Footloose in the Italian lakes
             The Italian Lakes

    Holiday Ideas on Garda Como Lugano Maggiore by

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A comprehensive tour and walking travelogue of the four main lakes in the north of Italy. Runs 140 minutes! 

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 Footloose in the Italian Lakes



You are spoilt for choice in the Italian lakes district. There are many lakes to choose from, but generally the "Big Four" are:  Garda ~ the largest and some distance from the others; Como ~ smaller and considered by many as the most romantic; Lugano ~ dark mysterious and mostly Swiss; and Maggiore the longest, and we found the most relaxing. July and August can be very busy and very hot for all the lakes . We found early September to be a good time to go.

- See travel and trail information links at the bottom of the page -

  Highlights/places to visit/things to do 

LAKE GARDA - Sirmione (Scaligera Castle and Grotte di Catullo Roman Ruins), Desenzano, Salo, Il Vittoriale historic villa and gardens, lakeside drive to Limone, Riva, Malcesine... cable-car up then walking trail down Monte Baldo. Also of course lake steamer rides.
LAKE COMO - Como City historic trail and Silk Museum, Villa Balbianello & other gardens, day cruise on the middle of the lake - hopping off at Menaggio-Bellagio-Varenna-Lenno, Sanagra Valley trail from Menaggio 
to lake Lugano (Porlezza)
- Visit the Swiss city of Lugano, the Alprose Chocoate factory (Schokoland), Campione d'Italia,
the little lakeside village Gandria, the Swiss Customs Museum. Also lake steamer rides and funiculars.
LAKE MAGGIORE - Visit Stresa, Baveno, Pallanza, boat trip to the fabulous Borromeo Islands & Santa Catarina monastery, Rocca di Angera medieval fortress, Lago Maggiore Express (Swiss railway and steamer ride visiting Locarno), hiking trail from the summit (cable-car) of Mottarone down to Lake Orta and its famous island.

Home Page     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 ~
  1~ Garda

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.


  2~ Como-Lugano
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.

3~ Maggiore
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
   orange Lamborghini
  Feature pages:  
Austrian Tyrol
East European Cities
Scottish Highlands
Classic Tour Scotland
London II Unusual
Keukenhof Gardens
Italian Lakes
Italy 5terre Venice
Italy III Campania
Italy IV TuscanyRome
Italy V South&Sicily
England Lake District
Oxford & York
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You might also like FOOTLOOSE IN 
Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Capri

Adriatic, Tuscany, Rome

Cinque Terre & Venice

Useful links:   Lake Maggiore is best served by Milan Malpensa airport which is an Easyjet destination.    
                        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

useful websites

Il Vittoriale House & Garden
a hotel review site where people can review local accommodation and discover local points of interest and things to do in and around Lake Garda.

Silk Museum of Como

The Swiss Customs Museum

Lago Maggiore Express

We recommend hotel bookings by


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