Why go to the Lake District of Italy?
First and foremost the lakes are beautiful, second they are relaxing and after touring around Italy you will need a rest and third George Clooney could live anywhere in the world and has settled on Lake Como which says something about the place.
Largest & Popular Lakes
The largest and most popular lakes of the northern Italian Lake District are Como, Maggiore and Garda. Lakes Como and Maggiore are close to each other and close to Milan. Garda is further east on the border of Lombardy and the Veneto. Personally, like George, I prefer Lake Como. It is beautiful, peaceful and easy to get to from Milan.
Whether you make one of the lakes your first stop in Italy to recover from a long flight, in the middle of your trip as a break from your touring or at the end so you can go home with one of the most beautiful views in the world etched in your brain, just make sure you make one of them a stop on your trip.
How do you choose between Lakes Como vs Maggiore vs Garda?
If you can’t visit them all, then look at what they offer, where they are and make your decision.
Why Choose to Visit Lake Como (Lago di Como also called Lario)?
Reason to Visit: Villas, Hiking, Shopping and George Clooney
You won’t find a more beautiful place than Lake Como, not necessarily the city of Como, but the lake and the small towns along its shores. You would have to work hard to find a bad view from anywhere on the shores of Lake Como.
Taking the boat around Lake Como, stopping at small towns and villages like Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio and the larger city of Como is one thing I look forward to every time I visit Italy. The mountains surrounding the lake go right down to the water’s edge (or at least they look like they do).
Hiking trails are popular and you see bikers everywhere though I cannot imagine biking up and down the steep hills and narrow roads. If the strain of biking didn’t get you, the wild drivers would.
I have seen many beautiful people around Lake Como, but for as many times as I have been there I have never seen George Clooney. That’s okay, as pretty as George is, he cannot compete with the natural beauty of the area.
What You Need to Know about Lake Como to Make Your Decision
- Lake Como has a number of villas that are open to the public including Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, Villa Carlotta in Tremezo with its beautiful gardens and Villa del Balbianello seen in the latest Star Wars movies.
- Como is a major producer of silk and all the stores around the lake carry beautiful silk products.
- Malpensa Airport in Milan is 40 miles away
- Avoid visiting in July and August especially weekends. Its close proximity to Milan means it can get crowded. Late spring and early fall are the best times to visit – the boats still run on a regular schedule and the weather is perfect.
- There are two good options with the trains. You can take the train from Milan to Como and then take the boat or you can take the train to Varenna and the ferry. Make sure the boat and ferry are scheduled to stop at the town where you are staying.
Why Choose to visit Lago di Garda?
Reason to Visit: Beaches, Water Slides and Amusement Parks
Lake Garda is the most family friendly of the three lakes. Here you have a number of amusement parks including:
- Gardaland, a huge family friendly park with rides and attractions for kids of all ages. Gardaland also has shows featuring acrobats and dolphins. The acrobats and dolphins do not perform together –seeing that might make it worth the trip.
- Caneva World has both a movie studio park and a water park, the Aqua Paradise Park. You can buy a ticket to visit one park or a combination ticket that gets you in both parks. The movie park can’t compete with those found in the states. As long as you lower your expectations you won’t be disappointed. Aqua Paradise Park has white sandy beaches, water slides and water based rides.
- Aquatico Cavour is much more relaxed than either Gardaland or the parks of Caneva World. You will find a white sand beach as well as pools and water slides and some green spaces.
- Parco Naturo Viva oddly enough is a safari park in the middle of Italy! You can drive through the park and see lions, giraffes, and a wide variety of African wildlife in a natural setting. There is also a section that includes animals native to Europe as well as a park with models of dinosaurs.
What You Need to Know about Lake Garda to Make Your Decision
- All of the parks are closed in the winter. The water parks are open for the months of June, July and August
- Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is only 18.5 miles (30 km) from Verona, 68 miles (110 km) from Milan and 81 miles (130 km) from Venice making it easy to get to.
- There are train stations in Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda in the south.
- You can get around Lake Garda by a number of boats including car ferries
- Public buses run around the lake
Why Choose to Visit Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore)?
Reason to Visit: Islands, an Ancient Stone Village, Arturo Toscanini and a little bit of Switzerland
The Borromean Bay between Stresa and Verbania has three islands (the Borromean Islands) that are worth a trip.
- Isola Bella (Beautiful Island) is known for the baroque palace located on the island and its beautiful gardens
- Isola Pescatori (Fishermen’s Island) is known for its fishing
- Isola Madre (Mother Island) is known for its garden
What You Need to Know about Lake Maggiore to Make Your Decision
- Although “maggiore” means greater it is not the largest lake in Italy, that title belongs to Lake Garda
- The western shore of Lake Maggiore is in Piedmont, the eastern in Lombardy and the northern tip of the lake is in Switzerland
- The western shore has more activities while the eastern shore is quieter
- Verbania was one of the favorite summer vacation places of Arturo Toscanini, the great Italian orchestra director
- Stresa gained popularity in the late 18th and early 19th century and has a beautiful lake-side promenade that is lined with large villas. You can reach the Borromean Islands from the jetty in Piazza Marconi
- You can get to Lake Maggiore by train from either Turin or Milan
- Local buses service the lake area
Hope we have helped you decide beteween Lake Como vs Maggiore vs Garda
No matter which decision you make . . . you can’t go wrong.