LAKE IT ’TIL YOU MAKE IT
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.”
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.”