Lake Garda, Lake Como, or Lake Maggiore?

May 30th, 2012, 03:39 AM
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Lake Garda, Lake Como, or Lake Maggiore?

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?
flygirl is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 05:49 AM
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I have been to all 3 of those multiple times and love them all for different reasons. If I had to pick one it would be Como. But, you are missing the most romantic of them all---Lago Orta---small but special.
bobthenavigator is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 06:56 AM
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Hi F,

We very much liked our stay on Lake Orta.

ira is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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My favorite is Como, then Maggiore. Didn't have a good experience at Lake Orta, poor hotel choice, A/C turned off during heat wave, and air around the lake had a terrible can happen anywhere, probably a fluke. Nice little village and island though. Will visit Lake Garda in mid-June so enjoyed your helpful comments.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Flygirl, I think you captured the differences between Lake Como and Lake Garda well – Italian vs. Tuetonic.

Sorry that it rained when you were at Garda. Touring the whole lake, we particularly enjoyed the towns of Riva, Salo, and Sirione. Charming area….
latedaytraveler is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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My absolute favorite is Orta. After that, Maggiore, which seems more "natural" than Como or Garda.
StCirq is offline  
May 30th, 2012, 10:31 AM
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All three lakes are very attractive and which one you put in the first rank depends on your preferences.

- Lake Garda is the most scenic of the three lakes. The northern half of Lake Garda probably has the most dramatic meeting of steep cliffs and water in the world - even more dramatic than the Amalfi coast. Limone is a picturesque town right on the lake, and Tremosine affers dramatic views fromt the top of the cliffs. The coastal road belongs to the most scenic roads on earth. Sirmione is another picturesque town in the middle of the lake, where hot springs warm the water (in fact, I learned swimming there). Lake Garda also has a few grand mansions (some of them have been turned into luxury hotels), but certainly not as many as Lake Como.

- Lago Maggiore is the least scenic of the three lakes but is most signifcant when it comes to art and architecture. The Isola Bella is simply spectacular.

- Lake Como is also, like Lake Garda, very scenic. It has several picturesque towns and grand mansions. Ironically, the finest of these mansions, the Villa Carlotta, has belonged to teutonic families, Charlotte of Prussia, and the Sachsen-Meiningen family.

Maybe another aspect: Lake Como is most expensive, especially when it comes to accomodation, and has quite a few rip-off places. Lago di Garda and Lago Maggiore are more diverse indeed and have, due to topographic conditions, a greater choice of accomodation.

traveller1959 is offline  
May 31st, 2012, 02:43 AM
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OK, sold! Next trip will include Orta, as well as Maggiore and Lake Como.

On this visit we toured all of the grounds of Villa Carlotta. The last time (2008) unfortunately it was a rather drizzly day and so we only visited the house and a small part of the grounds. I have a new appreciation for it, now that I see the extent of the gardens.

Traveller, when you say "art and architecture", what specifically do you mean? Are there museums, or is a lot of significant art to be found in old churches?
flygirl is offline  

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