There is so much to see in Northern Italy, between Milan and Turin You’ll have your plate full. But if there is anything you must do before you leave this stunning region, you need to plan a day or a few days at one of its great lakes. 

Lake Como

Starting with the obvious, Lake Como is one of the most famous Italian lakes and yes, its for good reason. The picture-perfect lake is surrounded by rugged alpine mountains creating its famous and unique vista. Throughout history this spot has attracted some of the wealthiest benefactors looking for a pretty holiday get away, they built their large villa’s, mansions and gardens leaving us with a few visual delights.
In the town of Bellagio take a stroll through the I Giardini di Villa Melzi Villa, it is a national monument that boats beautiful 19th century gardens. Or explore the more park like gardens at the Parco di Villa Serbelloni. If that’s not your thing, you could always hop on a boat and go celebrity spotting, keep an eye out for the Clooney and Branson Villa’s to name a few.

Lake Como and Bellagio

L-R Top: Looking down in Como; Looking towards Bellagio. Bottom: Bellagio Architecture; Bellagio Streets; Como Duomo.

For those adventurers travelling to Lake Como there is an almost endless selection of outdoor activities, from water sports to hiking and Zip lining and something called Fly Emotion Aerofune, whatever that maybe, we sense an adrenaline rush at the least. 

Lake Lugano

Marking the boarders of Italy and Switzerland Lake Lugano has the best of both countries. Although the actual town of Lugano is mainly Italian-speaking it is in Switzerland. Culture-keen visitors can stop by the lakefront church of Santa Maria degli Angioli to see the Passion and Crucifixion by Bernardino Luini, or browse the ever-changing exhibits of the Museo d'Arte della Svizzera Italiana.

Lake Lugano

L-R Top: Piazza della Riforma, Lugano. Bottom: Lugano town and water front; Parco Civico, Lugano.

Lugano is a city made for strolling, with distractions left right and center; find yourself a chocolate shop, street Café or a photo-worthy view. With this little town its best to be flexible you’re bound to stumble across something that’ll spike your interest.  If you’re craving fresh mountain air, take the funicular up to the summit of Monte Brè, where you’ll find the starting point for several hiking trails. 

Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and one of the most beautiful. It is surrounded by quaint little Italian towns, many of which are well worth the visit and make for the perfect holiday home base. Endearing as the lakeside towns are, they are somewhat upstaged by Maggiore’s spectacular islands, there are three gems that everyone should see, Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Pescatori. These little islands have a tendency to steel all the praise and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Lake Maggiore and Islands

L-R Top: Teatro Massimo on Isola Bella; Isola Bella. Middle: Isola Pescatori. Bottom: Chiesa on Isola Madre; Isola Madre.

The Borromean Islands owe their name to the Borromeo family who bought up large parts of them in the 16th century. Each island has its own distinct personality or feature. Isola Bella, named after the Countess Borromeo, is home to a spectacular ten-tiered garden complete with rare white peacocks frolicking about freely. Isola Madre, the largest of the three is also recognised for its gardens but it also has the Palazzo Borromeo. Lastly Isola Pescatori is a small fishing island with a constant population of around 50 people. Isola Pescatori no longer belongs to the Borromeo Family but is often still classed in under the name. All three of these Islands are open to tourists and even seeing one will be a highlight for your trip. 

Lake Iseo

Last but certainly not least on this list of Italian lakes is Lake Iseo, still undiscovered by tourists this is where the locals go. An hour outside of Milan and nestled in the wine growing region of Franciacorta, this lake boasts as much charm as its more famous counterparts. While exploring this little paradise make sure to visit Monte Isola. If you’re into hiking this is the spot for you, with no cars the entire Island can be explored on foot or on a bicycle. Make sure to take a hike up to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Ceriola, a church built on the Summit which has the most breath-taking views of the Lake. Isola di Loreto is a privately-owned island that looks like it’s been cut out of a story book. If you get the chance hop on a boat out to see it. 

Lake Iseo and Monte Isola

Top: Isola di Loreto. Bottom- left: Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo. Right-top: Arch of Rocca Martinengo Castle on Monte Isola; Right bottom: San Giacomo in Bergamo

While planning a holiday to Lake Iseo, organise a stop off at the city of Bergamo. Holding on to its Medieval roots Bergamo is broken up into two sections, Upper Bergamo and Lower Bergamo. The much more modern Bergamo Bassa (Lower Bergamo, is pretty enough, but it’s the Venetian wall-encircled, hilltop old town, with its cobblestone street, historical buildings and distant mountain views, that truly enchants. 

Planning a trip to Northern Italy? Take a look at our Milan tours, which include a Lake Como day trip from Milan and a Milan to Turin tour