When you plan your vacation to Italy, you might wonder where the best beaches are to catch some sunshine and relax time. Although Italy has plenty of nice beaches, the country really shines when it comes to its lakes. Ranging from pristine Alpine lakes to tiny bodies of water, overlooked by ancient towns. Here are the 17 most beautiful lakes in Italy, that deserve a visit.
This is a guest post, written by Annalisa from Travel Connect Experience. Annalisa is an Italian mom with a passion for travel and writing. In her blog, she shares tips on how to visit Italy off the beaten path. Although originally from Rome, Annalisa is really an insider to everything Italian.
This is not a sponsored post. All texts and opinions are based on my own experiences.
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17 Most beautiful lakes in Italy
This post encompasses the 17 most beautiful lakes in Italy. It is a fact that Italy is the country of lakes: there are more than 1,500 of them!
The geography and morphology of the Italian territory are capable of providing unparalleled landscapes that embrace small or large bodies of water.
Northern Italy is the portion of the country that is richest in lakes (natural and artificial). But the Central-Southern part of the country also offers some really interesting lakes.
Among these Italian lakes I have included in this list are some very well-known ones. Such as Lake Garda and others still undiscovered, such as Lake Bracciano.
Each represents a natural wonder and will be an opportunity to discover picturesque villages off the beaten path and pristine nature.
For each lake, I’ll explain why I think it is a beautiful Italian lake. And what you can see and do around the lake. What makes it special and how can you get to the lakes.
1. Lake Bracciano (region of Lazio)
Just 40 km north of Rome, the capital of Italy, is one of the cleanest lakes in Italy: Lake Bracciano (or Lago di Bracciano).
The water from this lake is so pure that it is channeled into the Paul Aqueduct. One of the aqueducts that supply Rome’s many fountains.
It goes without saying that in summer, the most enjoyable activity to do in this region is swimming.
Because the sea near Rome is not very clean, a visit to Lake Bracciano is a great alternative to a day trip to the beach from Rome.
The beaches of this crystal-clear lake are easily accessible from the picturesque towns of Trevignano Romano and Anguillara Sabazia.
The hamlet of Bracciano, on the other hand, gives the lake its name. It dominates the landscape from a hill on which stands the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle.
The castle dates back to at least the 15th century. And its exterior and interior are perfectly preserved and used as a museum.
To preserve the purity of the water, the authorities prohibited motorboats year-round. But you can practice canoeing, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and sailing instead.
The lake has a volcanic origin but its origin is lost in the mists of time.
Legend has it that many eras ago the lake did not exist. In its place was a very rich city, Sabate, whose citizens had become corrupt and immoral. Then a mysterious deity sent a cataclysm. This caused the city to sink and then filled the void formed with water, thus creating the lake.
To reach the stunning Lake Bracciano, take a train from Rome Ostiense and get off at Anguillara Sabazia or Bracciano.
Then get on a public bus towards any of the towns you want to visit.
2. Lake Braies (South Tyrol)
Lake Braies is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the world. It is located in the highest part of Pusteria Valley in the province of Bolzano. Situated between the towns of Brunico and Dobbiaco, it is known for featuring a unique fairy-tale landscape.
The water takes on different shades of green according to the seasons. It is like a mirror capable of multiplying the surrounding natural beauty, namely the Dolomites (a UNESCO heritage site).
In winter, the lake often freezes over. When it does, you can enjoy walking on its frozen waters. Obviously with caution and you must follow the signs placed in the designated areas.
Those who love photography will be able to take memorable shots at Lake Braies.
There is an easy loop trail. It allows visitors to walk around the small lake in about 50 to 60 minutes. This gives you enough time to pause in places to admire the entire setting from different angles.
If you pay close attention, you will notice all the noises of the place are amplified and transmitted by the natural sounding board. This happens only in winter and in total silence with the lake frozen, while the ice emits a kind of full-bodied hum.
