Italy is blessed with a large number of incredible lakes, many of which can be found in the northern part of the country. This collection is referred to as the “Grandi Laghi Prealpini” or the “Great Prealpine Lakes.”
This also means that many of the most famous lakes in Italy are popular tourist destinations as well, so let’s take a closer look at some of the best to visit during your stay in this magnificent country.
1. Lake Garda
Lake Garda is not only the largest lake in Italy, covering an area of 369.98 square kilometers (142.85 square miles), it’s also one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s located in the northern part of Italy in the Lombardy Region, right in between the major cities of Venice and Milan.
It’s one of the many lakes in this part of Italy that were formed because of glacial activity during the last Ice Age. The lake was named after the town with the same name that is located in the utmost southern tip of the lake, and the overall landscape is nothing short of amazing.
2. Lake Como
Lake Como is located in the western part of the Lombardy Region in northern Italy and is less than half the size of Lake Garda. It covers an area of 146 square kilometers (56 square miles) and is extremely deep with a maximum depth of 425 meters (1,394 feet).
The lake has been a popular tourist destination for thousands of years, dating back to Roman times when the rich came here to relax. This notion is emphasized that multiple villas and palaces were built along the lake’s shoreline.
3. Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is located just northwest of Milan and covers an area of 212.5 square kilometers (82.0 square miles). This makes it the second-largest lake in Italy, smaller than lake Garda and bigger than the third-largest, Lake Como.
It’s a relatively thin lake that has a length of about 65 kilometers (40 miles), stretching into the southern part of Switzerland. What’s remarkable about this lake is that even though it’s located in the utmost northern part of Italy near the Alps, it features an enjoyable Mediterranean climate. You’ll notice this instantly because of the Mediterranean vegetation that grows around the lake.
4. Lake Ledro
Lake Ledro is a pretty small lake compared to the 3 largest lakes in Italy, but that doesn’t mean it’s less impressive. Nestled in between the mountains of the Trentino province in the northeast of Italy, it covers an area of just 2.187 square kilometers (0.844 square miles).
The lake is one of the most famous lakes in Italy because it features 4 beaches, attracting tourists from all around the world. The water temperature is also quite enjoyable at 24 °C (75 °F), even though the lake’s surface is situated at an elevation of 655 meters (2,149 feet) above sea level.
5. Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno is located in the province of Perugia in the Umbria Region of Italy, south of the River Po and just north of the nearby Tober River. This is a few hundred kilometers north of Rome right on the border with the marvelous Tuscany Region.
The lake is the 4th-largest in Italy by surface area, covering a total area of 128 square kilometers (49.4 square miles). The lake also features several islands, many of which have castles. The lake is also surrounded by multiple castles on hilltops and the nearby towns, many of which can be visited.
6. Lake Orta
Lake Orta is a relatively small lake located just west of Lake Maggiore in the northwestern part of Italy. The lake only received its current name in the 16th century as it was previously known as “Lago di San Giulio,” in honor of Saint Julius, the patron saint of this region.
One of the most fascinating features of this lake that makes it one of the most famous lakes in Italy is the Island of San Giulio. This small island features historic buildings, including the Basilica of San Giulio, which transform the already mesmerizing lake into something very special.
7. Lake Bracciano
Lake Bracciano is a lake of volcanic origin that is situated just northwest of Rome, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from the historic center of Italy’s capital. This also means that it’s one of the most popular lakes in the region as thousands of people flock to it during the summer months.
That being said, the lake is also an important reservoir to provide drinking water for the city of Rome. The sewer systems from the nearby towns are all diverted away from the lake, and motorboats on the lake aren’t allowed. This makes it one of the cleanest lakes in Italy.
8. Lake Lugano
Even though Lake Lugano was named after a city in Switzerland, part of this magnificent lake is located in the utmost northern part of Italy. It’s situated right in between Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and covers an area of 48.7 square kilometers (18.8 square miles).
