Deciding where to stay in the Italian Lakes is no easy feat. While almost every place you could stay in will offer beautiful views, the towns in this region all have their own personalities and benefits.
There are countless opportunities for places to stay in the Italian Lakes region, and this guide will help you decide which place is best for you.
Why You Should Visit the Italian Lakes in 2023
The Italian Lakes are some of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations for a reason. They have a natural beauty that is unparalleled, even by the standards of such a gorgeous country as Italy.
The lakes have some spectacular vistas that are unmatched in the world. When you see the vast waters and adorable islands of Lake Maggiore or the rugged shores surrounding Lake Garda, you’ll understand why this region has been popular among centuries of tourists.
The mild weather, thanks to the microclimate around the lake, makes for even better sightseeing.
The Italian Lakes are perfect for adventure tourists and those who want to try their hands at different sports. Lake Garda is popular among Italian families, contains a big amusement park, and offers plenty of opportunities for water sports.
There are also countless hiking and biking trails in the Alpine landscapes around the lakes. Of course, you can also just lounge on the beach the entire time.
Plus, the area is a short distance away from some of Italy’s best sights, such as fashionable Milan or romantic Verona. You can base yourself here and explore the rest of northern Italy with ease.
The towns around the Italian Lakes are full of charm. Glamorous Bellagio on Lake Como (one of our favorite areas) has spectacular mansions and villas belonging to some of the world’s most famous people.
Stresa on Lake Maggiore has beautiful streets that feel quintessentially Italian, while the shores of Lake Orta contain sleepy villages that haven’t yet been overrun by tourists.
The Italian Lakes region is actually vast, with four major lakes and countless smaller lakes, villages, and mountain peaks that make for ideal sightseeing.
Figuring out where is the best place to stay in this region packed with wonder can be challenging, which is why a guide to the best places to stay can make planning your vacation much easier.
The Best Places to Stay in the Italian Lakes
Our top 5 picks for the best areas to stay when visiting include:
- Bellagio: Best area for glamourous travel and celebrity sightings
- Orta San Giulio: Best area for history and beating the crowds
- Bardolino: Best area for families
- Riva del Garda: Best area for water sports
- Stresa: Best area for photos and views
Where to Stay in the Italian Lakes: Beat Areas & Hotels
The Italian Lakes region is a popular vacation destination for Italians and foreigners alike. Visitors can enjoy beautiful views, try their hands at water skiing and other sports, or just lounge on the beach looking for celebrities.
There are many different types of vacations you can have, all in the same region, which is why it is so important to pick the right place to base yourself depending on what you are looking for.
This guide can help you figure out where is the best place to stay in the Italian Lakes, depending on what you would like to experience.
When most people think about the quintessential Italian Lakes town, they think of Bellagio. It has it all — winding streets with houses covered in flowers, beautiful views of Lake Como, and colorful streets and artisanal shops throughout the town center.
You’ll soon see why this town is nicknamed “The Pearl of Lake Como.” For centuries, Bellagio has been a getaway for the rich and famous who love vacationing in the lakes.
You can explore the villas and gardens belonging to rich residents of yore, such as the famous gardens of Villa Melzi with their spectacular grounds.
Today’s stars, including George Clooney, also build villas in or near Bellagio, and you can even take a boat tour to spot celebrities from the water. Bellagio’s main attraction is obviously the glittering Lake Como.
There are beautiful beaches just outside of the town (although the stretch of shore in the town is not so nice) where you can take a dip. There are many ferries that take you to nearby towns, such as pretty Varenna.
Bellagio is the perfect place for that picture-perfect trip to the Italian Lakes, surrounded by fine wine, fine dining, artisanal boutiques, and a celebrity or two.
However, it is one of Italy’s most expensive destinations and not the best place for budget travelers. We recommend trying to visit during the shoulder season as it fills up in the summer.
Things to Do
- Climb the winding Salita Serbelloni for the best view at the end of the staircase (and shopping along the way).
- Visit some of the pretty gardens, such as those of the Villa Melzi.
