Italy’s northern lakes offer more than just outstanding views and easy accessibility from the UK or USA. The range of healthy and adventurous outdoor activities seems endless, while homes are probably more affordable than you imagine. It all adds up to a healthy lifestyle in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

Here is what you could be doing and what you’ll pay for a property by Lake Como or Lake Garda. 

If you’ve ever taken the train north from Como, or perhaps the bus from Salò to Trento, public transport really being the best way to enjoy the views, you’ll know that there is nowhere in the world more beautiful than Lake Como or Lake Garda.

The wide open spaces, blue water rippling in the breeze, backed by wildflower meadows and snow-capped mountains, are simply unsurpassable to look at. But even better than looking at them, the lakes, countryside and mountains also offer outdoor activities. At the end of an action-packed day, it’s great to return to your own villa, pour yourself a drink and gaze across the lake.

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There are actually more than 1,500 lakes in Italy, but none more attractive or accessible than Lake Como and Lake Garda in the north. They’re just a day’s train journey from London, or you can fly into Milan, with direct flights from all over the UK and North America.

Lake Como

The stunning scenery of Lake Como has enchanted travellers for centuries. It’s an inspiring place for artists, writers and musicians. The lake attracts actors, celebrities and the international jet set. No movie set can compare to the charming villages and glamourous villas around Lake Como. Which is why they’ve been used in films such as Casino Royale and even Star Wars.

Your healthy lifestyle by Lake Como? (Danny Iacob / Shutterstock.com)

Catch a boat

Lake Como is the third largest Italian lake and the deepest. The full expanse of the lake and the views of the surrounding mountains are best appreciated from a boat. From the water you can see the fine architecture of the elegant villas along its shores. You’ll be amazed how much exercise you get just sightseeing, as you visit beautiful towns, such as Bellagio, Varenna and Como.

There are various options for getting around on the lake. The slower public boat service stops at each town from the southwest to the north. In summer it also goes down the southeast side. Or if you want to reach another town in time for lunch there are hydrofoils for faster trips. You can even take your car across the central part of the lake on the ferry.

Outdoor activities on Lake Como

If you want to feel the wind in your hair, check out the sailing opportunities at the marinas of Domaso, Gravedona, Mandello, Lecco and Como. There are also, rental shops and instructors at various locations, where you can try stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing. The upper part of this Italian lake, along the coast of Mandello, is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing. For greater freedom to explore the lake it is also possible to hire boats, or use your own.

Outdoor activities in Italy, Lake Como

A day on the water in Varenna, Lake Como

Outdoor activities around Lake Como

After being shut in for most of the past year, more people are appreciating getting out on long walks. Trails up to viewpoints are very popular, like Brunate with its funicular train climbing over 700 metres. Around Lake Como there are many hiking trails with spectacular views, such as the ancient route of the Sentiero del Viandante (“Wayfarer’s Path”).

The Greenway path

A favourite path is the panoramic walk along the western shore from Colonno to Griante, called “The Greenway”. Tracing stretches of the ancient Roman Via Regina, you’ll pass small fishing villages, historic villas and Romanesque churches. To discover more about the path and villages along this stretch of the lake visit Greenway del Lago di Como.

Mountain high

For an outdoor activity that gives you a birds eye view of the lake, why not try hanggliding or paragliding. Mountain lovers can experience the thrill of climbing, canyoning, mountain biking and horse riding. Alternatively, you can enjoy the views from the cable car which runs from Argegno up to Pigra, then hike down.

Golf

For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground there are several golf courses, each with excellent facilities. In addition to the golf course, some also offer other outdoor activities such as tennis, swimming and putting.

Family fun

Active fun for all the family can also be found at the Lake’s Theme parks. Fun outdoor activities include zip-lining, tree tree-top trekking at Jungle Raider Park, Parco Avventura Bergamo and Lake Como Adventure Park. There is also a Bobsled run, go-karting and a waterpark.

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Winter ski

One of the benefits of owning a home near Lake Como is its year-round appeal. In the wintertime you can visit the ski districts, such as Piani di Bobbio and Pian delle Betulle. Here you will find popular slopes for cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing and snowshoeing.

Buying property near Lake Como

Lake Como is very appealing to second home owners. A property here can also earn a good holiday rental income. The rental market has a long summer season from March to October with Christmas and New Year periods also popular. People come here from the UK, Holland, Germany. Switzerland, USA and Australia.

A house on the lake

The most expensive area is along the western leg of the inverted Y shaped lake, where waterfront villas cost several million. Lakeside towns such as Cernobbio, Moltrasio, Carate Urio and Laglio are stunning. The fact that George and Amal Clooney have a summer home in Laglio, has drawn even more property buyers to this area. Also, this part of the lake benefits from being a short drive from Milan and is near the town of Como. Apartments in Como itself can be a good investment, as it is a busy working town.

Bellagio, Lake Como

Properties along the east side of this leg, such as Torno, and also further up the west side can be a good investment as property buyers and tourists are willing to travel a little further to get more for their money. Towns like Lenno, Tremezzina, Menaggio and San Siro have some very well-priced properties.

