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12 days in the Italian Lakes

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May 19th, 2016, 12:15 PM
  #1
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12 days in the Italian Lakes

My husband and I are planning to spend 12 days in September in the Italian Lakes area. I'm trying to plan the trip and book hotels, but am a bit overwhelmed with all the possibilities. We'll be flying in and out of Milan and are planning to rent a car. What would be your suggestions? How many days in each lake and where? Suggestions of towns to stay? We plan to take day trips to some nice places nearby. Any specially nice hotels (mostly 4* hotels...)?
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May 19th, 2016, 01:56 PM
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Does 12 days mean you have 13 nights?

Do you want to spend any time in Milan?

Generally, my pace would be 5-6 nights each at two hotels on different lakes plus the final night in Milan. But I like Milan and a leisurely pace. If you don't want to spend any time in Milan and your departing flight isn't too early in the day, you could spend the final night at one of the western lakes.

Which lakes is somewhat personal preference, what interests you, how much time you want to spend in the car, riding ferries, etc. Since you're flying in/out of Milan, I'd stick to the western lakes (both large and small) and leave Garda and Iseo for another trip when you could fly in/out of Venice or Verona.

I'd look for hotels in Stresa or Baveno on Maggiore and a mid-lake town on Como (Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio, Cadenabbia). A 4* hotel is likely to have parking, but verify and note the overnight parking charge.

FYI, September is still high season, and the lakes will be busy esp. on good weather weekends.

You may want to look at the ferry timetables.

http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/index.asp
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May 19th, 2016, 04:22 PM
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Budget?
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May 19th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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Definitely Lake Como and with that amount of time you could visit Lake Garda if you wanted to, as well. I have not been to Maggiore but I hear it is gorgeous.

Personally I prefer Lake Como to Lake Garda but if you wanted to see a little of each with that amount of time, you should.

If you click on my name and then go to the bottom where the trip reports are, I am pretty sure I wrote at least one report.

I definitely wrote a big thread about things to do on Lake Como, and it might not be a trip report. If you do a search on flygirl and lake como it should come up on the first page.

BTW if your Milan flight home is in the afternoon, you can definitely stay in Cernobbio and have a driver take you to the airport in Milan. In fact even a late morning flight is fine. We did that once - the driver picked us up at 630 AM and we were at the airport by 8 AM. The flight was probably around 1030 or 11 if memory serves. If you stayed in Lenno and flew home from Milan you'd want to add another hour just to be safe - you shouldn't need that hour but you never know what could crop up.

Bottom line: if you are staying on Lake Como the night before you fly home from Milan you DEFINITELY want to have that final night on the west side of the lake. You do not want to have to wait for a ferry to get you across and then a driver on the other side.

Technically you could take the train from Varenna to Milan but I don't know how much longer it takes to then get to the airport. It is an hour from Varenna to Milan main station and of course the airport is not in Milan itself. You're much better off just sleeping on the west side of the lake and getting a driver. Or, Milan itself.
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May 19th, 2016, 05:59 PM
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They'll have a car.
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May 20th, 2016, 10:29 AM
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Thank you for all the replies!!
We would really like to try to see these three lakes: Garda, Como and Maggiore. We'll rent a car, so I guess it's a little easier. We'll have 12 days, 11 nights. But our flight is in the evening on the last day.
What would be the best order to see the lakes? 1. Garda, 2. Como, 3. Maggiore?
Where should we stay in each of the lakes? (Which town?)
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May 20th, 2016, 01:14 PM
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We loved staying on Lake Como. On one trip we stayed in Bellagio and most recently we stayed in Varenna. Although we usually travel by car I found that a bit of a handicap around the lakes. We loved using the ferries on both Maggiore and Como. And we got a driver to and from the airport. While on Como try lunch At Al Velu for an incredible meal and view.
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May 20th, 2016, 03:22 PM
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Best order? I'm not sure it matters, other than you should be relatively close to Malpensa on the last night. How you divide the nights depends on what you want to see/do on each lake. Have you figured that out yet?

Where you stay on each lake depends a bit on what you want to see and your attitudes toward high season crowds. I would want to stay in a town with ferry service so that I wouldn't have to drive everywhere, look for parking, etc.

I like Malcesine and Riva del Garda on Lake Garda, but both are at the northern end of the lake which might not make sense with the time you have.

On Lake Como, I like the mid-lake area. On Maggiore, Baveno and Stresa, but there are some charming towns farther north before the Swiss border.