The lake has an extended history and was mentioned for the first time in the year 590 A.D. as “Lake Ceresio.” This was a reference to the copious numbers of cherry trees that once grew here. Today, the lake is a popular tourist attraction and features numerous picturesque villages along its shores.
9. Lake Bolsena
Lake Bolsena is another lake of volcanic origin and covers an area of 113.5 square kilometers (43.8 square miles). This makes it the largest lake of volcanic origin in Europe. It’s situated just north of Lake Bracciano in the province of Viterbo.
The lake features at least two islands that were formed during a collapse following an underwater eruption. The nearby Vulsini volcano has been active up until the year 104 B.C. as mentioned in ancient Roman records but has been quiet ever since. This is also why they referred to it as “Lacus Volsinii.”
10. Lake Caldonazzo
Lake Caldonazzo is a lake in Italy located in the province of Trentino in the northeastern part of the country. It’s situated just a couple of kilometers to the southeast of the city of Trento, which in turn is located not too far northwest of Venice.
The lake is relatively small as it covers an area of just 5.38 square kilometers (2.08 square miles) but is one of the most famous lakes in Italy for watersports. Canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, and water skiing are some of the most popular activities at the lake.
11. Lake Idro
Lake Idro is located in the province of Brescia, right on the border with the province of Trentino, and just west of the northern section of Lake Garda. It’s another relatively small pre-alpine lake that covers an area of 11.4 square kilometers (4.4 square miles).
The lake’s surface area is located at an elevation of 368 meters (1,207 feet) above sea level which makes it the highest pre-alpine lake in the Lombardy region. It’s surrounded by majestic mountains that are covered in dense woods which turn the lake into a magical natural landmark.
12. Lake Carezza
Lake Carezza is also known by its German name “Karersee” and is a small alpine lake located in the Dolomites mountain range. With a surface area of just 3.5 hectares (8.6 acres), it’s also the smallest lake on this list with the most famous lakes in Italy.
This doesn’t make it any less impressive than the largest ones because Lake Carezza is pretty much the definition of a picture-perfect location. The majestic limestone peaks of the Dolomites in combination with the fabulous forests at the base of the cliffs turn this into one of the most breathtaking places in South Tyrol, an Italian province in the utmost northern part of the country.
13. Lake Misurina
Lake Misurina is located in the province of Belluno in the utmost northeastern part of Italy. It’s another pretty small lake that covers an area of just 15 hectares (37 acres) but it’s still the largest natural lake in the historical region of Cadore. It’s extremely shallow as well with a maximum depth of just 5 meters (16 feet)
What makes this lake so special is not just that it’s located at an elevation of 1,754 meters (5,755 feet) above sea level, but that it’s located in the vicinity of one of the most fascinating natural landmarks of the Dolomites, 3 peaks referred to as the “Tre Cime di Lavaredo.” This turns Lake Misurina into one of the most amazing natural spectacles in Italy.
14. Lake Molveno
Lake Molveno is located just west of the city of Trento in the province of Trentino in northeastern Italy. This means that it’s yet another mesmerizing lake that features the magnificent granite and limestone peaks of the Dolomites in the background.
The lake was named after the town of Molveno which is located at the northern tip of the lake. What’s remarkable about this small lake is that it has just a short history since it was only formed during the early Iron Age about 3,000 years ago. This is fascinating because it’s pretty deep with a maximum depth of about 120 meters (390 feet).
15. Lake Nemi
Make Nemi is a volcanic lake that is located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Rome in the Lazio region of Rome. The lake has an extended history dating back to ancient Roman times and is sometimes referred to as “Diana’s Mirror,” a reference to the goddess Diana to whom the lake was sacred.
The lake was named after the town of Nemi and is world-famous for being the location of at least 3 huge Roman ships built during the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula. These weren’t merely small sailing boats as well but huge luxurious boats that featured columns and marble floors. The exact purpose of these ships on this small lake remains up for debate, but these were either pleasure boats or they served a religious purpose or both.