Affordable homes

Back from the shoreline it is possible to get good value homes. You can even find properties uphill that have panoramic views of the lake. If you plan to rent out your property a lake view is very desirable. Access to a pool and parking is also very sort after. Properties without those three elements can be found at lower prices, yet can still make a great base for holidays if they have good transport links and amenities nearby. Start your search for Properties for sale on Lago di Como (Lake Como) here.

Getting to Lake Como

Nearest airports to Como: Milan Malpensa airport (44mins drive), Bergamo (Orio al Serio) airport (1hr 15mins), Milan Linate airport (1hr).

By train: Malpensa Express from Malpensa airport to Como via Saronna. The other two airports have buses into Milan, where you can get a train to Como.

Lake Como official tourism website: Visit Lago di Como

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Lake Como

Lake Garda

Lake Garda

Scenic mountain views, beaches, and a host of beautiful picturesque towns and villages make Lake Garda one of Italy’s most beautiful locations to have a home. Here it is possible to live a quiet and comfortable lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Yet, it is within a couple of hours drive of cities with airports, such as Verona, Venice, Bologna and Milan.

The countryside around the lake is famous for it’s vineyards and olive groves. Where you will find organised tours. There are popular beaches at Limone Sul Garda, The bay of the sirens, Malcesine, Riva del Garda, Lazise and Sirmione to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Malsecine, Lake Garda (leoks / Shutterstock.com)

Outdoor activities on Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest Italian lake and a wonderful place for water sports. Activities such as sailing, canoeing, water-skiing and wake-boarding can be enjoyed in various locations on the lake. Windsurfing and kite-surfing enthusiasts will love the windy areas of Torbole, Riva, Malcesine and Gargnano. If you really want to fly across the water, sign up for a Foiling course.

By hiring a boat you can discover more beaches, moor up in a lakeside town for lunch, get a closer look of Isola del Garda and swim in the middle of the lake.

Outdoor activities around Lake Garda

Cycling

There are many cycle paths around Lake Garda. Such as, the scenic “Cycle lane of dreams” (Ciclabile dei Sogni) that the runs from Limone to Riva. There are also cycle paths from Peschiera del Garda to Verona and Mantua. A more challenging route is the Ponale path (Sentiero del Ponale) from Riva to Lake Ledro.

The cycle paths around the lake are all being joined up to create a 140 km path that will go all around Lake Garda, (due for completion in 2021). Some sections are built of wood and metal and are suspended on the cliff side. Being around the lake they tend to be flat, but the more adventurous have the mountains on the doorstep. Head into the mountains and you can take your bike on the ski lift and just freewheel down (although that can be terrifying!).

Walking

There are several trekking trails, including those leading to Monte Baldo, the Campione del Garda loop and the climb to Monte Telegrafo. The more daring among you can also try canyoning, rock climbing and paragliding. It’s also possible to go horse riding while enjoying the Lake views at Limone di Gavardo.

Golf and ski

There are over ten golf courses situated around Lake Garda, all in the most beautiful locations. Some have stunning views of the lake and mountains. Their close proximity will allow you to visit a number of courses during your holidays.

With the ski slopes of Madonna di Campiglio less than two hours’ drive away, it’s even possible to combine a golfing trip with a spot of skiing. Why not buy a property near by with a group of your golfing buddies.

For innovative ideas on raising the money to buy your Italian home, read How to Pay for an Italian Property.

Theme Parks

The first theme park in Italy was Gardaland, which has adrenaline rides, a Legoland water park and an aquarium. Other waterparks include Canevaworld, Picoverde and Cavour in Valeggio sul Mincio.

Windsurfing on Lake Garda (Danny Iacob / Shutterstock.com)

Buying property at Lake Garda

Buying property around Lake Garda can be a lucrative property investment as the area receives thousands of tourists every year. Numerous families flock here in summer looking for holiday homes or villas to rent. With more and more city dwellers seeking second homes or a move to more spacious surroundings, property prices are expected to rise further in the coming years.

As with all Lakes, a property on the lakeside comes at a premium. Among the most exclusive resorts are Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, and Lazise. Bardolino is another big town that is easy to reach from Verona and is surrounded by olive groves. Here it’s possible to find holiday apartments with access to parking and a swimming pool. At the top of the lake, Riva is located in a diverse area, where it is still possible to rent out property even in winter.

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More affordable property prices can be found around Peschiera, Manerba and Moniga. If you look a little further from the lake in areas such as Polpenazze del Garda, Padenghe sul Garda and Rivoltelia del Garda you can find holiday apartments with lake views for less than €300,000. Start your search for Property for sale at Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) here.

Getting to Lake Garda

Nearest airports with drive times to Peschiera del Garda: Verona Valerio Catullo airport, also known as Verona Villafranca 25 minutes drive, and Brescia airport 30 minutes. Bergamo, Orio al Serio airport 1 hour. Milan Linate airport 1 hr 15 mins. Venice Marco Polo airport 1 hr 30mins. Bologna Marconi airport 1 hr 25 mins.

Other transport: Airports have shuttle buses into their nearest cities.  From Verona Porta Nuova train station there are coaches to many towns around Lake Garda. Or you can go by train to Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda. Once there, you can use the networks of buses and ferries that connect the different lakeside towns and villages. There are also trains from Bergamo, Milan and Venice.

Lake Garda official tourism website: Visit Lago di Garda 

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