Most travellers flock to Italy’s Mediterranean coastline, but what many don’t know is that its lakes are one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Each and every one of these hidden gems are far less crowded compared to the coastline’s beaches, and they’re often tucked away in secluded spots.
Whether you’re looking for a rest stop during a brisk hike, an add-on to your hunt for the best hidden waterfalls, or just a day by the water, these are the best Italian lakes you can swim in.
Riva Del Garda
- Location: Trentino (86km from Verona)
- Highlights: Austrian-influenced villages, lush meadows, and rocky facades surround the wide beaches.
Italy’s largest lake gives off major Call Me By Your Name vibes; after all, it was here where the film’s archaeological dig scene was set. Visitors can enjoy water activities aplenty, with top-notch windsurfing and a lakeside resort feel that has inspired some iconic writers and thinkers like Goethe and Kafka, who vacationed here.
- Location: Sirmione (44km from Verona)
- Highlights: Crystal clear waters, ample beaches, and a medieval castle overlooking the lake.
On the other side of Lake Garda is one of the most naturally beautiful beaches in Italy. Low-tide reveals flat rocks, making it a great place to enjoy a swim with the ruins of the Roman villa Grotte di Catullo as your backdrop!
- Location: Orta San Giulio (86km from Milan)
- Highlights: A tranquil atmosphere with well-equipped beaches and an island home to a 19th-century monastery.
According to legend, the small island in the middle of Lago D’Orta was infested with snakes until they were banished by Saint Julius. Today, a dip in this lake is a trip in itself: swimmers can visit the 12th-century basilica on the island, or even take in a classical music performance. There are a few small beaches to choose from, including Natural Bay, Orta Beach and Miami Beach (each with a small charge for use of amenities like changing rooms and showers).
Alternatively, you can choose a publicly accessible dock to jump off of or, if you’re up for the challenge, join one of two swimming marathons that take place here annually.
Lago di Ledro
- Location: Trentino (99km from Verona or 54km from Trento)
- Highlights: Secluded beaches nestled in a grassy mountain valley.
Lago di Ledro’s four magical beaches are perfect for a slow-paced, relaxed day out. This untouched lake – which was completely cut off from the outside world until just under two hundred years ago – looks like something out of a fairytale. Often referred to as the most beautiful lake in the Trentino region, try paddle boating in Lago di Ledro’s clear, blue water.
Lago di Braies
- Location: South Tyrol (89km from Trento)
- Highlights: A beginner-friendly hiking trail, complete with stops for swimming.
This lake tucked between the peaks and pine forests of the Dolomites is a must-see. Get here early to beat the crowds and explore the hiking trails at your own pace, enjoying pit stops on white sandy beaches. It takes about 2-3 hours to hike around the lake’s perimeter, so you have plenty of time to take in the rugged landscape of the Dolomites.