Looking for a naturally beautiful location to visit on your next trip to Italy? Here you’ll find an ultimate guide to the best Italian lakes that will take your breath away!
I might be a little biased as a native Italian, but I’ll be the first to say that Italy is home to some serious dream destinations.
From the romantic canals of Venice to the exciting ancient ruins of Rome and Pompeii, we certainly know how to charm tourists!
But have you ever considered checking out the beautiful Italian lakes on your next vacation?
You’ve probably heard about the villas and incredible views in Lake Como and Lake Garda.
But there are several hidden gems that you need to know about (that’ll also save you jostling elbows with those summertime tourists!).
Whether you’re heading out for a quiet weekend getaway or fancy exploring the beauty of the Dolomites, this list has got you.
Now, let’s dive in (literally!).
Also check the 15 Italian Islands To Visit To Live La Dolce Vita.
The Best Italian Lakes You Cannot Miss
1. Lake Como
Are you on the hunt for Italian lakes that are undeniably well-known and packed with Mediterranean charm?
Well, you can’t beat Lake Como!
It’s the most famous lake in the country and boasts historic structures, beautiful villages, and surrounding mountains.
And it’s not uncommon to see water sports enthusiasts zipping around on the calm cobalt-blue waters, too!
In short, the landscape around here is stunning.
So, it’s no surprise this is a popular place among Hollywood celebrities!
Plus, as it’s a mere 50 miles from Milan, you can easily indulge in a spot of retail therapy and cathedral exploring before visiting.
Although the surroundings will give you a sophisticated feel, you need to bring reliable walking shoes.
The cobbled streets and pretty colorful buildings in Bellagio are beautiful, but there are plenty of steps in the Old Town.
And if you’re up for exploring, there’s no shortage of lakeside promenades, hillside hikes, and shoreline strolls that you can take during your visit!
And if you’ve already got Bellagio on your itinerary, check out the picturesque streets and sunsets in Varenna!
Bellagio (AKA The Pearl of the Lake) is beautiful.
But I recommend heading over on boat trips from one of the cheaper areas like Lecco.
Otherwise, you’ll be paying a premium for hotel rooms (without benefitting that much!). If you’re only here for a day or so, shell out for the convenience.
Check my 15 Best Things To Do In Lake Como (From A Local) for more tips!
2. Lake Garda
While outside of Italy, Lake Garda isn’t quite as popular as Lake Como, it’s the perfect place to settle in for a relaxing vacation.
It’s tucked between the regions of Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige, and Veneto and is the biggest lake in Italy (at 370km²!).
This area is a short train ride away from Verona (which is one of the most romantic places in Italy!).
And there’s so much to do around the lake. It’s no wonder that it’s so popular with Italians.
As you’ll have 100 miles of coastline to explore here, you can do everything from long cycling trips to windsurfing.
Trust me, you cannot beat the backdrop of the mountains, olive groves, and vineyards that surround the seaside towns here.
Thanks to the specific microclimate around Lake Garda, you get a balmy atmosphere that perfectly matches the beautiful olive groves and citrus trees. And with its crystal clear blue water, it almost feels like the sea!
If you’re not sure what to do on your trip, start with the towns of Limone, Sirmione, Malcesine, and Riva del Garda.
Limone is a dream with its beaches and historic center, while Sirmione’s thermal baths are ideal for soothing sore muscles.
Whether you want to enjoy an aperitif on the shoreline or sip pleasant wines in Bardolino, Lake Garda will steal your heart!
Lake Garda gets really busy in July and August. If possible, try to get here either in May or September.
3. Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is the second-largest lake in Italy, and this region includes the beautiful Borromean Islands.
And as the shores of Lake Maggiore stretch into Switzerland, you’ll be able to spot the Alps peeking out at certain vantage points!
It’s an excellent vacation spot for families, as you can spend your time exploring the luscious landscape by canoe, bike, or on foot.
Seriously, the slow pace here is incredible if you’re looking to escape metropolitan life.
Plus, couples will be spoiled for choice with plenty of restaurants, museums, and elegant resorts!
I suggest heading to Stresa for its quaint old town charm, but the impressive Isola Bella is an architectural and artistic marvel.
Borromeo Palace (which is packed with Baroque art!) is a must, but don’t forget to check out the manicured gardens around Isola Madre!
I’d say that this was a general Italy travel tip, but I recommend visiting between April and October for the weather.
Just be warned that the summer months will be considerably busier (especially July and August!).
