What to see in the Italian Lakes

The Italian Lake District museums, ruins, monuments, churches, and other top attractions

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Bellagio as seen from the Villa Carlotta (Photo by Ray in Manila)
Bellagio
Bellagio

Bellagio is often called one of the most beautiful towns in Italy

 
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An aerial view (Photo by Jeroen Komen)

The terraced gardens of this 1784 lakeside villa are so picturesque it has been cast in several films

 
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The garden facade (Photo by Diego Bonacina)
Villa Carlotta
Tremezzina

A baroque villa filled with Neoclassical sculptures and Romantic paintings halfway between Lenno and Menaggio

 
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A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse (Photo by Laurom)
Free

A Romanesque masterpiece with great 14C frescoes

 
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Detail of the facade (Photo by JoJan)
Free

A statue-studded facade and tapestry-lined cathederal—plus a digression on ancient local hero Pliny the Elder

 
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A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse
Como
Como

This silk-making town anchors the SW end of Lake Como

 
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Varenna (Photo Ray in Manila)
Varenna
Varenna

A quiet mid-lake town with villa gardens, frescoed churches, and a great view from a ruined castle

 
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The gardens (Photo Public Domain)

A vast park of 18C gardens covering the headland of Bellagio's peninsula with killer views

 
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A 14C castle with Lake Como views high above Varenna

 
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A mountaintop abbey with great views and Romanesque frescoes

 
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The apse end of the church (Photo by Ben Bender)
Free

An ancient (6C–12C) church in Como's historic center

 
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Abbazia di Piona
Northern Lake Como

A Romanesque Abbey making superior monastic hooch on a Notehrn Como lake peninsula

 
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A former convent with lovely terraced gardens by the lakeside

 
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A small lakeside museum celebrating the accomplishments of famed Como-born scientist Alessandro Volta

 
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The nondescript driveway where Mussolini was killed

 
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The lakefront (Photo by Gerry Labrijn)
Menaggio
Menaggio

A lively resort town on western shore of the lake, across from Bellagio on its peninsula and Varenna on the distant shore

 
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Villa Melzi
Bellagio

A neoclassical villa and gardens

 
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A striking and sobering monument to the European Resistance movement of WWII

 
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Civate
Lecco

A town by a smaller lake S of Como with Romanesque churches

 
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An aerial view
Free
Lenno
Tremezzina

A tiny town with a magnificent villa, frescoed church, and, nearby, the spot where Mussolini was shot

 
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Il Vittorale
Gardone Riviera

An over-the-top villa built by early 20C poet, solider, and adventurer Gabriele d'Annunzio

 
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Castello di Arco
Northern Lake Garda

A ruinous castle with medieval frescoes above Riva del Garda

 
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A small but delightful bower planted a hundred years ago by the Swiss naturalist Arturo Hruska

 
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Villa Romana
Southern Lake Garda

Northern Italy's best-preserved ancient Roman villa

 
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Sirmione on the tip of its peninsula (Photo Public Domain)
Sirmione
Sirmione

A resort town with a medieval castle and Roman ruins at the tip of a skinny peninsula into Lake Garda

 
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Malcesine
Lake Garda

A sunny seaside resort with a cool castle and several windsurfing rental outfits

 
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The remains of the villa are right at the tip of the peninsula (Photo by Agsftw)

The ruins of a large ancient Roman villa with sweeping Lake Garda view at the tip of Sirmione's peninsula

 
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Isola del Garda
Garda's western shore

The villa and gardens on Garda's only island are privately owned but open for tours

 
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A pretty resort town on Garda's northwestern shore

 
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Riva
Riva del Garda

The northernmost town on the lake is prosperous Italian town of narrow cobblestone streets, medieval towers, and modest Renaissance churches and palazzi

 
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The castle still guards the entrance to Sirmione (Photo by Pe-sa)

An imposing little 13C castle out of a storybook surrounded by water

 
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Toscolano-Maderno
Garda's eastern shore

A beach town and Romanesque church on Garda's western shore

 
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Castello Scaligero
Northern Lake Garda

A 14C castle with great rampart views and modest museums

 
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The medieval frescoes (Photo by Allie Caulfield)
Free

A small Sirmione church with medieval frescoes

 
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Monte Baldo
Garda's eastern shore

A cable-car ride from Malcesine to a mountain with vistas and hiking trails

 
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Bardolino
Garda's eastern shore

A Lake Garda town famous for its wine since antiquity

 
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Castello Scaligero
Garda's eastern shore

A postcard little castle with a modest museum, small vineyard, and lake views

 
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Torbole
Northern Lake Garda

The windsurfing capital of Italy

 
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Salò
Garda's western shore

A genteely faded resort with a Gothic Duomo and uncomfortable memories of Mussolini's final days

 
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Gardaland
Peschiera del Garda

Italy's largest theme park

 
 
Activities, walks, & excursions links
Local tourism info links
Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).