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10 Most Beautiful Lakes in Northern Italy

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Natasha Weiss

While the boot-shaped peninsula that is Italy is surrounded by water, many people are surprised to learn it has over 1,000 lakes. The most beautiful lakes in Northern Italy offer another way to discover the charm of Italy by the lakeside while dining or enjoying the view at a villa on the water. Adding them to your itinerary when visiting Italy can only make your visit to Italy all the more magical.

Head to Venice and glide along the canals, or stop in Greece and make your way to Italy from there. Your eyes will be in for an incredible treat when you get a glimpse of these stunning lakes. 

1. Lake Maggiore 

Head to Lombardy and Piedmont to discover the lake in Northern Italy that serves as a playground for the elite. A famed summer residence for the rich and famous, the villas along the lake seem like something from a postcard rather than reality. With the pristine mountains in the background, these villas evoke that splendid Italian charm. 

A stop here puts you near Stresa, a gorgeous town along the lake with a promenade that allows for serene walks and immaculate views. The Borromean Islands are another reason to make this part of your Italian getaway. Here, the villas adorned with manicured gardens are the embodiment of pristine elegance. 

2. Lake Garda 

Families often flock to Lake Garda when they plan a trip to Italy because it’s near the Gardaland theme park. But don’t forget to unplug and submerge yourself in this utterly serene setting. This popular getaway spot for spring and summer is found between Veneto, Lombardy, and Trentino Alto Adige. The lake itself if beautiful, though just nearby, historic villages and castles take you back in time. After you explore the history of the area, lounging along the shore and reveling in the view is an excellent way to spend time. However, take a lake ferry and you can truly appreciate the splendor of the views afforded from this vantage point.

3. Lake Como

You can’t have a list of the most beautiful lakes in Northern Italy without including the most famous of the country’s lakes. If you’re planning an Italian itinerary from the south to the north, make sure your trip includes a visit to Milan, for it makes accessing Lake Como easy for a day trip. One of the most remarkable traits about this lake is that it has an unusual shape, much like the entire country of Italy. The shape is in an inverted Y which looks all the more astounding with the backdrop of mountains behind it. 

Lake Como has inspired famed works of art, though nothing beats seeing it in person. The relaxing effect it will have on you will make you have a renewed sense of self. Walk around Como and then visit Cernobbio to see a pretty little town full of friendly places and charming touches. Or simply stick to the beaches along the shore where you can find beach clubs or take a private boat tour on the lake to float along the gentle waters that will soothe your spirits.

4. Lake Iseo 

Lake Como is such a popular Northern Italian lake that you really must see, but if you’d rather seek out something lesser known, then Lake Iseo is for you. This gorgeous little lake is a more quiet destination, one that is ideal for romance. Surrounding villages are tucked into the shore, bringing pops of color to contrast with the rich greenery of the trees and blues of the lake. Pack a picnic and toast to a place that makes you and your love feel like you own the world!

5. Lake Orta

Another lesser-known lake in Northern Italy is Lake Orta in Piedmont. Surrounded by romantic villages perfect for strolling hand-in-hand, the breathtaking mountain views make this place something special. With the legendary island of Orta San Giulo there, you can explore the church and monastery while capturing the most impressive views of the lake. It’s the kind of place that inspires poetic verses, complete with Omegna, a lakeside village that brims with Mediterranean architecture and exudes an atmosphere that encourages utter relaxation. 

6. Lake Braies

Of all the mountain lakes you’ll find in the north, Lake Braies is the most photographed of them all. When you see it here in Alto Adige, you’ll be capturing these images to remember for a lifetime, even though they will probably stay burned into your brain. The clear waters reflect the mountain peaks for a sensational look at the scenery. Coming here, the only thing you’ll want to see is Lago di Braies as it is known in Italian, a sublime experience for a day trip to hike around the waters and breathe in the freshness of the invigorating mountain air.

7. Lake Dobbiaco

Also in Alto Adige, Lake Dobbiaco offers a pretty place that may inspire you to camp along the shores. Surrounded by mountain peaks from the Dolomites that jut right into the sky, you may want to claim this slice of heaven forever. It’s a spot that is beloved by families for its quaint and natural charm. Right at the foot of these majestic mountains, there is peace to be found in the gentle waters that lap upon the shore. 

8. Lake Misurina

While you’re in the Dolomites, you may also want to stop at Lake Misurina. Situated beneath one of the most beautiful mountains in this range, Mount Cristallo, this gorgeous lake offers a peaceful and relaxing spot for all visitors. You’ll find it north of Venice, an ideal escape from the throngs of crowds to soak up this slice of peace on earth. The waters reflect the slopes of the mountain peaks, and as you wander around the pathway that encircles the lake, you’ll take note of the picturesque hotels that reside on the shores. It is certainly one of the most brilliant places to marvel at the beauty of one of the most beautiful lakes in Northern Italy.

9. Lake Resia

If you enjoy stepping back in time, do so at Lake Resia. This lake is known to conceal an entire village, only revealing an ancient bell tower that stands up from the waters. In winter, you can wander up to it with care while the other seasons offer sublime views of this fascinating slice of history captured in water. The reverential beauty from this place is the reason people are beckoned here, a superb place for photos as well as one of the most unique things you will ever see in Italy, or anywhere!

10. Lake Lugano

The last of Italy’s beautiful lakes in the north is Lake Lugano. What is remarkable about this watery world is that it is considered part of Northern Italy even though it is partially part of Switzerland. Let your itinerary lead you there next, but be sure to linger long enough to take in the views.

Lake Lugano has an unusual shape and mountain surrounds that make you feel as though you’ve stumbled into a fairytale dream. Along with Monte San Giorgio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a popular place for adventurers. The caves unlock worlds of prehistoric pasts allowing a deeper discovery below the surface. Stay above ground and catch a boat ride on the waters, allowing you to pass through the mountains and discover an amazing scene unlike anything else. 

There are lovely hotels that give you a peek at neighboring Switzerland, some with balconies that allow you to take in the lake views. If you didn’t book a room by the shore, you may come to regret it once you see the astonishing beauty that awaits you on the shores of Lake Lugano.

Final Thoughts

The most beautiful lakes in Northern Italy offer visitors to the country something more than the usual tourist-filled sites. While many tourists do come to the lakes, they are a quieter escape, one that brings you into the heart of nature’s most extraordinary sights, washing over you with a sensation that you’ll find hard to put into words. It’s probably for the best that you take plenty of photos, allowing you to keep these scenes with you for inspiration.

Natasha Weiss

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