4. Lake Orta
As we head up to northern Italy, we find Lake Orta (which is just to the west of Lake Maggiore).
The crystal clear water, Moorish palace, and picturesque towns are incredible, but you can also hop over to Isola San Giulio for a change of pace!
The island is just 275 meters long and boasts an immense Benedictine Abbey and a 13th-century Romanesque basilica.
If you appreciate old-school vibes, stroll down the winding lanes and alleyways in Orta San Giulio.
You can easily uncover a local restaurant or two as you’re walking, and the area is packed with Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
Oh, and the Sacro Monte di Orta is one of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
If you’re wondering why, it’s because it boasts an incredible selection of 16th and 17th-century chapels!
Before leaving, make sure you take a dip around Explora Beach and visit the cascading Cascata della Qualba waterfall.
5. Lake Braies
Lake Braies is a breathtaking spot that’s tucked away in the Dolomites.
This alpine lake is surrounded by lush forestry and is home to the impressive Croda del Becco peak (which makes for amazing photographs).
Plus, you can walk around the entire lake in just under an hour and a half while stopping off at the charming boat house.
You can paddle through the rich emerald waters on a rowboat, hike near the sheer cliffs, or head to the lakeside chapel.
Whatever you choose to do here, the visuals will blow you away!
If you’re planning to hire a rowboat, you should be aware that it’s on the pricey side. As a heads up, you’ll pay around €25 for 30 minutes and €35 for an hour.
I suggest visiting during the end or start of the summer period as you’ll have more daylight hours to work with.
Just be aware that you’ll be battling with photographers if you’re trying to capture the perfect shot.
So, I suggest arriving very early in the day.
6. Lake Iseo
Lake Iseo is a great place to visit if you’re on the hunt for historic villas, delicious eats, and local wildlife!
The Torbiere del Sebino Reserve is home to a whole host of birdlife (including purple herons!).
And if you’re worried about missing out on any local flora?
Several designated bird-watching trail maps will help you navigate everything from Monte Faeto to the marshy wetlands.
If you’re not particularly interested in Mother Nature, don’t sweat it! The quaint village markets, small squares, and seaside cafes have got your back.
As there are several traffic restrictions in place around Lake Iseo, it’s never overly packed with cars or tourists either.
So, you can freely roam around the labyrinthine streets or hop on a private boat with a few scoops of gelato in hand!
Before leaving, be sure to indulge your cultural side with a trip to Pisogne, where you’ll find the church of Santa Maria della Neve.
The interior is covered with frescoes of the Passion of the Christ, and it’s even been called the “Sistine Chapel of the Poor.”
Yep, it’s that stunning.
Other Italian Lakes Worth Visiting
7. Lake Scanno
If you’re looking for romantic places to visit in Italy, you cannot miss Lake Scanno in Abruzzo.
To start with, it’s literally shaped like a heart if you’re looking at it from a bird’s eye view.
But it’s the aquatic microorganisms and high levels of algae that make this one of the brightest and most beautiful Italian lakes.
You can coast around the shoreline on a pedal boat or head to the charming towns of Alleghe, Appeninia, or Frattura.
And if you want to appreciate the area’s natural beauty, several mountain trails will take you around Monti Marsicani.
Before heading off, hop over to the Church of the Madonna del Lago. If you have trouble spotting it, it’s perched on a rock wall by the shoreline!
8. Lake Trasimeno
Heading to Umbria this year?
Well, you should totally include Lake Trasimeno on your list of places to check out!
You’ll be awestruck by its picture-perfect villages, glistening waters, and tiny islets.
But it’s the incredible fortresses and towers that’ll transport you back in time – seriously, talk about romantic!
When it comes to the islands, prioritize Polvese.
It’s home to large olive groves and medieval churches like the Church of San Giuliano (which is beautiful).
But if you have time, the Chapel of San Francesco on Isola Maggiore is also worth visiting!
If you love medieval ruins, the small village of Castiglione del Lago is a must visit. Not only does it house the Palazzo Della Corgna, but the entire town is walled with three distinctive gates!
If you are in the area, don’t forget to stop at Faliero to try the “Torta al Testo de la Maria.”
Still made on the fire like the old times, this special flatbread, cooked in a cast iron pan, is soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Filled with local sausage, greens and local pecorino cheese, it’s a must-try if you are in the area.
9. Lake Bracciano
After you’ve taken in Rome’s ancient ruins, why not head 25km north to the glorious Lake Bracciano?
