Italy has many lakes, but when you say, “the Italian Lakes,” everyone knows that you are referring to the country’s iconic northern lakes.
This group of glacial lakes nestled in the southern Alps includes famous destinations such as Lake Como and Lake Garda, as well as lesser known gems such as Lake Orta and Lake Idro. Millions of people visit the Italian Lakes each year, mostly drawn by the beautiful scenery.
Check out beautiful mountains towering over pristine waters, such as the lake island of Monte Isola. The shores of the lakes are dotted with quaint, lemon-scented towns such as Bellagio, and stately villas.
Lake Garda even has Italy’s most popular amusement park, Gardaland! Whether you’re a lover of nature, beaches, or la dolce vita, the Italian Lakes have something for you.
However, before you join the millions of people that visit each year, it’s important to research practical concerns such as safety.
This guide handily took care of all of the research for you for everything from natural disasters to crime. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about traveling to the Italian Lakes and doing so safely.
Are the Italian Lakes Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. The Italian Lakes are very safe to visit, which is probably why millions of people visit each year.
The bigger lakes have some of the same problems most other popular tourist destinations have, such as pickpockets, but even petty crime rates are lower than in other parts of Italy. Italy in general is a fairly safe place to visit.
According to travel advisories from the Australian government and many other governments, tourists should only exercise normal safety precautions when visiting Italy (the lowest possible travel advisory level).
Other governments are a bit stricter with their advice for Italy. New Zealand advises tourists to exercise increased caution when visiting Italy due to the risk of terrorism.
However, this risk is highest in Italy’s major cities, not the Italian Lakes. The lakes are in mostly rural regions with little political or economic significance besides tourism, making them unlikely targets for terrorists or any other form of unrest.
However, some of the other problems that travel advisories mention in their guidelines for Italy do apply to the Italian Lakes, such as crime.
You may run into some crime while you are in town, such as:
- Bag snatching
- Theft of unattended items
- Verbal harassment
While crime rates are low around the Italian Lakes, it is a good idea to be aware of potential risks and take some precautions to make sure that your wallet and ID come home with you after your vacation.
The Italian Lakes are located in the Alps, a mountainous region in the north of Italy. The steep terrain means that the region is prone to landslides when there are heavy rains.
In May 2023, flooding and landslides caused some of the infrastructure around the Italian Lakes to collapse. During May’s heavy rains, dozens of people died throughout Italy.
Flooding and landslides are not very common in this region, but they can happen after long periods of heavy rain. Pay attention to the forecast when you are planning your vacation.
If the Italian government issues alerts about flooding and landslide risks, reschedule your trip. If you notice the weather getting wilder during your trip, monitor the news and obey any evacuation orders.
Another common natural disaster that affects Italy is strong heatwaves. The Canadian government advises visitors that high temperatures and wildfires are extremely common in Italy during the summer.
While this tends to affect the south more than the north, especially not around the Alpine Italian Lakes region, it is still a good idea to prepare for the heat. Make sure you stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day in the summer.
Many people are excited to explore the Italian Lakes from the water as well as from the shore. Going on a ferry or hiring your own boat is a popular pastime.
However, there have been cases of boats capsizing and killing people onboard, such as the May 2023 collapse of the houseboat Gooduria on Lake Maggiore, which was caused by a sudden storm.
If you are heading out onto the lakes, make sure that you are going with a tour operator that knows about safety conditions. The larger lakes in the Italian Lakes region, such as Como, Garda, and Maggiore, have heavy winds and sudden storms.
Make sure that the company you are traveling with knows how to keep passengers safe during such an event.
The Italian Lakes are also popular for other water sports such as swimming, wakeboarding, and water skiing. Make sure that you are choosing a reputable operator when renting equipment.
Most lakes have designated zones for different activities, and make sure you are obeying all posted regulations. Make sure all family members have life jackets when partaking in water sports as people have drowned before.
The Italian Lakes region is also popular among hikers thanks to its location in the Alps. Make sure that you are following safe hiking procedures such as notifying those not on your trip of where you are going, taking plenty of supplies, and carrying a GPS.
In cooler months, be warned that some trails will have ice and snow, making them more difficult to navigate.
Crime in the Italian Lakes
It’s difficult to gather accurate crime statistics about the Italian Lakes. This is a vast region that stretches across several of Italy’s northern provinces, including Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige.
The area around the lakes is sparsely populated, with small towns instead of cities, meaning that there is not a lot of data.
Looking at crime statistics for the different regions that encompass the Italian Lakes is a good place to start your research. The region of Lombardy, which contains some of the most famous lakes, such as Lake Como, actually has the highest crime rate in Italy.
In 2019, its police reported 439,302 incidents. However, the vast majority of these incidents occurred in the big city of Milan, which is also in Lombardy, not in the small towns that dot the Lakes region.
