The Italian Lake District should top your list of romantic escapes this Valentine’s Day.
Take a leaf out of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and row across Lake Maggiore with your loved one, ogle George Clooney’s magnificent Lake Como villa, or lose yourself in the splendid gardens and palaces of the Borromean Islands. Depending on which lakes you choose, car hire from Milan or Turin is the best way to create the ultimate romantic trip. Here are some tips to get you started:
Lake Como (Lago di Como)
The most beautiful of the Italian lakes is Como, 50km north of Milan. Its shores are studded with village jewels, such as Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, and Cadenabbia, which are best appreciated on a ferry trip around the heart of Lake Como.
For extra brownie points, book dinner at the family-run Al Veluu while it’s still light. It’s expensive, but, as you clink glasses to the accompaniment of a technicolour sunset, you’ll agree it’s worth it.
Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore)
The Italian Lake District fans out across Northern italy, with the longest of the lakes, Lake Maggiore, lying to the east.
Stretching some 65 km in length, this lake is home to a trio of magnificent islands in the Borromean Bay, between Stresa and Verbania.
The aptly named Isola Bella has a delightful baroque palace and gardens where the two of you can take a leisurely stroll. Isola Madre’s gardens are even more spectacular, and Isola Pescatori is a picturesque place of fishing villages and lake boats.
Lake Orta (Lago d’Orta)
Hidden away among dense woodland, peaceful Lake Orta (aka Lake Cusio) may be the perfect romantic hideaway. Much smaller than its more famous neighbour, Lake Orta is separated from Lake Maggiore by Monte Mottarone.
The main attraction is the charming medieval village of Orta San Giulio (or simply Orta), which is arguably the loveliest hamlet in the entire Italian lake district. Delightful palazzi and pastel houses line cobbled streets, and fishing boats bob in the harbour. The main square faces the islet of Isola San Giulio, home to an old convent and church.
Lake Iseo (Lago d’Iseo)
Lago d’Iseo is one of the lesser-known of Northern Italy’s lakes, making it a tranquil hideaway to spend time with someone special.
It nestles in the mountains halfway between Bergamo and Brescia and is an appealing location for walkers, but even if the only walking you intend doing is between your hire car and your hotel/restaurant, you will enjoy the pretty waterside promenades and delightful squares.
A little-known attraction is the prehistoric rock art in the Val Camonica. Enjoy the winding, stunning lakeside drives.