AUGUST AU BORD DU LAC
There's no better time than this month to plan a short day trip from Milan…
Though different one from the other, Lombardy’s five lakes all have one thing in common: a unique landscape enhanced by lush vegetation and panoramic views. August is synonymous with a day at the lake!
There's no better time than summer to start planning an out-of-town weekend, perhaps to search for some respite from the heat at the edge of a lake. Start packing, this is a great opportunity to discover the natural treasures that make Lombardy, ‘The Lake District' par excellence.
DISCOVERING HISTORY ON LAKE MAGGIORE
Lake Maggiore is Italy's second largest lake; its shores wash up on the banks of Piedmont and Lombardy, and its northern basin lies in the mountainous region of Switzerland. It is steeped in history, abounding in rocky coves that create real natural terraces with a panoramic view. During past centuries, aristocrats and wealthy bourgeois locals holidayed here during the summer months, and traces of its luxurious past are still apparent in several of its better-known lakeside destinations, including Arona and
Stresa. The latter, with its pedestrian streets that are closed to traffic and dedicated to shopping, is the perfect destination for visitors wanting to indulge in some retail therapy, or to relax at one of its delectable waterfront cafes or restaurants. In August, its banks are enlivened by the annual International ‘Stresa Festival' featuring an action-packed calendar of classical music concerts and live dance performances (www.stresafestival.eu). Lake Maggiore's smart, low-slung white ferries shuttle back and forth between the belle époque resort of Stresa and Isola Bella, the jewel of the Borromeo family, dominated by monumental terraced gardens and the 17th-century residence of Palazzo Borromeo, whose rooms and underground caves have now been transformed into a museum with collections by well-known artists, priceless furniture, marbles and neo-classical stuccoes. If you've decided to explore the treasures of Lake Maggiore, we recommend a visit to the city of Angera, whose star attraction is its massive 13th-century hilltop castle. In addition to offering a breathtaking view over the lake, its impressive architecture and lush gardens still remain to this day. End your tour on a high note with a revitalizing lunch at one of the area's charming eateries (www.borromeoturismo.it). The fish menu at the fantastic Michelin-starred Sole di Ranco restaurant may be ideal. The restaurant
serves contemporary cuisine accompanied by a fabulous selection of fine Italian and international wines and spirits (www.ilsolediranco.it).
FEEL LIKE A STAR AT LAKE COMO If you're in search of a chic destination, where you might catch sight of an A-lister or movie star, including first and foremost George Clooney, Lake Como is your go-to destination. Renowned for having inspired Alessandro Manzoni to write his famous novel ‘The Betrothed', it is the most spectacular of the region's three major lakes. Winding and shaped like an upside-down Y, it dominates the provinces of Como and Lecco, with each arm assuming a different identity depending on its location. If you find yourself on the Como side, make sure to visit the Gothic Cathedral and the Romanesque basilicas of Sant'Abbondio and San Fedele. Until 31 October, you can take advantage of the extraordinary opening of the monumental complex of the Roman Baths dating back to the 1st century A.D. The baths can be visited free-of-charge on Tuesday and Thursday from 10am to 2pm and on Saturday from 10am to 6pm (www.lakecomo.it). If all of the sightseeing in Como has made you hungry, head to the I Tigli restaurant in Theoria. Located in the heart of a 15th-century bishop's palace, this delightful Michelin-starred restaurant offers guests sophisticated, contemporary cuisine, served on a glass-fronted patio with a view over the inner courtyard (www. theoriagallery.it). After your meal go towards Cernobbio (situated north-east of Como) and take a breather at Villa Erba, currently a go-to destination for events related to the world of fashion, collectibles and motoring. With its spectacular lakeside view, it is renowned for having been the summer home of director Luchino Visconti, when he was a child (www.villaerba.it). Alternately, head north in the direction of Isola Comacina, a triumph of lush Mediterranean vegetation and a perfect escape from the summer heat. If historic dwellings are your passion, we strongly suggest a visit to Villa del Balbianello, one of the ‘pearls' of the lake, and the romantic setting for a variety of movie scenes. Do you remember the marriage between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones? Its terrace played a leading role! Allow yourself to be captivated by the Baroque beauty of Villa Carlotta, embellished with statues and sculptures by Antonio Canova. In addition to hosting exhibitions year-round, it boasts an actionpacked events calendar in summer. Save the date! On 4 August, at 8.30pm, the villa will stage a unique performance of ‘Amor Vincit Omnia' a piano and violin concerto paying homage to the symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert (lakecomofestival.com). The charming town of Bellagio, situated at the intersection of the inverted Y shape that characterizes Lake Como, is an absolute
must-see. After exploring its treasures, take a breather and enjoy a sundowner with a great lakeside view.
