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Lake Garda, Lake Como, or Lake Maggiore?

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Which one is your favorite, and why? And, as I've not been to Maggiore, would you say it's more like Lake Como or Lake Garda?

We just got home from Italy (trip report and photos forthcoming, still digging out) and now I can at least somewhat compare Lake Como to Lake Garda, although our time on Garda was pretty short (three nights) and only one day was sunny. One day POURED buckets and because it was a Monday we couldn't even indulge in visiting the modern art museum in Rovereto (which I hear is wonderful). We spent that rainy day driving the entire perimeter of the lake (the whole way), stopping only in Riva very briefly to walk along the shore (umbrella in hand) and then spent a few hours at Il Vittoriale, wandering the grounds.

My impression of Lake Garda is that it is quite built up (as is Lake Como) but that it has newer buildings than on Lake Como. Does this mean that it was fairly wild and undeveloped a century ago; it would seem so. Lake Como seems more "Italian" to me and Lake Garda seemed somewhat more teutonic (which makes sense given its history). Lake Garda had better wider roads for instance.

I get the sense of old money and old world grandeur (a Grand Tour stop) when I visit Lake Como... and Lake Garda seems more like an egalitarian vacation region by comparison (barring Il Vittoriale of course!). I also felt that Lake Garda is much more geared to outdoor pursuits - more infrastructure around hiking/biking/wind surfing/etc and Lake Como is geared more to strolling among stately villas, sitting outdoors and eating or sipping coffee, and seeing and being seen. Also due to this I felt that Lake Garda had a younger crowd - both for the outdoor pursuits as well as a lot of families on vacation. Lake Como seems to have more of a middle aged or older crowd.

These are generalizations of course as I actually saw more pleasure cyclists on Lake Como but that could well be due to the fact that we were there 5 nights and it was sunny and pleasant the whole time - so that isn't necessarily a fair comparison. And of course there were families as well - but it didn't seem as many as on Lake Garda.

We stayed in Malcesine and visited Limone sul Garda one morning but didn't see much of it as our visit was devoted to watching the start of the Giro. By contrast this was trip number four to Lake Como which means we are now clocking nearly three weeks "on the ground time" at Lake Como.

What are your thoughts?

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