LAKE IT ’TIL YOU MAKE IT

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - WHEN TO BOOK ITALY - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Trav­ellers bit­ten by la dolce vita are be­com­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous and seek­ing out the north­ern reaches of Italy, and it’s not just be­cause Ge­orge Clooney bought a sprawl­ing villa there back in 2002.

The Ital­ian Lakes have al­ways had a spe­cial kind of allure – hol­i­day-mak­ers have been flock­ing there since Ro­man times, celebrities in­cluded – but with five lakes to choose from there are plenty of rea­son to be­come a re­peat visitor.

Europe Hol­i­days manag­ing direc­tor Chip Popescu says Italy has been their most pop­u­lar Euro­pean prod­uct for the past three years but he’s no­ticed a shift in where Aussies are headed.

“In the past peo­ple were do­ing Rome, Florence, Venice then down to Capri but in the last three to four years they’ve done more of the north­ern Ital­ian dis­trict – the Lakes, Cinque Terre, but also into Si­cily,” he says. “They’ve wan­dered off from the tra­di­tional prod­uct and want some­thing a bit more un­usual now.”

WHY VISIT

Like Au­drey Hep­burn in a lit­tle black dress, a des­ti­na­tion this clas­sic never goes out of style.

Whether you’re sip­ping an Ap­erol Spritz by the wa­ter in Lake Como, wa­ter­ski­ing on Lake Garda, hik­ing be­side Lake Mag­giore or los­ing your­self in the lesser-known Lake Iseo and Lake Orta, there’s an un­de­ni­able beauty and af­fa­ble style to the towns that sur­round th­ese bod­ies of wa­ter.

Then there are the hik­ing trails, tra­di­tional crafts, summer mu­sic and arts fes­ti­vals, fer­ries and a plethora of lake­side restau­rants made for long lazy lunches. But Popescu says the lakes are also a highly ap­peal­ing des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies.

“Just north of Verona, Lake Garda is be­com­ing a lot more pop­u­lar,” he says. “There are more ac­tiv­i­ties – a lot of wind­surf­ing, an aqua park, jet ski­ing – so it’s a dif­fer­ent vibe to Como but still has the tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture and feel of the area.”

WHEN TO VISIT

With the ar­rival of warmer tem­per­a­tures, right now would be a good start as spring and summer ren­der the lakes re­splen­dent through to Oc­to­ber. Al­though, Popescu says “Fe­bru­ary is also pop­u­lar due to the mag­i­cal win­ter land­scape and the re­flec­tion of the snow­capped peaks in the clear wa­ter of the lakes.”

Win­ter is not a big is­sue as far as avail­abil­ity, ei­ther. “While the lakes are close to the ski ar­eas, they’re not the ski re­sorts,” he says. “You can go ski­ing if you want to but wouldn’t need to worry so much about ac­com­mo­da­tion book­ing out.”

WHEN TO BOOK

The best time to book for the Euro­pean summer sea­son in the Ital­ian Lakes dis­trict is early in the year (Fe­bru­ary to April) to take ad­van­tage of early­bird deals and spe­cial of­fers.

Pre­fer the ro­man­ti­cism of win­ter on the lakes? Think about book­ing be­tween June and Au­gust.

“There are still last-minute deals avail­able, es­pe­cially for June and early July,” Popescu says. “Au­gust and Septem­ber tend to be very pop­u­lar – it’s the end of the sea­son but the tem­per­a­ture is very nice and there are lots of Euro­pean school hol­i­days.”

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