have Lake Bolsena (often called Italy’s belly button because of its central location) which has volcanic origins and is actually a crater lake. Its two islands, Bisentina and Martana, were formed by underwater volcanic eruptions of the Vulsini. It is located in northern Viterbo, and was also an important resource for the Romans as well as the Etruscans. Many visitors comment on the clearness of the water—it turns out that the local government maintains the lake’s purity through an advanced purification system. Essentially, if you feel up to it, the water is pure enough to drink.
Even local fishermen use water straight from Lake Bolsena to make a fish soup called sbrosia. Actually, the area is such a fishing haven, that during August, there is even a Bolsena Fish Festival. On top of that is the Montefiascone Wine Festival in the same month and the Bolsena Flower Festival on Corpus Domini day in June. Lake Bolsena is certainly a place you should see.
Have you ever been to one of Italy’s lakes? Tell us about it!