How to get to Lake Braies
To go to Braies, it is best to choose a weekday to avoid the excessive exodus of tourists. To this end, there is the Val Pusteria shuttle bus that runs the entire road through the valley.
Specifically, the service to Braies runs with more trips from July to early September. Make sure to reserve in advance during this period.
3. Lake Garda (Lombardy – Veneto – Trentino)
The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, and Trentino share Lake Garda. And it is easily one of the most popular Italian lakes.
All shores boast great attractions. The Lombardy side is perhaps the most “underrated” while the Veneto side is renowned for wine and oil production.
On the Venetian shore, you’ll find Bardolino. It is a very characteristic and people-friendly town, famous for its wines. Equally charming is Malcesine, while Riva del Garda gives value to the Trentino part of the lake.
On the other side, on the shore near Brescia, Limone is lovely. Salò is rich in history and worth passing through. And Sirmione, in the lower part of the lake, identifies a middle ground between history and nature. The tourism village deserves a visit.
The area is popular with bicycle enthusiasts and you’ll find many campgrounds too. During the summer months, Dutch and German tourists crowd the lake. But during local Italian holidays, the locals flock to the popular Lake Garda.
Public transportation service is among the best in the world around Lake Garda. And it is no problem to travel to any of the towns on the lake, even by boat.
4. Lake Iseo (Lombardy)
Lake Iseo is located in the heart of Lombardy, “straddling” the provinces of Brescia and Bergamo. The main attractions here are Monte Isola, an inhabited islet on the Lake, and the views.
Although the area is quite busy, when you approach the lake towns you encounter a more slow and calm life.
Some of these towns offer a chance to live a few days in total harmony with the landscape:
- Sale Marasino
Campsites, typical restaurants, and picturesque villages are the main motivations for travelers to visit the area. You can reach Lake Iseo by public transportation from Brescia, Palazzolo sull’Oglio, Telgate, Grumello, and Bergamo.
5. Lake Cornino (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
Lake Cornino is a very small natural lake in Friuli located in a hilly area not far from Udine.
The sight is splendid. And the inclusion in a totally unspoiled setting almost tends to conceal the wonder: crystal-clear waters, and very vivid and intense colors. And with the shoreline practically forming a perimeter in a turquoise hue.
I can easily explain why: blue algae live inside the lake. The movement of the currents pushes the algae toward the land. They then settle on the stones, which take on their color. The bottom, on the other hand, is deep green.
Those who go during the pre-Christmas period will be able to admire a submerged nativity scene.
When you visit at other times of the year you will be able to venture out on the paths that wind around the lake. Including an easy path that allows you to circumvent the entire body of water.
You can also find a stream nearby. If you wish, you can lengthen your walk by choosing to partially skirt the Tagliamento River before turning back.
In addition, you can find many areas equipped for stopping and viewpoints.
The lake is about 35 km from Udine and 50 from Pordenone. From these cities, it is possible to take buses in the direction of Cornino – Tolmezzo. It is also possible to reach the lake from Grado or Trieste, again by bus or by train.
6. Lake Tovel (Trentino)
Another very interesting alpine lake to visit is Lake Tovel. It is located in Val di Non at the Adamello del Brenta Natural Park.
The wonderful lake is located in the town of Tuenno, a quaint mountain village set below the Brenta Dolomites.
There are two features that make Lake Tovel one of the most beautiful lakes in the Italian Alps. The lake has 2 different names, namely the “bear lake” and the “red lake.”
Near Lake Tovel, there is a reserve where there are brown bears. Obviously, they are protected and not visible to tourists walking around the lake.
The other name that has made Lake Tovel famous is the “red lake.” This is thanks to a really interesting feature of the lake.
During the summer months, when temperatures rise, the waters of the lake turn red due to the presence of a very special alga. The alga name: Tovellia sanguinea. And this releases a reddish color in the water.
This is definitely the most fascinating feature of this lake that attracts a lot of travelers. And because of this, it is great for landscape photography enthusiasts.