- Take a boat tour of Lake Como (and try to spot the celebrity villas).
Where to Eat
- Try some local fish at Ittiturismo Mella.
- Have some typical regional cuisine at Osteria Da Lu&Ca, tucked in the mountains above the town.
- Enjoy the exquisite pizza at La Dolce Vita.
Bellagio Budget Hotels
- Seta Hotel. This classy hotel boasts freshly renovated rooms, a tasty hotel restaurant, and great service, all right on Lake Como.
- Hotel Centrale Bellagio. This colorful hotel boasts comfy rooms and a shared garden and terrace, perfect for relaxing in the mountain air.
Bellagio Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Bellagio. This elegant hotel located right on Bellagio’s main square boasts simple yet comfortable rooms and excellent views of Lake Como.
- Il Poggio di Bellagio. Get away from it all at this hotel in the mountains above Bellagio, where all guests get spacious apartments, access to the pool and grounds, and the best views in town.
Bellagio Luxury Hotels
- Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. This family-owned luxury hotel has been welcoming well-heeled guests for 150 years. Today’s guests can enjoy the vintage hall and more modern amenities such as a spa and Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Hotel Belvedere. Owned by the women of a local family since 1880, this plush resort welcomes guests with a pool, fitness center, bar, and many more amenities, all with beautiful service.
2. Orta San Giulio
While crowds flock to the shore of Lake Garda, Lake Como, and Lake Maggiore, there are not nearly as many people on the shores of Lake Orta.
This beautiful lake and the gorgeous towns on it, such as Orta da San Giulio, are well-kept secrets for travelers in the know. The village of Orta San Giulio dates back hundreds of years.
The best thing to do is to wander the narrow streets, some of them dating back to medieval times, and let yourself get deliciously lost.
Climb to viewpoints such as the one in front of the Church of Maria Assunta, which dates back to the 15th century, for great views of the lake below. The medieval village is one of the best preserved in the area.
The town leans into its historic heritage with events such as the Cusio Festival of Ancient Music, which celebrates historic forms of music.
In more recent history, the town played host to famous 19th-century luminaries such as Lord Byron, and it’s fun to imagine yourself in their footsteps as you walk around town.
The town of Orta San Giulio is a fun, off-the-beaten-path destination in the Italian Lakes and is a great base for exploring the picturesque hamlets around Lake Orta.
However, it doesn’t have as many amenities as other towns and may get a bit boring, especially for young children. If it’s your first time in the region, it’s worth stopping by the more famous lakes first to have the experience and then coming here.
Things to Do
- Explore the medieval streets and landmarks, such as the Town Hall.
- Take a boat to San Giulio, the lake island which hosted a medieval monastery and is still an important spiritual site.
- Stroll along the lake and take a dip at one of the town’s public beaches.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy Michelin-starred cuisine at Villa Crespi’s hotel restaurant.
- Sample the local wine at the restaurant and wine bar Al Boeuc.
- Indulge in delicious local gelato at Arte del Gelato.
Orta San Giulio Budget Hotels
- Hotel Battle of Britain. Stay at this hotel just outside of Orta San Giulio for modern rooms, a tasty in-house restaurant, and great views of the lake and town below.
- Hotel Fontaine Bleue. This small hotel has simple rooms and a delicious breakfast buffet served in a room with great views.
Orta San Giulio Mid-Range Hotels
- Hotel Leon d’Oro. Located right on the lake, this old family-run hotel welcomes guests with vintage décor and wonderful hospitality.
- Hotel La Bussola. This gorgeous hotel above the town has beautiful views, vintage-style rooms, and a garden with two pools (one just for children) and a terrace for lounging.
Orta San Giulio Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Bocciolo. This spacious hotel has comfy rooms with plenty of space to stretch out (some even have spa baths) and gorgeous gardens for exploring.
- Relais & Chateux Villa Crespi. This is the most luxurious hotel in Orta San Giulio — set in a 19th-century mansion, it even has its own Michelin-starred restaurant.
