Lake Como tends to dominate visitors’ itineraries when it comes to the country’s lakes, but there are plenty of others which are just as stunning – and you might avoid the crowds and ramped-up prices.
Italians tend to spend the summer months escaping the city heat at the lakes, so make like the locals and head to one of these gems.
Each has its own character, from picturesque villages to dramatic mountain ranges.
Lake Orta, Piedmont
Photo: Enrico Giubertoni/Flickr
Lake Orta, near Milan, is little known outside Italy. You’ll find it in Italy’s northern lakes district, close to the larger and more popular Lake Maggiore.
In the middle of the lake lies the charming Isola San Giulio, home to a 12th century church and 19th century seminary. The cobble-stoned island is also mostly pedestrian-only. Lake Orta has long been popular with artists and writers too, making it a perfect destination for creative types hoping to soak up some inspiration as well as those simply looking to soak up the sun.
Lake Arpy, Valle d’Aosta
Photo: Ferruccio Zanone/Flickr
Tucked away in Valle d’Aosta, the autonomous region in Italy’s northwest corner, is Lake Arpy.
The lake is set against the backdrop of the peaks of the Mont Blanc range. The area is popular for hiking and mountain biking, and is also home to smaller lakes.
Lake Garda, Lombardy
It's Italy’s largest lake and one of the country’s best known. As with some of the towns in Como, Lake Garda is among the best places to stay if you’re looking for something luxurious. Its charming villages have provided inspiration to artists and writers throughout the centuries, as well as featuring as a backdrop to many blockbusters.
Located about half-way between Brescia and Verona, the area is also an excellent base from which to visit other places, including the Dolomites.
Lake Carezza, South Tyrol
Photo: Umberto Salvagnin/Flickr
Tucked away in Val d’Ega, in the northern South Tyrol region, Lake Carezza is famous for its photogenic emerald green water, set against the Rosengarten-Latemar mountain range, as well as the Karerwald forest, a paradise for walkers.
The best time to visit is in the early morning or evening, when the mountains are reflected in the crystal clear water. A perfect picture opportunity.
Lake Braies, South Tyrol
Photo: Tony Lewis/Flickr
Much like Lake Carezza, Lake Braies, located in Val di Braies, offers an alluring mix of clear water, mountains and forest. Hiking around the water is the perfect way to take in the scenery.
Lake Maggiore, Piedmont
Photo: Vasile Cotovanu/Flickr
Straddling Italy and Switzerland, Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and home to several towns and islands, including Isola Bella, which hosts the 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo. And it's all surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Lake Iseo, Lombardy
Lake Iseo has long been a hidden gem, with the highlight being a ferry ride to Monte Isola – the largest inhabited lake island in southern Europe. The destination is slowly making its way onto tourists' radars after a 2016 art installation by Christo, whose 3km floating walkway on the lake gained global media attention. But the area still has a peaceful charm and is a great place for walking, cycling, and tucking into seafood at the local restaurants.
Lake Bolsena, Tuscany/Lazio
Photo: Jim Linwood/Flickr
Lake Bolsena is formed in the crater of an extinct volcano between Tuscany and Lazio. One of Italy’s cleanest lakes, it’s an excellent place to swim, fish or sail. Take a walk around the lake, and you’ll see charming villages, forests and few tourists.
Lake Bracciano, Lazio
Photo: Marsel Minga/Flickr
Reachable in just an hour on the train from Rome, the volcanic Lake Bracciano is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip in the summer. You can also go canoeing and sailing. The area also includes Lake Martignano and Anguillara.
Lake Lugano, Italy/Switzerland border
Situated on the northern Italian and southern Swiss border, the glacial Lake Lugano lies between Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. Sixty-three percent of the 48.7km lake is in Switzerland and 37 percent in Italy giving it a unique Swiss Italian charm.
Article first published in 2017 and updated in 2018