Lake Tovel and Italian legends
Here Lake Tovel, is also the place where a melancholy legend was created. It stars a princess named Tresenga, who refused to go in marriage to the arrogant King Lavinto of Tuenno.
The furious king thus decided to invade the kingdom of Tresenga’s father. Who then tried to protect his borders by sending his army into battle.
The clash between the two factions was right on the shores of Lake Tovel. The lake was painted red after the battle because of the blood of the soldiers of the two armies.
Legend says that sometimes you can hear the cries of the ghost of Princess Tresenga at night. She continues to shed tears over the painful battle in her honor.
7. Lake Sirio (Piedmont)
Lake Sirio is located in Piedmont near Ivrea in the province of Turin. In this area, there are also other lakes not far away.
Therefore, you can visit all nearby lakes with a round trip itinerary in the area that can take a few days.
Lake Sirio is a lake of glacial origin (along with four others in the surrounding area) and although it is very small it has a depth of up to 45 meters.
The main beauty of this lake lies in the geography of the area. This is thanks to the so-called Ivrea moraine amphitheater that surrounds the area.
Paths for outdoor activities connect the five lakes of Ivrea in the midst of nature. You can walk different routes of varying lengths depending on one’s abilities.
An aquifer spring feeds the lake and you can relax at designated areas for views and picnics. Lake Sirio has a very high water quality that makes it perfect for swimming.
Seeing all the lakes is a pleasant experience and allows a glimpse of a special and unique territory.
In addition to Lake Sirio, see also other nearby Italian lakes:
- Lake Cascinette
- Lake Nero
- Lake San Michele
- Lake Pistono
By bus, it is possible to reach the lake by first going to Ivrea or Chiaverano. From which the internal transportation network departs to reach the destination.
8. Fusine Lakes (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
On the border between Italy and Slovenia are two very distinctive water basins of natural origin. You can find them in the province of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. They are located in the valley of Mount Mangart and the corresponding Fusine Lakes Nature Park.
The Fusine Lakes were created in the past by glaciers from the local mountain ranges and are divided into Upper Lake and Lower Lake. Both are located in the municipality of Tarvisio.
One of their main characteristics is that they reach very cold temperatures during the winter season. In fact, local sources recorded that in 1985 during the month of January, the lake complex reached -35°C below zero.
Therefore, the best time to visit the Fusine Lakes is from spring until the early fall.
During the winter months, the Fusine Lakes can freeze over, offering an enchanting, almost fairy-tale-like landscape bathed in snow.
Around the two lakes, it is possible to walk paths in the middle of the woods. They are very suitable for those who like to walk in the midst of nature and tackle hikes in the mountains.
The Fusine Lakes are appreciated for the beauty and transparency of the waters. Sometimes it is possible to see divers or researchers studying the biology of the waters and the fauna of the lake.
You can reach the lake by public transportation. You need to leave from Tarvisio or follow the bus line to Valromana and the Slovenian border, getting off at Fusine.
9. Lake Molveno (Trentino)
If you are in Trentino-Alto Adige, perhaps at a location near the Paganella area, you can visit one of the most characteristic and fascinating lakes in Italy, namely Lake Molveno.
The lake is located near Andalo and Fai della Paganella. And it is a marvelous body of water surrounded by the Brenta Mountains and the majestic forests of the area. The forests are filled with paths leading to various nearby resorts and passes.
Of natural, alpine origin, Lake Molveno is popular with tourists because it is swimmable and features cool, crystal-clear waters. The lake is also suitable for boating with canoes and small boats. It is possible to bathe in the lake.
In 2014, the Legambiente association elected Lake Molveno as one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy, due to its charm. And because of the presence of Napoleon’s forts with the Roman Bridge, located near a decidedly striking waterfall that falls directly into the basin.
The public transport network makes it easy to reach Molveno, starting, for example, from Andalo or from nearby towns.
