It is no secret that the great lakes of Northern Italy are among our favourite incentive destinations. On the other hand, we simply love discovering new places and sharing the hidden treasures of our beautiful Country with you. Italian lakes share the fate of so many other national treasures: there are too many of them and the best known ones inevitably overshadow the others. Italy has hundreds of lakes, most of which are popular among locals but mostly ignored by tourists, who flock to the internationally renowned Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore or Lake Como. Moreover, each lake is its own galaxy of villages and churches, monasteries and natural parks, with history and traditions that differ widely from one another. With this guide, we want to take you on a tour of the less known northern Italian lakes. If you are planning your next incentive gift, you might want to surprise your colleagues and employees with a visit to one of these hidden gems.
Hidden treasures: northern Italian Lakes
Lake Iseo is one of the most beautiful lakes in Lombardy but, being remarkably smaller than its popular neighbours Lake Maggiore and Lake Como, it tends to draw fewer international tourists. It is a perfect destination for nature lovers and hikers and for those who want to be as far away as possible from the bustling cities of this highly industrial region. There are many things about this lake that are remarkable and unique, like the fact that there is a small mountain at the centre of it. The aptly named Mount Isola actually looks more like a large hill than a proper mountain, and it is a favourite destination of trekkers and of those who want to experience the rare feeling of being away from civilization. As no cars are allowed on the island, the only way of visiting the sanctuary at the top of the hill is to climb up it on foot, enjoying a wholly natural experience and a breath-taking view. If you are not a climber, of course, you could settle for a leisurely stroll round the perimeter of the island: it is an easy walk of about 6 miles and, in the summer, you can swim in the lake itself. Back on the mainland, you will be able to visit beautiful and quaint little villages such as Lovere and enjoy the delicious local cuisine in one of the many traditional trattorie.
If you enjoyed the natural beauty of lake Maggiore, but you wish you could have it without the bustling crowd of tourists, you are in luck. You won’t have to travel far to encounter Lake Orta, which is located in the northern part of Piedmont and surrounded by a thick woodland of chestnuts and beech-trees. The city by the same name is located on a thin peninsula on the lake itself. The relaxed and magical atmosphere of this charming old town can only be made more perfect by the short boat-trip that will take you to San Giulio, a small island that looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, and not only because it contains a palace with its own tower. The palace is actually the episcopal residence and the main building on the island is the San Giulio Abbey, whose entrance is practically on the water. If you want to enjoy a truly unique spectacle, you should travel to the nearby town of Nonio in the second half of the day, to see the sun setting twice. It is, of course, an elaborate trick of light and the local orography, but if you look westward from the right location, you will see the sun disappear behind Mount Castello and then reappear again for a few minutes, before setting for good.
We are in Trentino-Alto Adige, a region that has nearly 300 lakes of various sizes. Lake Caldonazzo is the largest body of water in Valsugana and very popular among sports enthusiasts, both local and coming from the nearby regions. This is the only lake in Trentino on which it is possible to practice water-skiing and windsurfing, as well as swimming, canoeing and scuba-diving. National and international sporting competitions take place on this lake, hosted by several local sailing clubs. If you visit in the summer, you will be met with the unusual sight of a crowded beach in a mountain region. If you’d rather look at the lake than bathe in it or tread its crystal-clear waters, you might want to go mountain-biking in the surrounding area or visit the medieval hamlet from which the lake got its name – or possibly the other way round.
This is the largest lake in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and three towns stand on its beautiful shores: Cavazzo Carnico, Bordano and Trasaghis. There are fascinating legends on the origin of this lake: it is traditionally said to be a pool of tears from Heaven. Science, on the other hands, informs us that the lake is the product of a series of subterranean springs, which might be more prosaic, but it certainly does not detract from the beauty of the local landscape. Just like Lake Caldonazzo in Trentino, Lake Cavazzo is a favourite destination for lovers of summer sports such as canoeing, windsurfing and sailing – which, as we know, makes for an oustandingly effective team-building activity. The locals also love to come to the lake on weekends, for picnics and fishing trips – the particular natural conditions of the local terrain make for an ideal habitat for a variety of fish. Birdwatchers are also drawn to this lake, because of the wide variety of birds that prey on the local fish, including the rare and beautiful grey heron.
We are back in Trentino and Lake Caldaro is the largest lakes in the region, although it should be noted that it is also one of the most shallow, with a maximum depth of approximately 10ft. This means that its clear blue waters are generally warmer than most mountain lakes’, making it a popular destination for swimmers. The area of Caldaro is well known for its beautiful castles and, if you visit the lake and the surrounding subregion, we warmly recommend you take the opportunity to explore the unique architecture of its historic manors. The local funicular railway – one of the longest in Europe, will take you to the Mendel Pass, from which you will be able to access some of the most popular trekking paths of the region. Trekking is probably the most popular summer sport in Trentino, with good reason: the unparalleled natural beauty of the Alps appears in all its majesty in these valleys and human presence is only revealed in sparse and beautiful medieval towns. Caldaro is one such and it has actually been a settlement since the IV Century – although the only remaining testimony of that period is the ruin of the local St Peter’s Basilica.