Of the Italian Lakes, Lake Garda is the most popular among families. Its vast waters and many resort towns are favorites among people traveling with children.
Bardolino is one of those resort towns that is most popular among families. Colorful Bardolino dates back to medieval times, and a wander through its citadel and the winding streets of the old town is fun for visitors, young and old.
Adults can sample the local wine (the hills above the town are some of the best wine-producing regions in northern Italy), while children can snack on gelato.
One of the reasons why Bardolino is so popular among families is that it is close to the several amusement parks that dot the shores of Lake Garda, such as Gardaland and Caneva Aquapark.
There are also several beaches, perfect paddling in the calm waters of Lake Garda, and opportunities to rent paddle boats. Bardolino is perfect for families, but childless visitors may find it a bit twee after a day or two.
Plus, if you want glitz or glamour, family-friendly Lake Garda is not the best choice compared to Lake Como or Maggiore.
Things to Do
- Rent bicycles for the whole family and cycle along the shores of Lake Garda.
- Wander the old town, including the remnants of the medieval castle.
- Spend a day at one of the nearby amusement parks, especially the world-famous Gardaland.
Where to Eat
- Try local fish dishes and pasta at La Piccola Osteria.
- Enjoy a typical Italian bistro meal at Ristorante Biri.
- Enjoy local fish specialties at La Virata Trattoria del Pesce.
Bardolino Budget Hotels
- Hotel Villa Katy. This surprisingly affordable hotel has spacious rooms perfect for families and a pool for splashing around.
- Albergo Fiorita. Located right in the center of Bardolino, this vintage-style hotel welcomes guests with breakfast buffets and friendly service.
Bardolino Mid-Range Hotels
- MaisonMe Boutique Hotel. Guests at this sleek, stylish hotel can enjoy soundproofed rooms, bicycle rentals, tasty breakfasts, and great service.
- Hotel Speranza. This lovely hotel blends vintage-inspired décor with modern amenities, including poolside service and incredibly welcoming staff.
Bardolino Luxury Hotels
- Color Hotel Style, Design, and Gourmet. This lush resort has two outdoor pools, an additional heated pool, a hot tub, and designer gardens complete with waterfalls — perfect for relaxing.
- Hotel Caesius Thermae & Spa Resort. This spacious resort has everything you could ask for, including multiple pools, a spa that even offers Ayurvedic treatments, and multiple restaurants.
4. Riva del Garda
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy by surface area, so it has enough space to accommodate all kinds of travelers. While families can enjoy their laid-back vacations on one end, adrenaline junkies can check out all kinds of water sports in Riva del Garda.
Riva del Garda is on the northern shore of Lake Garda and is one of the most popular resorts in all of northern Italy. Its unique landscape makes it such a popular destination.
The northern end of the lake is extremely windy, making it perfect for windsurfing. The landscape on the shore is very rocky, which also means that Riva del Garda is a popular destination for climbers.
Don’t worry — there are also options for those who want to have outdoor adventures but are maybe not as adrenaline-filled to try their hand at windsurfing.
You can hike the beautiful mountainous trails near the lake, cycle along the shore, or go on a sailing excursion.
The town of Riva del Garda itself is a picturesque destination with old medieval fortifications and other remnants of centuries of history. It’s a pleasant stroll once you are done with your adventures on the lake.
Riva del Garda is a beautiful place to visit, and some families decide to make the trip, but it is not the most child-friendly place on the list. The northern end of Lake Garda is very windy, so the water can get choppy and unpleasant for small children.
Things to Do
- Walk up to the Renaissance-era Bastion for stunning views of the town and lake below.
- Try one of the hiking trails, such as the forgiving Monte Brione route.
- Take lessons in all kinds of watersports, from windsurfing to diving to sailing.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy upscale food, including a tasting menu, at Al Volt.
- Try the local wine at Enosteria I Momenti, which also offers vegan and carnivorous options for dinner.
- Have some pizza in a laid-back setting at Pizzeria Bella Napoli.