If you’re a local, visiting during the summer months is the perfect time as you’ll escape the sometimes-brutal heat of the cities.
Oh, and what makes this one of the more fascinating Italian lakes is that it’s volcanic and super clean. It is Rome’s water supply, after all!
Although you can’t hit the lake in a boat, lakeside walks, swimming, and wildlife spotting are encouraged.
After you’ve admired the area’s natural beauty, you need to visit the famous Orsini-Odescalchi Castle.
Built back in the 1400s, it’s considered one of the most iconic castles in Italy, with its enormous staterooms and wall frescoes.
And the 360-degree panoramas over the lakefront are simply breathtaking!
10. Lake Bolsena
Lake Bolsena is tucked away in central Italy, and it’s a huge favorite among divers, kayakers, and swimmers.
That’s partially down to the crystal-clear waters and smooth volcanic sand.
However, the incredible hilly landscape and shoreside forestry certainly add to the charm!
You can spend at least a day on the lake itself.
But don’t forget to see the surrounding towns of Montefiascone, Marta, and Cività di Bagnoregio!
Because the lake is teeming with marine life, any of the small villages and towns are perfect for sampling eels or fish.
If you feel like zipping across the water, visit Bisentina Island, which is home to the Church of Saint James and Christopher.
The dome is fabulous and was designed back in the 1500s by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (one of the Italian greats, FYI!).
Whatever you choose to do here, I suggest trying to visit outside of the peak summer period to avoid crowds.
11. Lake Carezza
There’s not that much to do around Lake Carezza, but the water itself is seriously showstopping.
It’s famous for being uber-clean, clear, and perfectly turquoise (meaning you can practically see right to the bottom!).
There’s a hiking trail that passes directly around the lake which is approximately 2km long.
So, it’s easy enough to cover in half an hour or so if you’re in a rush!
But trust me, you’ll want to hang around this gorgeous spot in the Dolomites for several hours.
While you’re walking, make sure you keep an eye out for the designated viewing platform.
It lets you get a wonderful snap of the entire lake that’ll make your entire Instagram feed shine.
If you’re just visiting the Dolomites for this lake, Stella Hotel Stern is just 10 minutes away from the lake (with amazing views!).
12. Lake Fedaia
Another Dolomites gem with sweeping valleys and glimmering blue waters? You can count me in!
Lake Fedaia is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site perched at the foot of the Marmolada glacier.
Part of its charm is the fact that it’s surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
But what will truly take your breath away are the pink and orange sunsets that kiss the mountains.
You can walk around the lake trying out sport fishing or go mountain biking to satisfy your inner adrenaline junkie!
Anything goes when the setting is this beautiful.
13. Lake Resia
To round off this list of the best Italian lakes, we have Lake Resia!
What makes this lake special is the fact that it has a submerged bell tower sticking out of the water.
Yep, you read that right.
If you’re wondering why, it’s because this is actually an artificial lake that was created in 1950.
The water here is part of a dam that was built near the Passo di Resia, and the resulting water flooded the nearby villages.
Don’t worry – everyone was evacuated first and resettled first!
But the top of the 14th-century bell tower remains a sign that this was once an inhabited area full of life.
There’s a beautiful 15km trail that takes you around the lake, but you can also go cycling or mountaineering if you’re brave!
If you’re visiting during the wintertime, there’s a popular ski slope (Belpiano) which is just 5km from the lake.
For a hit of culture, be sure to explore the Kastelbell Castle and the Marienberg Abbey!
Which Italian Lake are you going to visit first?
These incredible Italian lakes will take you on a journey filled with awe-inspiring beauty, captivating charm, and unforgettable moments. From the dazzling shores of Lake Como to the hidden gem of Lake Orta, each one has its own unique personality.
Which one are you going to visit first? And if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!
Don’t forget to check
- 27 Essential Italy Travel Tips
- Best Time To Visit Italy
- 35 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Italy
- 50+ Insanely Clever Travel Hacks For A Stress-Free Vacation
More Italian Destinations
- 15 Best Things To Do On The Amalfi Coast
- 19 Most Beautiful Beaches on The Amalfi Coast
- 23 Best Things To Do In Capri
- Travel Guide To Puglia
- Alberobello: Everything You Need To Know
- 15 Best Gelato In Rome
- 15 Most Romantic Places in Italy That Will Steal Your Heart
- 10 Best Beaches In Sicily You Have To See
- 11 Best Places To Visit In Sicily
- 15 Best Beaches in Sardinia That Are Paradise on Earth