10. Lake Antrona (Piedmont)
The beautiful Lake Antrona in Piedmont features crystal-clear waters and a peculiar heart shape.
This lake of natural origin is located in Antrona Schieranco, one of the most stunning valleys in Piedmont.
The basin was created following a landslide back in 1642. This caused deaths in the valley and widened the famous Troncone stream, which became a lake.
Today this lovely place is also characterized by two really impressive waterfalls. You can walk a marked path underneath them with also a scenic area.
The area is full of paths leading to nearby towns and passes, with the possibility of stopping at picnic areas.
11. Lake Lugano (Lombardy)
Lake Lugano has a very distinctive and complex shape, with a much larger surface area than previous lakes.
Its shores touch both Swiss and Italian territories. It is precisely located between the Swiss Canton of Ticino and the northwestern part of Lombardy.
There are two best places to visit this lake: the towns of Brusimpiano and Porto Ceresio, both in the province of Varese.
In the two mentioned villages it is possible to enjoy very pleasant small beaches where relaxation and contact with nature reign supreme.
In addition, the total peace of the area, close to hills and mountains, also favors the possibility of a summer vacation, an eventuality that is much appreciated precisely by the Swiss neighbors.
Public transportation leads easily to the Italian shores of the lake, starting from Varese or Luino.
By train, it is possible to go as far as Ponte Tresa (Italian shore) and then board the regular buses to Porto Ceresio.
12. Lake Orta (Piedmont)
Lake Orta, not far from the more popular Lake Maggiore, has the perfect postcard beauty.
Those traveling to Piedmont between the provinces of Verbania and Novara might consider an itinerary between Lake Maggiore, Lake Mergozzo, Lake Orta, and then the small lakes in the valleys (e.g., Lake Antrona).
Orta San Giulio is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and the lake of the same name enriches an already very special territory that, seen from above, almost seems to embrace its shores, creating a small bowl.
From town, you can take a boat tour and visit the monastery situated on the island in the middle of the lake.
From the surrounding mountains, it is possible to enjoy fantastic views that will make the fortune of many photography enthusiasts and to visit famous shrines.
The area is easily reached by public transportation – Omegna is an important and well-served town.
Departing also from Novara, Verbania, or Borgomanero, buses to Lake Orta are frequent.
13. Lake Ledro (Trentino)
Lake Ledro is a small reservoir not far from the upper part of Lake Garda (the one belonging to the Trentino shore). From here it can be easily reached from Riva del Garda or Limone, either by car or by public transport.
The highlight is to bike the paths that “join” the two lakes.
Lake Ledro is popular with campers but also with those who want to sunbathe in the midst of nature, thanks to the various beaches available (some of which are pet-friendly).
The mountainous setting, the presence of shoreline meadows, and picnic areas make the area a small paradise. The environment is pure and pleasantly relaxing. Walking around Lake Ledro takes about 2.5 hours along a splendid route of about 10 km.
The waters reach up to 24°C in summer giving coolness and pleasure, while the natural environmental conditions allow windsurfing, sup, fishing, canoeing, and swimming.
14. Lake Bolsena (Lazio)
Lake Bolsena is the largest lake in central Italy and the largest volcanic lake in Europe.
In addition to hosting a fascinating and unspoiled natural environment, the lake’s surroundings are rich in history.
It is located in northern Lazio, in the heart of the Tuscia region, the land inhabited in ancient times by the Etruscans.
You should start any historical exploration of the lake with a visit to the Rocca Monaldeschi fortress in the village of Bolsena.
This well-preserved medieval castle now houses the archaeological and geological museum. Here they explain you how the lake was formed.
Other charming villages overlooking the lake are:
- Marta, which developed around an ancient fishing village
- Capodimonte, built on a hill overlooking the lake
Another feature that makes Lake Bolsena unique and picturesque is the two small islets that stand in its waters.