The other regions that make up the Italian Lakes region have much lower crime rates. Veneto has the 7th-highest crime rate, but the region also contains the pickpocket hotspot of Venice.
Piedmont has the 9th-highest crime rate, with most criminal incidents occurring in its major city of Turin. Trentino-Alto Adige has the 4th-lowest reported crime rate in Italy.
The Italian Lakes in general have a low crime rate. For example, Como scores a 28.39 out of 100 on the Numbeo crime index.
Larger lakes such as Como, Garda, and Maggiore have higher crime rates since they attract bigger crimes, while smaller, less popular lakes have even lower crime rates. Overall, while crime can happen anywhere in the world, you are unlikely to encounter it at the Italian Lakes.
The most common crime around the Italian Lakes is the most common crime elsewhere in Italy — pickpocketing. As the Canadian government warns in its travel advisory for the country, criminals often target tourists during petty street theft.
The most common street crime in the Italian Lakes region is pickpocketing, although you may also encounter other crimes such as purse snatching, theft of unattended items, and scams.
The crime rate increases during the tourist high season, the summer. Pickpockets often make their way to the Lakes along with the crowds of tourists.
Theft of unattended items is one of the most common problems around the Italian Lakes. Thieves will sometimes rifle through people’s things as they go swimming. Don’t leave your valuables unattended on the beach.
Either lock them up in your accommodation or designate a friend to watch your things while you swim (and rotate so you don’t exclude anyone from the fun).
Thieves also target tourists in the towns that dot the shores of the Italian Lakes.
Towns such as Como can fill up during the summer, and in the crowds, it’s easy for a pickpocket to brush up against someone and take their things. Make sure that you put your valuables in a place where it would be hard for someone to slip away with them unnoticed.
Theft From Vehicles
Renting a car and driving is one of the most popular ways to see the Italian Lakes. You have complete control over your itinerary and can see the beautiful scenery at your own pace.
However, driving makes you vulnerable to another common crime in the area, which is theft from vehicles. Thieves often target rental vehicles because they know that tourists are more likely to have their possessions with them than locals, making more lucrative targets.
Locals advise visitors to never leave anything in their cars that they wouldn’t mind getting stolen. If you are heading into a restaurant or to get gas, always take your wallet or purse with you.
Someone could take advantage of just a moment’s distraction and take it. If you can, try to check into your accommodation before going exploring so you don’t take your suitcases with you.
If you have to stop and have luggage with you, make sure that it is hidden from view. Put all of your things in the trunk or glove compartment.
Most importantly, don’t open your trunk until you get to your final destination. If you open your trunk to rummage in your luggage, then leave your car, you just alerted thieves to the presence of your valuables.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are no bad areas in the Italian Lakes, although crime rates are slightly higher around more popular lakes such as Como and Garda. In the towns, the areas around main bus or train stations can be sketchy at night, but not necessarily dangerous.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for visiting the Italian Lakes:
- Visit during the shoulder season. Summer is the high season, and the more popular lakes can get very crowded. Theft rates also increase. If you visit in the summer, consider visiting a hidden gem in the region such as Lake Orta instead of the most popular Lake Como.
- Be prepared for the sun. Summers aren’t as hot here as they are in southern Italy, but they can still get very hot. Apply sunscreen, drink water, and stick to the shade during noon.
- Brace yourself for scammers. Always read the fine print when renting a car or signing up for anything else. When booking ahead, double-check the trustworthiness of the company you are doing business with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have asked before visiting the Italian Lakes:
Are the Italian Lakes worth visiting?
The Italian Lakes are absolutely worth visiting. Not only do they boast some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, but there is also plenty to do.
Is Lake Como safe for tourists?
Lake Como, the most popular of the Italian Lakes, is safe for tourists. You may encounter thieves in the towns that dot its shores, but not many.
Which is nicer: Lake Como or Garda?
Lake Como is more popular with visitors, especially those looking for an upscale travel experience. The scenery is nicer, and there are smaller towns on the shore where you can get away from it all by avoiding the main day tripper destinations.
Can you swim in Lake Garda?
Yes, Lake Garda has several beach areas where you can swim. In fact, its amazing swimming is why it is so popular among foreigners and Italians alike.
When should I visit the Italian Lakes?
Late spring is the best time to visit the Italian Lakes. The weather tends to be beautiful in May and June, and there are fewer visitors.
So, Are the Italian Lakes Safe to Visit?
The Italian Lakes are some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations thanks to their beauty and their safety. Besides some petty crime that is easily avoided with basic precautions, the lakes are safe to visit.
So, with so much to see and do and a very safe environment in which to stay, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that the Italian Lakes have to offer. Happy travels!