I taly’s northern lakes have drawn leisure travelers for centuries. Their steep and scenic shores are dotted with grand historic villas, and some two millennia ago, the Roman poet Catullus extolled the pleasures of the Sirmio peninsula in Lake Garda. But although tourism is no stranger to the region, even today, it’s possible to find tranquil beauty spots unspoiled by crowds.
My recent itinerary included properties on or near five lakes: Orta, Maggiore, Como, Iseo and Garda. Doubtless, most travelers would prefer a vacation that included just two or three of them, perhaps starting or finishing in Venice. Each lake, however, has its advantages and attractions, making it more difficult than one might expect to decide which to skip.
We flew to Milan and made a beeline for the most famous of the five, Como. Our top recommendation on the lake has long been the 152-room Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, on the fashionable western shore. But this June, the owners of another of our favorite Como hotels, the 90-room Grand Hotel Tremezzo, unveiled a new luxury hideaway just to the north of the Villa d’Este, in Moltrasio. The 24-room Passalacqua looked to be both more intimate and more opulent.