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10 lakes in Italy for an active holiday

There are more than 1,500 lakes with different features in Italy - dug by glaciers or of volcanic origin, enclosed by the mountains or a few steps away from the sea - where you can explore villages and natural areas but also engage in sporting activities. Here we have picked up ten Italian lakes among the most suitable for those who wish to spend an active holiday dedicated to sports.

Lake Como


Kitesurfing on Lake Como

Also known as Lario, with its two arms - the Como and Lecco arms – it offers a tempting prospect for those seeking a dynamic holiday. The upper lake and the coast of Mandello are the ideal area for kitesurfing and windsurfing. The best places for sailing are the marinas of Domaso, Gravedona, Mandello, Lecco and Como. You can practice SUP, kayaking and canoeing (rental shops and lessons are available in different spots of the lake). Among the outdoor activities to be practiced in the area also trekking - with many trails for panoramic hikes such as the ancient route of the Sentiero del Viandante (“Wayfarer's Path”) -, alpine via ferratas and cliffs where you can go climbing, canyoning, cycling, mountain-biking and downhill routes, and several golf courses between Brianza and the lake.

Lake Garda


Sailing on Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest Italian lake and the ideal setting for water sports: activities such as sailing, canoeing, water-skiing and wakeboarding can be practiced in various locations on the lake, but windsurfing and kitesurfing enthusiasts will specially love the windy areas of Torbole, Riva, Malcesine and Gargnano. In addition to that, foiling courses are possible to learn how to fly on water with a sail. The more daring ones can try canyoning, climbing and paragliding. There are many cycle lanes for all levels, such as the short but scenic Ciclabile dei Sogni (“Cycle Lane of Dreams”) from Limone to Riva, the more challenging Sentiero del Ponale from Riva to Lake Ledro, or the cycle paths from Peschiera del Garda to Verona and Mantua. There are also several trekking trails, including the trails leading to Monte Baldo, the Campione del Garda loop and the climb to Monte Telegrafo.

Lake Maggiore


Canoeing on Lake Maggiore

Divided between Italy and Switzerland, second in terms of surface area after Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore has what it takes to guarantee a dynamic and enjoyable holiday. Canoes and paddle boats can be rented on the lake shores, while sailing, canoeing, kayaking and rafting can be practiced in the nearby Ossola valleys, as well as paragliding and a thrilling free fall zip-line experience. Two-wheeled lovers can go biking along cycle lanes such as the Ciclabile del Toce, go downhill in the Mottarone area, or mountain-biking along the Cadorna Line. If you prefer walking, you can take the Sentiero dei Castagni or climb on Mount Mottarone, with trails both starting from Stresa, take the Medieval Road from Cossogno to Cicogna, or go hiking in the Val Grande National Park. Nearby you can also practice skiing, golf and many other sports.

Lake Iseo


Hiking around Lake Iseo

Not far from the territory of Franciacorta, the Sebino (this is its real name) has a strong inclination for sports. On its waters, you can go sailing, canoeing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing (also with hydrofoil), windsurfing, paragliding and do SUP. Lake Iseo is the perfect destination for cycling tourism lovers: its shores are almost entirely suitable for cycling (the cycle-pedestrian lane from Toline to Vello is particularly charming); you can join the Ciclovia dell’Oglio from Iseo, 280 km from the Adamello Group to Franciacorta, and Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Italy among the main attractions of Lake Iseo, is also suitable for cycling. The most panoramic hiking trails are those leading to Corna Trentapassi and Monte Guglielmo, not to mention the easy walk along the ancient Via Valeriana or the climb to the Sanctuary of Ceriola, located on the highest point of Monte Isola.

