You will enjoy an almost infinite choice of lifestyles and landscapes among Italy’s lakes. It is almost impossible to sum up the possibilities, but for destination highlights, price levels and a general sense of place, this brief regional guide may offer a starting point.
The clutch of renowned lakes in Italy’s north represents a long-established and unwaveringly popular region to buy a home. As a result, property around Garda, Como and the other lakes doesn’t tend to come cheap. However, you can still find value for money in places, and the area’s good holiday rental potential helps boost this.
The northern lakes are wonderful, but if you’re set on lakeside living, Italy has more places to consider. Look to the nation’s central lakes for understated destinations, which, in many cases, may offer rather more for your money.
1. Lake Garda
Lake Garda is the largest of the northern lakes, and draws a stream of visitors from Italy and beyond. It is popular for families and offers a host of water sports, several pebbly beaches and well-served, thriving towns and villages around its edges. The southern end of the lake sees the most tourist activity, while the north boasts a more dramatic landscape and pricier property, with good access to the mountains for skiers.
2. Lake Como
Lake Como ranks alongside Garda in Italy’s favourite lake stakes. It enjoys spectacular views from its shores, bordered by steep, wooded hills. It is, in general, quieter and less crowded than Garda, but nonetheless attracts a steady crowd of visitors, and is particularly popular as a weekend getaway for wealthy Milanese (and lakeside villas here are magnets for international celebrities). Its most famous and picturesque spots, such as Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna, are situated along the middle shores of the lake, generally very pricy, but also host to a high volume of visitors all year round. The town of Como and southern villages provide good alternative areas for you to consider.
3. Lake Maggiore
Pretty, peaceful Lake Maggiore boasts a diverse landscape, gently sloping at the southern edges, and more rugged further north. The shoreline is elegant, dotted with historic villas and gardens, and the whole lake emits an air of peace and gentility, perfect for getting away from it all. With all lake properties in Italy, prices tend to fall as you move away from the edges of the water.
4. Lake Trasimeno
Umbria’s Lake Trasimeno still offers surprisingly well-priced homes in its environs, particularly in some of the smaller villages a short distance from the lake. It is a rural, tranquil place, which is popular with visitors for its watersports, fishing, cycling and nature. The most desirable towns include Monte del Lago, Castiglione del Lago and Passignano, all with lovely views and long history.
5. Lake Bolsena
Head just a little further south, to northern Lazio, and you’ll find a trio of freshwater gems: Vico, Bracciano and Bolsena. Of there, Lake Bolsena offers perhaps the best value-for-money but all make a good focus for current property searches as these areas are gaining in popularity with both Italian holidaymakers and foreign tourists, for their beauty and peace – tranquil vistas and quiet country roads abound here. The area also has a rich historic and archaeological heritage, and development around the shores of these lakes has been sensitively and sympathetically handled.