I also liked Orta San Giulia on Lake Orta, but we only visited for a day. There are beautiful frescoes in the basilica on the island in the lake, accessible by boat service.
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May 22nd, 2016, 07:03 PM
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I'm surprised that many of you said that driving in that area might not be the best option... I was sure it would make things much easier... So you think that in September there will still be a lot of people and driving could be a hassle...? Is it easy to go everywhere with public transportation?
I'm having a really hard time deciding where to stay (what town to stay) on each of the three lakes we are planning to go to (Maggiore, Como and Garda)... We like to walk, appreciate beautiful views of the nature and little towns, we LOVED Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast, Croatia... Just to let you know the kind of thing we like to do, so that you can hopefully help us decide which towns to choose to stay...
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May 22nd, 2016, 07:06 PM
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Thank you Jean for the suggestions of towns!!!
On Lake Garda you said that the towns you like might not be a good option for us with the time we have... Would you have other suggestions in a more appropriate area of the lake?
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May 22nd, 2016, 08:38 PM
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I can't help with the southern end of Garda. We've only driven through on the way to elsewhere. Sorry.

You really should figure out what you want to see/do on each lake, look into ferry and drive times, before you decide where to stay. There are lots of charming towns and lovely hotels. Pick places that are convenient to your sightseeing.
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May 26th, 2016, 05:35 PM
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I'm having a hard time deciding where to stay on each of the lakes. I'm thinking of these towns:
Lake Garda (4 nights): Sirmione
Lake Como (4 nights): Varenna
Lake Maggiore (3 nights): Baveno or Stresa
What do you y of these choices? And would you have suggestions of nice hotels in each of these places? We were thinking of 4* hotels and maybe a special one preferably on Lake Maggiore, since it's the last place we'll go before heading back to the airport...
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May 26th, 2016, 06:42 PM
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It would be more helpful to say what you want to spend for lodging each night. The number of stars relates to types of amenities a hotel offers, not necessarily level of luxury.

AFAIK, the Hotel du Lac in Varenna is 4*. It's a nice boutique hotel with lovely views, walking distance from the ferry dock, but is not what I would classify as luxury.

We stayed at the Splendid in Baveno. It was very 'grand,' but it's been many years so check reviews before you book.
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May 26th, 2016, 11:12 PM
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We loved Hotel Villa and Palazzo Aminta in Stresa. Absolutely wonderful small hotel. But there seem to be other very nice properties all around the area, so I'm sure there are other good choices too.
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May 27th, 2016, 03:44 AM
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One of the reasons people go to the lakes is to be out on them on a boat (speaking for myself at least) so getting around by boat is part of the fun. For Lake Garda I agree that the northern end (Maclesine and Riva del Garda) are in a much more scenic area than the southern end. I think you have plenty of time to base yourself in the northern end. Sirmione has a wonderful castle and is spectacular when seen from the water, but it's the most touristy and crowded. Both Maclesine and Riva have little castles. If you opt for the northern end I recommend Hotel Erika (and it has parking so if you do decide to drive it would work - it's on the inland side of the village so no lake view but still only a five minute walk from the shore.) Maclesine also has a gondoa up to the top of the mountain which is a great way to experience a tiny bit of the alps, also great views (if it's not hazy).

In Como I'd opt for Varenna over Bellagio which is extremely popular (and therefore crowded). On Maggorie, Stressa is "OK" but doesn't have the charm of the other lakes. I haven't been all around that lake, I think there are some more charming towns further north.

The whole trip would be pretty easy by train and boat but driving in that area would not be horrible (there will be traffic though, even in September), plus be certain your hotels have parking.

Here's my photos of the lakes region. - http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/italian_lakes
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May 27th, 2016, 12:59 PM
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Fantastic photos Isabel!
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May 27th, 2016, 02:28 PM
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Correct spelling is Malcesine on Lake Garda.
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May 28th, 2016, 02:19 PM
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Thank you again for all the suggestions. Concerning hotels... we were thinking of something around 200 Euros a night. I'm a bit worried, because many hotels I've checked are already fully booked...
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May 28th, 2016, 02:40 PM
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Isabel,
Thanks for sharing the pictures!!! They are AMAZING!!! The problem is that now I want to see ALL those places in your pictures...
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May 28th, 2016, 03:59 PM
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The Lakes are very popular in September, esp. on weekends, so I wouldn't agonize too long over where to stay. If possible, immediately book some reservations that can be cancelled without penalty in the event you find something you like more.

Check www.booking.com.
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