Lake Braies


Cycling around Lake Braies

With its green waters and the mountains to protect it on all sides, it is one of the most photographed lakes in Italy: Lake Braies is a small alpine lake at almost 1,500 meters located in the valley of the same name, a side valley of the Puster Valley. The lake is a strong appeal for trekking lovers: it is located at the foot of the majestic Croda del Becco (2,810 meters high), which can be reached along the trail number 1 in seven hours. There are also several hiking trails within the Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park. The tour around the lake (about 1.5 hours) is easy and not too demanding and the first part can be done by bike. In summer, you can rent rowboats while in winter, when the surface of the lake is frozen, curling competitions are held. In Val di Braies you can also do alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering.

Lake Scanno


Lake Scanno

Located in Abruzzo, in the Marsicani Mountains, at 922 meters above sea level, Lake Scanno is the largest natural lake in the region. A popular place for picnics and relaxation, its green shores allow you to enjoy a day in touch with nature. Here you can rent pedal boats or bicycles - city bikes, mountain-bikes, fat bikes or tandems. There are two recommended cycle lanes: the tour of the lake (about 40 minutes) and the excursion to the Regional Nature Reserve of Lake San Domenico and Lake Pio (about 40 minutes). From the nearby town of Villalago begins the Sentiero della Libertà (“Path of Freedom”), a hike of about 60 kilometers through the Majella mountains that can be divided into 3 stages in 3 days.

Lake Trasimeno


Sailing on Lake Trasimeno

It is the largest lake in central Italy and is located in northern Umbria, on the border with Val di Chiana. Thanks to its width and the shallow depth, Trasimeno is the ideal place to practice kayaking and take sailing lessons but also to try out adrenaline-packed sports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, wakeboarding and water skiing. In Castiglione del Lago, Passignano and Tuoro sul Trasimeno sail boats or motorboats can be rent to explore the lake and its three islands (Polvese, Maggiore and Minore). You can cover the Trasimeno bicycle lane - a loop of about 70 kilometers that runs almost entirely around the lake - by bike or on foot. Walkers can instead take the Via del Trasimeno, 160 kilometers in total, with seven different stages.

Lake Bolsena


Windsurfing on Lake Bolsena

It is located in the Viterbo area, where Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany meet, and is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. Lake Bolsena is the perfect place for kayaking, windsurfing or water skiing as well as for diving and paragliding, fishing, horseback riding and archery. Canoes, pedal boats and sailboats - with or without skipper - can be rent in different parts of the lake. Not far from the lake you find the legendary Via Francigena, that can be travelled on foot or by bike as far as Rome. From the Basilica of Santa Cristina, in Bolsena, begins the leg 39 to Montefiascone (18 km), after climbing and descending a number of times in the greenery and with wonderful lake views.

Lake Bracciano


Lake Bracciano

In central Lazio, in an area once occupied by the ancient Sabatini volcanoes, Lake Bracciano is a popular summer destination where you can swim and practice water sports in peace: motor-boating is in fact prohibited (except for authorized fishermen and the public service ferry). Here you can enjoy windsurfing, canoeing and sailing, fishing and scuba diving. There is no shortage of excursions to be done on foot or by mountain-bike, for example on the trails of the Natural Park of Bracciano-Martignano which includes the small Lake Martignano, located 4 km from Anguillara Sabazia, and along the Ciclovia dei laghi, a cycling loop of almost 8 kilometers which offers a panoramic view of the lakes, the Sabatini Mountains and the nearby Tolfa Mountains.

Lake Lesina and Varano


Lake Lesina

In the Gargano National Park, separated from the Adriatic Sea by a thin strip of land among dunes, holm oaks and pine trees, the lakes of Lesina and Varano are the largest lakes in southern Italy. They have rich fishing grounds rich in sea basses, gilthead breams and especially eels, which make them a very popular destination for fishing lovers: you can go night fishing, fishing tourism (with tasting of the catch) and bird-watching (you can spot pink seagulls, flamingos, kingfishers and marsh harriers). There is a nature reserve on the thin coastal strip that separates them from the sea, a protected area dedicated to the restocking of animals and a starting point for guided excursions on foot or by catamaran. Along the 15 km of Bosco Isola - the strip of land that separates Lake Lesina from the sea - you can go hiking or cycling. In the area there is also an adventure park.