Riva del Garda Budget Hotels
- Garda Life. This hotel has basic amenities such as a shared lounge, garden, and breakfast buffet, and a tour desk and cycling rental to help with all your adventurous plans.
- Visioni Lake View Boutique Rooms & Breakfast – Adult Friendly. You’ll feel right at home at this intimate hotel, where guests can park bikes and cars and enjoy shared amenities such as a garden with a hot tub.
Riva del Garda Mid-Range Hotels
- Holiday IV Gardan. This homey hotel has surprisingly modern rooms with a welcoming exterior and garden, plus excellent service at the front desk.
- Parc Hotel Flora. This lush hotel has its very own access point to the beach and a gorgeous garden with a heated pool, a spa, and small touches such as a goody bag for guests at check-out.
Riva del Garda Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Villa Enrica. At this hotel, you can relax in your rooms with designer touches such as wood flooring, take in the lake view from your private balcony, or splash in the intimate pool.
- Lido Palace. The most luxurious hotel in town boasts a whopping five pools, designer rooms with extra touches such as heated bathroom floors, and a wellness and spa center, all in a beautiful historic building.
The town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore may be one of the most photogenic places in Italy. Its beautiful historic buildings have drawn luminous visitors, such as Ernest Hemingway, for decades, and every street corner offers beautiful views of the lake.
If you are looking for the right town to take photos that will make all of your social media followers jealous, then Stresa is the place for you. Stresa has some of its best views in the region thanks to its prime location on the hills above the Gulf of Borromeo.
The town offers beautiful views of the lake, the surrounding countryside, and the islands that dot this part of the lake. The town itself is also full of photography opportunities at each step.
It was a popular resort town in the late 19th century, and you can still find elegant mansions and resorts at every step in town and a short ferry ride away on the islands in the lake.
Stresa maintains its luxurious reputation today and is still a popular destination for well-heeled travelers. You can truly steep yourself in La Dolce Vita on a trip here. However, steeping yourself in the culture in Stresa comes at a steep price.
The town’s continued reputation as a destination for the wealthy means that price tags for everything from accommodation to food are not the most budget-friendly.
Things to Do
- Take a ferry to the Borromean Islands to admire the luxurious palaces and pleasure gardens constructed by wealthy visitors of yore.
- Visit the lush villas that dot the town, such as Villa Pallavicino, which has its own zoo.
- Take a day trip to St. Catherine’s Hermitage, which is impossibly built right on a cliff.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy pasta and steak with country-sized portions at Al Rustico.
- Head out of town for a romantic, locally sourced dinner at La Rampolina.
- Visit family-friendly Taverna del Pappagallo for Italian classics such as pizza.
Stresa Budget Hotels
- Casa Diverio. Feel right at home at this aparthotel thanks to spacious apartments and welcoming touches such as friendly multilingual staff ready to help you plan your trip.
- Stresa Residence. Set in a historic building on a quiet residential street, this hotel offers guests comfortable apartments, including plenty of space for families and even balconies.
Stresa Mid-Range Hotels
- Residence Le Primule. Guests at this hotel stay in spacious apartments but enjoy luxuries that make hotel stays perfect, including ironing and laundry service.
- Sempione Boutique Hotel. This comfy hotel has everything you need to feel a little bit pampered, such as comfortable rooms, a terrace with a view, and a great breakfast.
Stresa Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Villa e Palazzo Aminta. This glittering hotel has an unparalleled position overlooking the Borromean Islands, with a private garden, heated pool, bar, and more. There is private parking and even a private pier for guests arriving by boat.
- Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées & Spa. This hotel is located in an authentic Art Nouveau building, and its glittering interiors and rooms, complete with marble bathrooms, complete the experience of old glamour.
Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!
|🥂 Most Luxurious||Bellagio|
|🏰 Most Historic||Orta San Giulio|
|👪 Best for Families||Bardolino|
|🛥️ Best for Watersports||Riva del Garda|
|📷 Best for Photos||Stresa|
The Italian Lakes are full of beautiful sights to see and towns, all with their own character. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to the lakes today!