LAKE ORTA, THE SECRET LITTLE SISTER OF THE ITALIAN LAKES French author, Honoré de Balzac called Orta's island “a spot coyly hidden and left to nature, a wild garden” and these words used to describe this pocket-sized lake lying at the foot of the mountains still ring true today. Located approximately 80km from Milan, and surrounded by verdant hills, Lake Orta is the ideal destination for those wishing to spend a relaxing day while discovering its history. Situated in the heart of the Lake and easily accessible from the mainland via ferry boat, the Island of San Giulio is a must-visit destination for a quiet stroll and the perfect place to commune with nature (www.orta.net). It is not by chance that the Island is traversed by the ‘Road of Silence and Meditation', a narrow path connecting the jetty to a small monastery, a Romanesque basilica and Palazzo Vescovile. If you're a fan of folklore and local festivals, head to the city of Omegna where, on 20 and 27 August, you can admire one of the numerous displays of fireworks that enliven the banks of the lake. Alternately, if you'd like to sample the flavours of Piedmont cuisine, we recommend a visit to the small town of Arola where you can delight your taste buds with genuine, home-cooked food served at Ristorante
La Zucca (Facebook: Ristorante La Zucca), while enjoying the idyllic scenery. Villa Crespi in Orta San Giulio is another great option for those searching for something more sophisticated. Set within a beautiful park, the Villa's restaurant is helmed by two-Michelinstarred chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo, whose creative cuisine will delight your palate with unusual pairings, locally-sourced ingredients and a selection of the finest vintages (www. villacrespi.it).
LAKE ISEO, A PLEASING DISCOVERY Due to its physical appearance, Lake Iseo is affectionately referred to by the locals as ‘Little Capri'. Like the Island in Campania, it has steep rock faces that plunge into the lake. Though not as well-known as its Lombard counterparts, it is no less appealing. The small streets skirting the lake offer magnificent views of the surrounding scenery and the beaches carved out in the coves lying below it. If you're feeling energetic, take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk up to one of the area's small local churches, for example, the Church of San Lorenzo in Castro (www.iseolake.info). If all this walking has made you hungry, you can enjoy a romantic dinner at the I Due Roccoli Restaurant in Iseo. The restaurant serves mouth watering traditional cuisine on its stone patio, adorned with oldworld furniture. End your day's outing and meal on a high note with a glass of ‘bubbly' from the nearby Franciacorta region (www.idueroccoli.com).
LAKE GARDA: A BLEND OF SPORT AND CULTURE If you're feeling active and would like to discover what lies beyond the confines of Milan, then Lake Garda could be exactly what you're looking for. Surrounded by three distinct regions – Lombardy, Trentino AltoAdige and the Veneto – the lake's cultural diversity and wind-ruffled waters make it a paradise for water sports and more.
Gardaland, one of Italy's largest amusement parks, boasts several of the country's most famous attractions, including roller coasters, simulators and theme parks designed to appeal to visitors of all ages (www.gardaland. it). Alternately, if you're keen to learn more about Italian history and culture, head to the Lake's north-eastern shore to visit the Vittoriale degli Italiani (The Shrine of Italian Victories) the house-museum dedicated to renowned poet and patriot Gabriele D'Annunzio, where you can admire memorabilia, airplanes and the vast library that belonged to the writer. The venue is open daily from 9am to 8pm and guided tours are available (www.vittoriale.it). End your trip of discovery with a stopover in Sirmione, a spa town situated on the edge of the lake. Recharge your batteries and indulge in a therapeutic mud or thermal water treatment, an invigorating massage or a whirlpool experience followed by a mouth watering candle-lit dinner at the La Rucola restaurant which serves local dishes upgraded with a creative twist (www.ristorantelarucola.it).
Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Arona, Lake Maggiore
Sirmione, Lake Garda