Bisentina Island was a sacred place for prehistoric peoples, who even created rock tombs here. The very powerful Farnese family, during the Renaissance, chose to place the family cemetery here. You can only visit it in the summer months.
Martana Island is a small strip of land shaped like a wedge of the moon. It was the scene of gruesome historical events such as the martyrdom of St. Christine and the kidnapping and murder of Amalasunta, daughter of the Goth king Theodoric. It is a private island that cannot be accessed.
To reach Lake Bolsena, take a train to Orvieto or Viterbo and then a bus to Bolsena, Capodimonte, or Marta.
15. Lake Telese (Campania)
Maybe one of the least famous lakes of Italy, but this lake is truly extraordinary.
Lake Telese is located in the Benevento area, which is rich in water and karst phenomena that have slowly changed the landscape.
The almost perfectly circular geometry of the lake invites one to think of a volcanic origin, while it was an earthquake in 1349 that formed its perimeter. Prior to the tragic event, there was a village at the site. Unfortunately, it was entirely destroyed, and the ground sank more than 30 meters.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the place was a popular tourist destination, with small beaches and picnic areas. Today there is thriving vegetation in a relaxing and peaceful environment, with the presence of pleasant birds to admire. The place is a starting point for walks and hikes in the area.
Those who like to fish will be able to do so safely and in compliance with regulations, but above all, it is possible to be in complete tranquility while breathing qualitatively excellent air.
Nearby there are also some towns that boast of thermal baths with waters rich in properties: this is why a tourist itinerary of a few days in this region could really promote relaxation of mind and body.
Lake Telese is easily accessible from any town in the vicinity by using public transportation.
16. Lake Posta Fibreno (Lazio)
Located between Latium, Abruzzo, and Molise, Lake Posta Fibreno is very special, starting with its elongated shape that stretches for just over a kilometer with a rather narrow geometry in width.
It is not deep at all (it does not exceed 15 meters) but it is part of a unique and protected naturalistic context. When the waters are very clear, it is possible to see on the bottom a wooden cross specially placed at the deepest point of the lake.
This natural water basin has no tributary, but instead has an outfall: despite this, water is always present thanks to an underground spring.
Those who visit will find another very curious peculiarity, namely a floating islet of which there was already evidence already two thousand years ago.
This island simply rests on the water moving within the lake and is composed of roots, algae, and timbers that generated a thickness of about 4 meters.
Its origin is due to a very strong underwater current that has pushed upward various natural materials on the seabed.
The particular climate, location, and natural surroundings allow for great oxygenation of the waters, benefiting unique fish species.
To reach the lake, it is possible to travel by train to Sora and then benefit from public transportation to the Lake Posta Fibreno Regional Nature Reserve.
17. Lake Lesina and Varano (Apulia)
Apulia is not only famous for its beautiful sea. There are some truly magical and characteristic lakes, such as Lake Lesina and Lake Varano.
Lake Lesina is a coastal lake. It is located near the headland of the Gargano region and the plain Tavoliere delle Puglie.
Lake Lesina is rich in fish species, including eels, one of the most fished fish species in the area.
The other distinctive lake in the Apulia region is Lake Varano, located between three towns in the province of Foggia, namely Carpino, Ischitella, and Cagnano Varano.
This basin is one of the largest in southern Italy and is partly considered a “fake lake,” since it is a very large saltwater lagoon.
Both lakes are excellent locations for birdwatching.
You can easily reach the lakes by public transportation (train and bus). You need to get off at Lesina (best) or at Poggio Imperiale. After that, take the internal road to reach Lesina.
What is the most beautiful lake in Italy?
Although Italy features thousands of miles of coastline washed by crystal clear seas, it is worth leaving the beaten path to discover the Italian lakes.
It doesn’t matter if you are visiting north or central Italy, there is always a lake nearby for enjoying the views. Relaxing or discovering villages rich in history and architecture. You can stay for a few days and enjoy excellent local cuisine and relaxing, revitalizing views.