Footloose in the Italian lakes
TOURING THE FOUR MAJOR LAKES IN NORTHERN ITALY
Footloose in the Italian lakes
~ 4 chapters on one DVD
Garda ~ We recommend staying at Desenzano, it makes a good base for travelling in the southern part of Lake Garda ~ Sirmione with its castle and Roman ruins, or the old port of Salo. You will probably need a hire car if you want to experience the north of the lake (Limone, Riva, Malcesine) ....although if you stay at one of these places the boat service serves them well.
Garda is the largest of the lakes and the boat from north to south will take over 4 hours, so generally you either "do" the north or the south whilst on vacation. There are faster Jetboats available though. The lakeside road is slow particularly in high season. We thoroughly recommend visiting the famous and thought provoking Il Vittoriale house & gardens. The popular Monte Baldo cable car from Malcesine takes you to the top, where there are stunning views of the lake and mountains on a clear day.
Como ~ Perhaps the most beautiful lake in the region. We recommend a visit to the City of Como and its lakeside. There is a long history of silk manufacture here and 2km from the waterfront is the Educational Silk Museum with an interesting historical insight into the lucrative industry. The centre of the lake is the place for stunning scenery.
This is the playground of the rich and the famous. The best way to enjoy it all is by a hop on-off steamer trip from Balbianello Gardens (Lenno) to beautiful Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. It is said if you only have one day to spend on Como... spend it here in the middle of the lake. There are several exquisite villas and Italian gardens to enjoy.
Lugano ~ Definitely different Swiss atmosphere to experience here, with neat lakeside villages and relaxing steamer trips. The scenic lake is smaller then the others and rather less populated with heavily wooded slopes, but nevertheless, beautiful. The City of Lugano is a must to see, and so completely different from its Italian neighbours. A side trip across the causeway to the odd little Italian enclave of Campione is worthwhile, and also tiny little Gandria which was at one time a smuggler's den.
You can take a boat to the lonely yet intruiging Customs Museum opposite, perched all by itself on the lakeside. If you are a chocoholic the place for you is the Alprose Swiss Chocolate museum (Schokoland) at Caslano, there are tempting offers here!
Maggiore ~ Is the classical lake destination closest to the Alps. We recommend staying at the grand resort of Stresa, which is so convenient for road rail and boat travel. Just across the water are the famous gardens on Isola Bella (flamboyant & Baroque) and Isola Madre (beautiful and rather English) nearby. A boat trip to the picturesque St Caterina del Sasso monastery is a must. The lakeside towns of Pallanza and Cannobio make a pleasant visit too, also the stunning Rocca di Angera castle.
There is a good combined Swiss rail and steamer ticket to be had (The Lago Maggiore Express). The narrow gauge train takes you through a pretty valley to the Swiss lakeside town of Locarno... you return by a wonderful boat journey back to your resort, making a really good day out. You can take a cable-car up to the summit of Mottarone with more spectacular views of the Alps. Not far from Lake Maggiore is fabled to be the loveliest setting in the whole region, Orta san Giulio and its Holy island on Lake Orta.
See what it's like - watch a preview from our DVD -
press the 4-arrows button if you want full screen playback
RUNNING TIME 141minutes!
All in all, this has made another spectacular feature length film to add to the ever-expanding Footloose series!
Our Footloose Walking Trails ~
The Hike down from Monte Baldo(8km) starts by taking the cable car from Malcesine up to the spectacular viewpoint on the mountain(1650m), this can be crowded in high season. It's a zig zag trail down, initially straightforward and quite exhilarating, but the views of Lake Garda and the mountains beyond become obscured as you enter the forest. Loose rock and leaves make some of the descent tricky underfoot, and a pole of some kind is a good idea to take. There is a bar (Pria) about half way down but is a 10-minute detour each way. You go underneath the cable car several times, see several shrines and the lower half of the walk is on farm tracks. The descent is relentless and could take 5 hours to the lake. If you don't want to put your knees on trial, it's best to hike 3 hours to the first stage cable car at San Michele.
The Sanagra Valley trail(15km) ~You leave Menaggio on a local footpath up the hill to the village of Croce then a road walk to Grandola. After taking a look at Villa Camozzi, town hall and museum, you take a very pleasant farm track and woodland trail to Il Rogolone, an ancient oak tree in a very pleasant meadow. Then it's more woodland trail with views of Lakes Piano and Lugano through the trees. Then go past the little church of San Giorgio to the village of Gottro where lake Lugano can be seen in all its splendour. After this it is a steady road walk down through lovely Carlazzo to the lakeside town of Porlezza, on the Italian lakeside of Lugano.
Hiking from Mottarone Summit to Lake Orta(16km) starts with yes, another cable-car (rather older than the first one at Monte Baldo!) from Stresa. The trail from the summit (where there are restaurants and spectacular views) is waymarked as P4. This follows a chairlift down past some large boulders, and you can take a first look at the lovely lake Orta and its Holy island below. The slopes gradually become forested and the path is quite steep. Eventually you come across a woodland track which takes you down to Alpe Silviana. After checking out the waterfall, a forested path takes you to Pescone. You go along a farm track past some noisy animals to the unfortunately named village of Pratolungo. Its now only 4 kilometres left through Carcegna and down to the pretty lakeside village of Orta san Giulio, with its Sacred mountain and Holy island in the lake.
... Watch the spoof opener ~ Debra and Dave without an
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Maggiore is best served by Milan Malpensa airport which is an Easyjet
Lake Garda is best served by Verona's airport.
Climate ~ Maggiore The Italian Lakes region enjoys a Mediterranean warmth, each lake has a micro-climate with regular winds at the Climate ~ Garda northern end. They are generally sheltered from the harsher extremes of the Alps, but some heavy thunderstorms can be experienced in late August.
Getting around the District
We travelled with a low-cost hire car. Although we made the film in two and a half weeks, covering four lakes, we don't recommend this for a holiday!!! Lakes Como and Lugano are very close, so whilst staying at one lake you can easily visit the other. The Italian railways are good (a legacy of former dictator Mussolini) and Maggiore (Stresa & Arona) is well served. The south of Garda (Desenzano & Peschiera) also enjoy a good train service. Generally rail lines radiate from the City of Milan. Italian buses are generally good value and punctual.
Boat and ferry company for Garda, Como & Maggiore
GoogleMap plots of our three walking trails
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