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Italian lakes and Dolomites: where to stay?

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We're flying into Milan next May and have 3 days to spend in/around Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. My husband also wants to spend a few days in the Dolomites hiking. My question is this: if we arrive into Milan in the morning and rent a car, what location might be good for a base to explore the lakes? Varese? I've seen a few "must-see" posts already on the boards but additional thoughts are welcome!

Also, is it then feasible to spend a day driving over/up to the Dolomites? Route suggestions? We're debating staying a few days in either Bolzano or Ortisei. We like outdoor activity but also appreciate history, art and architecture.

Many thanks in advance for your suggestions! CleoB

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