Lakes in Northern Italy in August?

Feb 15th, 2011, 11:01 AM
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Lakes in Northern Italy in August?

My significant other and I are looking to take a trip to the Dolomites and Venice in August. We're in our twenties and outdoorsy people, so we're intrigued by the lakes around Milan and Verona.

Can you recommend a good lakeside town? We're looking for something with a small-town, Italian vibe.

Lastly, we won't be renting a car. Is it possible to access the Como or Garda lake regions with trains and buses?

Thank you for your help!!
eccarrol is offline  
Feb 15th, 2011, 12:11 PM
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If you're traveling by train, you might want to consider Varenna on the shores of Lake Como. It's a really beautiful town, centrally located on the lake, and it allows easy access by ferry to other notable spots on the lake (Bellagio, Menaggio, Como, etc.).
mr_go is offline  
Feb 15th, 2011, 01:52 PM
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Varenna is a nice town with a train station, but is Rick Steves touristy central and its Italian vibe is overwhelmed by tourism or canned for it. Lago di Como is the most popular destination for tourists because of its unique beauty, but if you want feel the pleasures of a small Italian town, you should avoid Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna and pick someplace else on the lake instead. That may mean a combination of train plus boat ride or plus bus (or both!), but you will probably find it worth it. The 3 main towns of Lago di Como can be choked with foreign tourists in summer.

If you have time, you can use boats to get around Lago di Garda, which is the lake most loved by very active visitors (hiking, mountain biking, windsurfing, etc). It also might be the best for a trip that includes the Dolomiti. The towns of Lago di Garda are extremely popular with both vacationing Italians and vacationing Germans, especially in August. You can find lots of information on the web about how to get from north to south by boat, or vice versa. But there are train stations at the southern end of the lake in Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda that have both docks and train stations, and they are very easy to reach from Verona or Milan. Anyway, do some research on the web.

There are also towns on Lago Maggiore easily accessed by train and boat from a starting point in Milan. Although the town of Stresa hosts a summer international music festival (which affects accommodations in Baveno as well) you might find that if you use a combination of train and boat that you can get a true italian vacation ambience on the like, among vacationing Italians, not foreigners, with lots of pretty hikes.
zeppole is offline  
Feb 15th, 2011, 07:09 PM
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You don't have to get far outside of the center of Varenna to leave the tourists behind, and Varenna has access to ferry and train service. Below is a link to an agriturismo near the ruins of Castello di Vezio in the hills above Varenna. I haven't stayed here, but reviews on Tripadvisor are uniformly positive and I can verify that the views from this area are stunning. I've only taken the walking path from Varenna to the Castello, but there is a town bus that loops around the hills above the town. It's about 1.5-2 miles from the agriturismo to the ferry dock using roads; perhaps less if you use the footpath from the castello ruins. The walk up the hill is steep.


Another idea would be Bellano which is about 3 miles north of Varenna. A few years ago, we took a taxi from Varenna to Bellano and then a bus from Bellano to some of the small towns in Valsassina. Bellano is served by the fast ferry, but to cross the lake to Bellagio and the western shore it would be easier to just go first to Varenna. The same train from Milan that stops in Varenna-Esino also stops at Bellano and continues north to Tirano. Sondrio is a nice day trip destination on this line.

The only place on Lake Garda that we've spent any amount of time in is Malcesine at the north end. We enjoyed it a lot, especially the cable car from the town to the mountain ridge above. We had a car and didn't use the ferry. You should peruse the ferry schedule before you select a base on Lake Garda so that you're near a stop with frequent service.
Jean is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 08:58 AM
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Thank you so much! I was worried that, when considering the more natural areas of Italy, we'd run into a lot of problems with transportation, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
I hadn't considered using a ferry before, so that is especially helpful
eccarrol is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 09:04 AM
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Click on my name above to find my trip report from 2009 that includes 3 weeks spent in Venice, the Dolomites, and Lago Como. Here are some Venice pics.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 04:24 PM
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Thank you @bobthenavigator. You made it sound like an unbelievable trip and such a special 50th anniversary for you and your wife. The fact that you chose it for such a memorable occasion makes it seem all the more important for me to make it work this summer. Thank you for the help
eccarrol is offline  

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