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Best home base for a week in the Italian Lakes?

Best home base for a week in the Italian Lakes?

Jul 30th, 2015, 04:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Best home base for a week in the Italian Lakes?

We're interested in doing a family stay in the Lakes next summer. DH and I have traveled there a couple of times, and based on those trips I know we'd like to be in a town with walking around options for dining and shopping. We loved Bellagio, but haven't visited Menaggio or Varenna. We stayed at GH Tremezzo, but would rather have more of a town this time. We'll likely rent an apartment or villa without a restaurant, so we'll rely on the town for meals that we don't prepare ourselves. Our kids are young (5, 7 and 9), and we want to do lots of hiking, boating and other outdoor excursions. This may be a factor when deciding a home base with easy access to that stuff. What are your favorite towns in the Lakes? We have only visited Lake Como, but I'm open to others if they are a better fit for the outdoor activities and town life. Thanks for any suggestions you have!
europhile is offline  
Jul 30th, 2015, 06:38 PM
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If you don't have a car and want a town of reasonable size, then I think Varenna would be a good choice. There is hiking from your doorstep and ferries and trains to venture further afield. It is quieter than Bellagio (fewer shops and fewer tourists) but is very attractive, has a range of cafes, restaurants, some shops, a couple of gelati bars, two small grocers stores, etc.
dreamon is offline  
Jul 30th, 2015, 06:43 PM
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btw Gillian Price has written a book about walking in the area. It's probably available in your local library.
dreamon is offline  
Jul 31st, 2015, 12:43 AM
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" We'll likely rent an apartment or villa without a restaurant, so we'll rely on the town for meals that we don't prepare ourselves. Our kids are young (5, 7 and 9), and we want to do lots of hiking, boating and other outdoor excursions"

Almost all places around the 4 major lakes north of Milan have restaurants.

Public boat traffic is fine between
Como - Arcegno - Menaggio/Bellagio/Varenna - Gravedona - Colico,
Gandria - Lugano - Campione - Morcote,
Arona - Angera - Stresa - Isola Bella - Pallanza - Intra - Laveno,
Orta San Giulio - Pella,
Locarno - Brissago Islands - Brissago - Ranzo
and much less frequent between
Lecco - Bellagio/Varenna,
Porlezza - Gandria,
Morcote - Ponte Tresa,
Campione - Capolago,
Intra - Luino - Cannobio - Brissago,
Omegna - Orta San Giulio - Pettenasco.

Best hiking trails:
all around Lake Lugano,
Lake Como:
between Como/Chiasso and Gravedona, between Como/Brunate and Bellagio,
Lake Maggiore:
between Ascona and Intra resp. Mergozzo
between Baveno and Arona resp. Invorio
between Magadino and Laveno
neckervd is offline  
Jul 31st, 2015, 07:36 AM
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As your three are under 10, they may enjoy Gardaland at Lake Garda, just up the east coast of the Lake from Pechiera del Garda.


Peschiera is also a good place to stay as it's on the main train line to Verona, where you can change trains for a day trip into Venice. Alternatively you could stay at Sirmione or Desenzano, this last also on the train line. Sirmione is great in the evenings when the daytrippers have gone and we also enjoyed Desenzano.

The lake also has a nice cable car ride up to Monte Baldo from Malcesine, where people parachute from the top down to the lake. You can use the ferries between the nearer towns and Peschiera and if you have a car, you can do a circular tour in a day.
Rubicund is offline  
Aug 1st, 2015, 07:13 AM
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I think Gardaland is more for older kids. There's very little for a five-year-old and not a whole lot for the two older kids. About age ten or eleven Gardaland might be a better option, depending on the child.

Fiabilandia is terrific for little kids, but it's on the Adriatic Coaast, too far from any of the lakes. We brought our grandchildren (when they were 5 and 6) to Fiabilandia early in the morning and had to drag them away in tears when the park was closing.
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 1st, 2015, 08:09 AM
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Thanks so much for the helpful replies! It sounds like a Lake Garda town may be a good option, or Bellagio on Lake Como. One question- given Bellagio's mid-lake location, would it be difficult to access any mountain trails from here? How about visiting other lakes from here (like a daytrip to Sirmione or Stresa)? I see our primary daytime activities being nature-focused, and hiking is always a hit with our kids, but obviously it can't be too strenuous.
europhile is offline  
Aug 1st, 2015, 08:56 AM
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we spent a week in Garda itself when our kids were about 9 & 12 and we all loved it. there is no need for a car as the boats will get you nearly everywhere you need to be and there are buses too when they can't. also it has the advantage of being in the middle of the lake so you can easily access both the top and the bottom.

in a week we saw virtually all the other main towns [and Monte Baldo] apart from Riva del Garda which was too far [or rather too long on the boat for us to get there and back in a day], plus Gardaland [really too hot] and the aqua park, which the kids loved of course.

this site might help with ideas for walking in the area:

annhig is offline  
Aug 1st, 2015, 09:57 AM
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DH and I stayed in Bellagio and, as others above say, the ferry gets one around easily.

Here's a thought--what about the city of Como?

TDudette is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 06:10 AM
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Once again:
the most easy (well signmarked, close to tons of stops of public transport etc.) and most panoramic trails are
around Lake Lugano,
between Como/Chiasso - Sasso Gordona - Campione/Menaggio,
between Magadino - Monte Tamaro - Monte Lema - Luino - Arcumeggia - Sasso del Ferro - Laveno,
between Losone/Ascona - Brissago - Cannobio - Premeno - Intra/Mergozzo,

It's easy to reach this areas by car from places like Menaggio, Arcegno, Gravedona, etc.
neckervd is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2015, 06:37 AM
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Thank you!!
europhile is offline  

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